My Reading Stack

It’s been many long months since I posted, and in that time I’ve made and fired pots, worked on my books and gardens, played with my granddaughters, and lost my dad. Yet all the while I was reading.  And reading.

I will tell you here about a few of the books but first I want to share one that I have not yet read, A Chosen Path: The Ceramic Art of Karen Karnes edited by Mark Shapiro with a foreward by Garth Clark.  The book is due in September, but I got a peek at a few pages in NYC and I can’t wait to read the whole book.

During the 70s, for many decades actually, Karen Karnes was every functional potter’s idol. She largely does quietly powerful sculptural work now, but no one has ever surpassed her iconic casseroles.  I am glad to have one in my kitchen. She also made dinner sets, pitchers, even a freestanding fireplace. Anyone who has watched her throw is mesmerized.

Her life has intersected, led, and departed from the post World War II ceramic culture in this country. She was at Black Mountain with MC Richards and John Cage and others. She helped build Gate Hill Cooperative in Stony Point. She developed flameware.  This book promises to look at all facets of her career and life and has lots of illustrations. It accompanies an exhibit that will travel to five museums beginning in Arizona in the fall. I am counting the days until publication.

Speaking of ceramic idols, Bauhaus Women:  Art, Handicraft, Design by Ulrike Müller has a nice chapter on Marguerite Friedlaender Wildenhain who was at the Bauhaus in the early twenties.  The Bauhaus, despite its initial espoused notion of equality was not friendly to women, particularly those interested in anything other than weaving. The book includes a chapter on Margarete Heymann-Loebenstein-Marks who also was at the Bauhaus and went on to have an illustrious career in ceramics but who was never allowed into the ceramic program because of her gender. Later she ran and designed for Haël Workshops for Art Ceramics until being forced out by the Nazis and fleeing to England. Mauguerite Friedlaender Wildenhain, however, was at the Bauhaus at an earlier and better (for women) time. She too, however, had to flee the Nazis and eventually settled at the now famous Pond Farm north of San Francisco. One of my favorite potter’s books of all time is her The Invisible Core: A Potter’s Live and Thoughts.  There’s only a glimpse of her in Bauhaus Women, but it was fun to read and be reminded of her. The rest of the book is about women who worked in other mediums and Bauhaus history.

Surveys or best-of books are always fun. Oh, there’s usually some inclusion that makes one gasp that such a piece could be considered, but agreeing and disagreeing with the curator is part of the pleasure. Masters: Earthenware, Major Works by Leading Artists curated by Matthias Ostermann emphasizes elaborate and brightly colored pieces. There are 38 masters here. They average 8 or 9 pages devoted to their work, with a brief description from Ostermann at the beginning. There is little information on process and certainly no shots of their studios (I love seeing other people’s studios, though photos of them often make me jealous).  There is nothing in the book that made me whine, oh I wish I’d made that, but looking at work so very different from one’s own is stimulating. The book is especially good because there are enough photos of each person’s work to give you a pretty thorough sense of it.  I have read or browsed it several times now.

Ceramics Today  edited by Jeffrey B. Snyder includes 120 “innovative ceramic artists” almost none of whom are those we see repeatedly in the ceramic press. This is refreshing.  They are predominantly from Australia, the US and Canada. The work is both functional and sculptural. Each artist has an Artist’s Statement in which he or she talks about the work and sometimes the process. A few are written in the third person, which makes me crazy but we won’t go into that here. Another oddity of the book is artist’s email addresses are included but not their websites. Maybe everyone has email but not everyone has a website? No matter, this is also a book to look through more than once.

This is not the entire reading stack, but I must do some glazing before my pots become too dry.

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