Potters like to write about their work. Nonpotters like to write about potters’ work too. And if they are not writing, they are portraying: today in photographs, yesterday in illustration. We see potters depicted firing their kilns on Greek vases and throwing jars on their wheels in ancient Egyptian tomb art. We see bustling workshops in Chinese paintings. Abu’l Qasim of Kashan, an early 14th century Persian explained various aspects of tile and vessel making in his famous Treatise. The great Italian Cipriano Piccolpasso gave us his remarkable Three Books of the Potter’s Art in the mid-sixteenth century, a wonderful book with still relevant drawings and instructions.
Today, there are so many ceramics books published that, unless she does nothing else morning to night, one person cannot read them all. There are memoirs, biographies, instruction books, monographs, histories, exhibition catalogs, stories for children, meditations, and guides for collectors. In addition, we potters have many periodicals to read and write for: Ceramics Monthly, Ceramics Art and Perception, Ceramics Technical, Ceramic Review, Ceramic Making Illustrated, to name a few. One of my favorites has been Studio Potter.
The first issue of Studio Potter came out in the fall of 1972, the project of a group of serious potters who wanted to share information in an ad-free format. I loved those early issues – stapled, without a spine, but beautiful to behold, printed mostly on thick, uncoated paper. There were plans for kilns, photos of potters at work, diagrams of burners, discussions of glazes and tools. The Summer 1973 edition devoted 12 pages to the Brookfield Kiln. Though I built two other very different kilns between then and now, my current kiln is a modified, somewhat enlarged Brookfield based on that early issue, and performs very well. The following summer there were pieces about the potential for solar and methane fired kilns! There was a lot of exploration and experimentation going on.
There were “visits” to potters in various states – Oregon, Texas, Maine, Colorado, California – with black and white photos, usually of the potters in their studios. Over the years, sadly, tributes and obituaries appeared as potters passed. And for awhile the Notebooks section, sometimes impossible to read because the handwriting was so difficult, gave a glimpse into the, well, notebooks of working potters.
During the ensuing four plus decades, Studio Potter added a spine and lots of color, and changed its emphasis from those early years of roll-up-your-sleeves optimism when American potters were trying to figure out how to make a life in clay, to an emphasis on “aesthetic philosophy.” Not all the work shown is functional. Many of the potters are in the academy. The pages are coated and glossy. Issues built around themes. The shape of the magazine is now square rather than rectangular. And, at the back, there are advertisements! Straddling two centuries, Studio Potter has changed and evolved with the times.
This is all a rather long way of pointing out to you that I have a piece in the current issue. It’s called It’s All in Your Head and I have to say, it does feel nice to have an essay in a journal that has felt all these years like a friend. To be honest, I do have two tiny complaints. Somehow two captions got reversed in the design process. However, if you read the piece, it will be immediately apparent that the captions are misplaced. And Joseph Szalay, who took the photographs, is unhappy with the color reproduction. He is a perfectionist and has a very critical eye for color. You would want him to take a photo of your work. Still, it’s nice to be in Studio Potter and I hope that there are potters to write for the venerable journal and potters to read what they write for another forty plus years.