The comma was introduced in the 1500s. It was intended to prevent confusion by separating things. As the comma proliferated, it started generating confusion and slowly devolved into two schools of thought: One where it was placed by ear, to mark a pause while reading aloud. The other, to clarify the meaning of a sentence by highlighting its underlying structure. Each school believes that the other gets carried away.
There are two camps when it comes to punctuation, those who believe it is an exact science and everything else is pure hysteria with the world slowly decaying into oblivion due to misused semicolons; and the other camp that thinks it’s merely subjective.
In my aspiration to join the editorial team at Pottery Making Illustrated, it was my goal to be in the first camp. I belabored every sentence in every article, properly placing misplaced modifiers, deleting abusively used exclamation points, and debating the reasoning behind every comma. Copy editing became a way of life, changing how I read everything—I was paid to find mistakes after all. As I gained confidence in my grammar prowess, I became a bit cocky with commas. Until one day the magazine’s editor, Bill Jones, gifted me a jar with the word “punctuation” stamped on it. Although he was being a bit facetious, his intentions were practical.
Upon presenting me with the punctuation jar, Bill smiled and chuckled, “It’s for all those unnecessary commas you’re determined to introduce into beautifully flowing copy. Pull a few out and store them in this jar for use in a later issue.” Hint taken.
Regardless of which school I am in, the complicated history of the comma has come down to a sweet little ceramic jar for me, of which, I need to dutifully fill every issue. It reminds me to cool it on the commas and be mindful that text is not just copy to fix, it is a story to gently coax into easy-flowing prose. Sure, it’s my job to be the grammar police on these pages, but now I know better than to send an issue out with an empty punctuation jar.
It is with great sadness that I report that Bill Jones recently passed away. He suffered a terrible accident and did not survive his injuries. He was taken from us far too soon, while still having so much to give the ceramics community, and clearly the world of grammar, too. He will be missed. This issue is dedicated to him.
In the pages that follow, we celebrate a reader favorite, throwing pots on the wheel. Carter Pasma reworks the awkward design of the watering can. Dwayne Sackey throws, facets, and assembles a two-part chalice. Kate Clark demos a delicate pourer with bold carvings. Sumi von Dassow returns to show us what skills are needed to create a large colander, while Jonathan Steele marries found-wood handles to kyusu tea vessels.
We also have Rory Foster and Kirsty Kash introducing new decorating techniques, plus readers can discover how to be involved with Mike McManus’ brilliant online kiln-sharing site. Cheers!