Mike Dodd at the Goldmark Gallery

I love the books and videos the Goldmark Gallery creates for their pottery exhibits. I very much love Mike Dodd by David Whiting which they published to coincide with last fall’s exhibit.

The book, like all Goldmark’s books, has elegant French flaps and is printed on satiny paper. It is an object of beauty, a pleasure to hold in your hands.

The cover, a photo of Dodd in his workshop, viewed through an open door is enticing. We see a tall vase on an old woodstove, a workbench, clay spattered chairs and a row of ladles (for glazing?) hung across the top of a window. Dodd is holding a vase. Immediately, you want to visit. Does every potter who shows at Goldmark live surrounded by pastural countryside and work in an enchanting, rustic shop? Feeling a tinge of envy…

Whiting’s essay, an appreciation, touches on Dodd’s life, his thoughts on potting, and, of course, his pots. Like all of Goldmark’s’ books, many of which Whiting has written, it is refreshingly jargon free. Jay Goldmark’s luscious photos show Dodd’s work in situ – in the garden, surrounded by grasses and ivy, on old wooden boards, by a pond. The photos and essay bring us into momentarily inside Dodd’s world.

Dodd, a potter’s potter, is known for his deep understanding of local materials. He makes glazes of ash and granite and iron that he gathers and processes. His pots are robust, known for the strength of their forms.

I read Mike Doddwith Dodd’s own book, An Autobiography of Sorts, also available from Goldmark though not published by them. This is a longer, more

Peat clay and ash over garden clay slip.

in depth look at Dodd’s potting life. It includes articles that he has written and published over the years, essays and interviews that others have written, in addition to some material that he wrote specifically for this volume. He describes the various workshops and studios that he has inhabited, the kilns he has built, and his thoughts about pot-making. There are many pages of formal photos of his work, allowing us to study them closely.

An Autobiography of Sortsis not as beautifully designed as Mike Dodd, but the two books taken together give us a nice look at Dodd and his work. They are the next best thing to owning one of his pots.

Nic Collins by Doug Fitch

You know how impressed I am with the work that Goldmark is doing with Modern Pots – an exhibition web presence unparalleled by any gallery either side of the Atlantic, excellent choice of potters, beautifully produced monographs in print and online, and well-produced biographical DVD’s. You also know, I am trying to finish up my own book and should not stray one moment from the task at hand. But the mail carrier left a note in the mailbox for me, telling me to come down and pick up a parcel and curious, I hopped in the truck and discovered that a wonderful package of books and dvd’s awaited me from Mike Goldmark.

Of course, disciplined person that I am, I put them away until my manuscript is turned in, or at least the Roman numeral problem is fixed.

Don’t be ridiculous! Of course, I greedily pulled out one monograph after another, popped a DVD into my computer, tried to take it all in at once. First observation: I hope UPNE does as good a production job on the Guy Wolff book as Goldmark does on their books. Observation number two: I hope we are doing as good a job. Joe is without a doubt. His photos are great. And our book is far more text. I hope as good.

So, though I stayed up wait too late, poring through everything, I am going to, not all in sequence, but now and then so I can go back to them, take the collection one book at a time. We will start with the Nic Collins catalog, with an essay by slipware potter Doug Fitch. Matching them is itself a bit of brilliance, because Nic is a serious, high-fire, take- huge-risks wood-fire stoneware man. Doug, who both wood fires and electric fires, works in the slipware tradition at far lower temperatures. Except that they are both good throwers, and can throw pretty big, and they are each a master of the jug form, there is no similarity in their work.

Nic Collins makes jugs, vases, bottles, bowls, platters, and covered and uncovered jars. Subjected to long periods of intense heat, ash and flames, they emerge requiring hours of contemplation to see all the colors, all the effects of the fire. They bear the scars of the seashells he uses to keep them from sticking. They are crusty. They are luminous both. You need to get to know these pots. The more you look, the more you see. You want to touch, to hold, to gaze.

Appropriately, Fitch tells us that Collis and his partner Sabine have built a cob workshop for themselves. Is that not perfect?

The photographs include images of Nic Collins, the enormous kiln he has made, and the pots, both in formal, gallery style shots and in situ in the rural landscape surrounding the studio. In the accompanying DVD, Collins talks about his work and his evolution as a potter. We see him at the wheel and firing his kiln. This is truly—I hesitate to use such a word – a splendid package.

The Innovations of Mike Goldmark

Phil Rogers Bottle

Mike Goldmark says he has been a “shopkeeper” for thirty years, showing pottery for the last five of them, in Uppingham in England, but he is no ordinary shopkeeper. In his gallery Modern Pots he focuses on showing British and Japanese ceramics primarily the work of Svend Bayer, Clive Bowen, Nic Collins, Mike Dodd, Lisa Hammond, Jim Malone, Ken Matsuzaki & Phil Rogers. Such a lineup would make his gallery stand out from others, but it’s how he shows the work that is so noteworthy.

His spacious physical gallery includes a printing operation run by Ian and Jan Wilkinson, bright exhibit space, and occasional poetry readings and musical performances. If you stop by at lunchtime you are welcome to join the table and conversation.

What sets Modern Pots apart though, is what Goldmark does online and how he combines his virtual presentations with his real presentations. For each of his potters, in addition to showing new works in the gallery space, including special exhibitions, he publishes a beautifully illustrated monograph. These can be read online in eBook form or purchased as a book you can hold in your hand. The eBooks are not downloadable but remain on the Modern Pots site and are produced using the powerful Issuu or something similar so that you have various viewing options. The monographs, with thoughtful essays and both informal in situ photographs and formal photographs, bring us into each artist’s life. We see their workshops and learn about their ideas on making. Even though the eBooks are a pleasure to behold, I find myself wanting to order the entire set of physical books. Oh for a fatter checkbook!

In addition, Goldmark has produced documentary films for each of his potters. Viewing them is like having a personal visit to the artist’s studio. The films average around twenty minutes and can be viewed online or ordered as a DVD. In addition, for Phil Rogers and Ken Matsuzaki, he has also made longer documentaries with trailers on the site. If you order a physical book, you get a DVD along with it.

This past Saturday, June 16, 2012, Modern Pots hosted an opening for Phil Rogers with an exhibition, a booksigning of the new monograph not yet shown online, a throwing demonstration in the gallery and an amazing online exhibit of one hundred new Rogers’ pots plus his etchings. For each pot, Goldmark made a short film of Rogers talking about making the work. In these clips, Rogers holds the pot in his hands in the way that only potters do, running his palms down the sides, touching the rim with his fingers, caressing the piece, and tells us something about the decoration, the fire, or how he made the shape. A short film for each pot – what an effective innovation. Why has no one thought of it before? It’s what potters do in their fair booths, their open studios, and in galleries – talk to people about the pots. Now we have it online. Perfect.

In addition to all this, Goldmark sends out a traditional e-newsletter. Modern Pots chooses some of the best potters working today and shows them in a most inviting way. Goldmark understands how best to use the Internet and how best to use bricks and mortar to work together to bring pots out into the world. I applaud him. I have not yet traveled the thousands of miles to Uppingham but one of these days I will. Meanwhile, I am thankful to be able to have such a rich experience on his website. We can all learn from him.