Using one’s hands to create something is an amazing feeling. Take a pinch pot, for example. You plunge your thumb into the center of a medium-sized ball of clay, creating a hole, then you moderately pinch the clay between your index and middle finger tips and your thumb, thinning the clay slightly before you rotate and repeat the action circling the ball. With each new pass, you feel the hole widening. As the clay expands, your ring finger and pinky finger join in, responding to the movement of your thumb on the interior. They work in unison as the pot spins in the cupped palm of your other hand. In minutes, it has morphed into something that can hold something else, and the interior negative space is suddenly the best part of the object.
Once fired, what comes out of the kiln is impermeable and permanent. The pot has a satisfying weight when held in your hand. It is the confluence of idea, earth, hands, and fire. This, to me, is the beauty of handbuilding. No special tools or equipment are needed, and yet the results of your efforts are refined and tangible—a cup to drink from, a bowl to eat from. After I pulled my first pinch pot from the kiln I proclaimed, “I am good at this. I’m going to make all of my own dishes.” Beyond the skill, what a great feeling of empowerment to be able to make something usable and beautiful with so little. Sure, throwing gets all the glory with its fast action and fancy curves, but it has to share that glory with the tools too. I’ve never been good at sharing, which may be why I gravitate to handbuilding—my hands are celebrated in every object.
So, I say, “Handbuilders unite!” In this issue, with minimal tools, Birdie Boone assembles slab-built plates with crisp, visible seam lines, Marion Angelica pierces tall lidded cylinders for illuminating lanterns, Eli Navarrete, an accomplished potter from Mata Ortiz, Mexico, coil builds traditional vessels, Courtney Long constructs house-shaped butter dishes, and nicole gugliotti fashions simple but efficient weights to aid in fermenting vegetables. There you have it, everything you need to build all your own dishes. You supply the hands.
I also want to acknowledge our Production Editor, Erin Pfeifer. This is Erin’s last issue with Pottery Making Illustrated. She’s been pivotal in making this publication successful and making every press deadline so much easier than it might have been otherwise. The tangible results of Erin’s efforts are definitely visible in the following pages. We will all miss her unrivaled Photoshop skills, and I will miss her friendship every day in the office. Good luck Erin!
– Holly Goring, Editor