Lark’s highly visual 500 series includes, 500 Teacups, 500 Bowls, 500 Plates and Chargers, 500 Figures in Clay, 500 Pitchers, 500 Vases, 500 Teapots, 500 Ceramic Sculptures, 500 Animals in Clay, 500 Tiles, 500 Raku plus Masters in Porcelain. With very little text and nearly all full-page photographs, browsing through these books is like attending a show. And like any juried show, you find yourself swooning over some work and shaking your head at the inclusion of others.
Sometimes I amuse myself by wondering what Lark will do next: 500 Covered Jars? 500 Place Settings? 500 Baking Dishes? Oh, there are so many possibilities. How about 500 Architectural Pieces? 500 Horticultural Wares?
Before moving on to other genres, however, and ending my speculation, they have published The Best of 500 Ceramics: Celebrating A Decade in Clay and, with help from a group of jurors, selected the “most technically masterful, stylistically inventive, and historically important pieces” from the prior books. Looking through The Best, I felt at first that it was weighted toward sculpture, but on a second read, I think it may be close to half and half. I was going to count, but a) I am too lazy and b) some pieces appear at first to be functional but may not be, such as the impossible Half-Doughnut Teapot by Leena Bantra. So, we will go with my guess.
Functional or sculptural, liking all the pieces is not the point of reading a book like this. The point is to see what people are doing with clay these days. What are the skills they are using? Where has their imagination taken them? Who are they making their pieces for? And does it resonate?
The pitcher shown above by Linda McFarling was chosen by Patrick L. Dougherty. He says, “This is a wonderfully balanced form with a great surface and a quiet but powerful presence.” Yes, indeed.
Looking at The Best of 500 Ceramics is a pleasant way to spend an hour or two. And the nice thing about a book like this is you can look at it several weeks or a year later, and see it differently.