First, there is the wheel. If you tell someone that you are a potter, they will inevitably conjure up an image of clay being thrown on the wheel. This is the romantic notion that we have in our society of what it means to work with clay. Now, don't get me wrong. I love the wheel. I sat down this morning and threw a baker's dozen of mug bodies and I am always amazed at how quickly throwing multiples of the same piece can go if you can get into the trance-like state that can be induced by doing the same motions over and over again...of course, if you can't get into that state, it can be really boring!
Which then brings us to hand building. A few years ago I made the conscientious effort to begin handbuilding forms rather than working at the wheel. I do primarily slab work and I feel that this is a much more intellectual way of working with clay. While working at the wheel, it's very easy to, "let the clay decide" what is being made and not have a very clear direction as to what you are making. Not so with slab work. It's a bit more like wood working would be, I suspect. You need to plan out templates of the pieces you want to cut out of your slab, which, of course, requires you to plan ahead of time what you want to make. But, I really enjoy the planning and thinking through an idea to develop the correct construction for a piece that happens much more often in handbuilding than it does with the wheel.
And then, there is slip casting. So often, slip casting is kind of pooh-poohed as being kind of a cheater way of making things in clay. I agree that, if you are not making your own molds, this certainly is true, but, if you are making your own molds, especially if you are making the models for those molds yourself, it is actually a very difficult way of making a form. It is, however, a wonderful technique for making multiples of the same form which are all exactly the same, making it perfect for installation work. So, this is my newest intellectual challenge for my ceramic work. The challenge of learning to make good, well crafted molds plus the challenge of using to those forms to create well thought out installation works.
And that's what the end of the year has me contemplating. What are you