Hands That Do Dishes

Hands That Do Dishes – Women Potter’s Speak

Throughout the exhibition the makers’ own words have been quoted to provide some insight into their ideas and motivations. The quotes are from the following potters:

Christine Boswijk 1993 [ biography ]

‘A vessel is the enduring symbol which is expressed as the vehicle for carrying all life and thought.’

‘(My work in clay)….is also concerned with concepts universal- the continuum of life itself, the complexity and fragility of the human condition, and the utter simplicity of the life/death equation.’

‘I have chosen clay because it is the material through which I can best speak; through which I can best explore the philosophical concerns of life- the fragility of the human condition…’

‘My work is experimental, working as if in a void, yet at the same time toward my objective, which is to percieve the materials as a medium for expression in preference to the pursuit of technique.’

‘I want each piece to trigger memories and ideas, to initiate some inner voyage of thought through the emotional response to the work. The world is cluttered with things which eliminate the magic and poignancy in human life. Magic and poignancy are necessary to keep human beings alive. Art can sometimes restore these.’

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Alison Britton 1991 [ biography ]

‘The pots that I make are all different, but pieces of work are not isolated. Each one is part of a chain that is pulling along a slow sequence of ideas.’

‘The urge to see a form , incompletely planned, undrawn, but stepping forward, is the final stimulus.’

‘I trail some dark lines on the sheet of clay, dark because I know I am going to cover them up and want them to show through. It might be writing, a message like ‘A hard row to hoe’ which is something my mother used to say. It will not be legible in the end.’

‘I have compared my slab-building process to tailoring, and this metaphor brings a connection to the body, and the enclosing of the body, that is relevant.’

‘The content, or the subject matter, is not something I set out with like an ingredient in a recipe.’

‘I am aiming for a sort of poise or resolution, but after a bit of a struggle.’

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Sandy Brown 1989 [images and biography]

‘I am an adult with the joy of playing and who is free enough to express it in an uncorrupted manner.’

‘I have some considerable experience of playing and the desire and ability to continue to do so.’

‘My fingers do it, not me. I just follow them about. It seems to come from deep within; the tactile response seems primitive.’

‘That process of being lost within myself, exploring darkest inner space, is tremendously exciting.’

‘I make them therefore I am.’

‘The whole process involved in using pots is a living one. They need to be fed, bathed and dried. Stroked and handled and displayed.’

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Tulla Elieson 1993 [images and biography]

‘Simple forms could come from the tradition of Scandinavian design or from the influence of two dimensional fine art which needs only a flat canvas or paper.’

‘Rocks in the colours from off-white to black, the same palette offered in vitrified clay. Rocks rounded by water and set alive by the changing light of sea and weather.’

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Morgen Hall 1993 [images and biography]

‘I do not consider the pots “”finished”” when they emerge from the kiln, but only when they have been christened with their first delicious mouthful.’

‘Teapots and tea sets have always been my favourite things to make. Perhaps its because of being a foreigner to this country. To me the tea wares sum up a lot about the country, there’s also a lot of fun in the idea that you have a tea party.’

‘High tea! Wow! I love the idea of people getting together to have a celebration, especially if there’s food involved! I think that’s why I make tableware, its to do with thinking, great, people can have tea parties!’

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Janet Hamer [images and biography]

‘The creation of each bird springs from the meeting point of a ceramic statement with a fascinating creature. That is, when I see that particular clay shapes and fired colours can be used in an authentic potters way that will at the same time link with a vital characteristic of the bird subject. I use glazes to evoke either the naturalistic colouring of a bird or to express an emotive response.’

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Jane Hamlyn 1991 [images and biography]

c1024 Hands That Do Dishes‘You are what you make’

‘If I put a price tag of £2000 on this modest jug it would at least make people sit up and question why this should be so, whether they buy it is another matter.’

‘I am a woman, a mother and a potter, I am interested in feminism and though I do not feel oppressed by men, I am aware of difference. Our bodies for a start are not the same. If pots are about our bodies and women make pots, then I think there is something about that which communicates itself.’

‘The money I got from selling my first pots gave me an enormous thrill- income earned from my own creative efforts.’

‘I tend to think if something is too easily won then its not good enough- I still have a strong streak of puritan work ethic.’

‘Pots are about something other than use; they are not abstract in the way that art can be but belong in a context, they are not disengaged, but are about being with people and engaging with them.’

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Gabriele Koch 1993 [images and biography]

‘I began to think more about the potential meaning of the ‘vessel’ as such and decided to explore my ideas more thoroughly.’

‘In my search for form and content I abandoned the wheel, started coiling – one of the most ancient and intimate ceramic techniques.’

‘References to aspects of early or so-called primitive cultures are not seen as a nostalgic yearning for the past but as a reminder of certain values and qualities lost which are vital for a perspective of the future that is life-enhancing rather than life-destroying.’

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Janet Leach 1990 [images and biography]

‘It is the clay body which is a major inspiration for my pots’

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Emma Lewis, Pueblo Potter, in Lucy M.Lewis, Susan Peterson 1984

‘There’s a prayer that goes into digging the clay, there’s a prayer that goes into refining it. There’s a prayer for making the pots, and maybe two prayers for bringing them to the dealer.’

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Elspeth Owen 1988 [images and biography]

‘A sense of identity with and through other women gave me a much clearer identity as a seperate individual too. I believe that it was out of this new autonomy that I gradually began to make pots that also have a life of their own and a character to which other women especially respond. During the time that I have been learning how to make pots, I have also been learning what are the things that I value most highly.’

‘…..an intimacy exists between me and the pots, which is different from the closeness someone who buys one might feel. When they are given as presents they seem to remain in the same emotional environment as the one in the workshop. Once they are being bought and, even when re-sold part of me feels very vulnerable. Perhaps I want to ensure that they will be handled and looked at only in a way that I myself would like to be treated.’

‘As I have been making pots I have been inventing a language. Through their shapes and textures and shadows I say out into a common place things I often cannot express in any other way even to people close to me; things about the strength and frailty of our longings to be good to each other.’

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Jane Perryman 1990 [images and biography]

Jane Perryman c1177‘The meditative and calming influence of yoga made me want to make simpler forms using slower more direct techniques.’

‘I began to look at African burnished pots and also European Celtic and Bronze age pots in the British Museum. Using this as a starting point my shapes have gradually developed, though I often return to look at those strong simple forms which so inspired me.’

‘The result of smoke movement on the surface of the pot gives a sense of mystery.’

‘I find this technique fascinating because I cannot entirely control what happens and I enjoy the element of surprise and possible delight it gives me.’

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Katharine Pleydell-Bouverie 1985 [ biography ]

‘A pot must have spring and balance of form. But I am not an artist, because I believe that every pot should have a purpose. It is the difference, if you like, between representational and abstract painting.’

Katharine Pleydell-Bouverie, letter to Bernard Leach , 5 October 1929.

‘I find myself almost hating shiny surfaces. And I want my pots to make people think, not of the Chinese, but of things like pebbles and shells and birds’ eggs and the stones over which moss grows. Flowers stand out of them more pleasantly, so it seems to me. And that seems to matter most.’

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Janice Tchalenko 1992 [images and biography]

‘Women potters are used to being dismissed, people assume they do it as a hobby in the garden shed. It’s a bit better now but still, being a potter is percieved as an amateur kind of occupation, its almost a joke- especially in the world of serious money. I have to support a family and I think one has a right to expect to make a living from one’s trade.’

‘….this Art/Craft divide, it’s such a grey area, in fact it doesn’t exist- except in pricing!’

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Gerhild Tschachler-Nagy 1992 [ biography ]

‘I had become intrigued with the idea of directly using the firing process for my work; that is, I wanted the actual flames to become an integral part of the final product.’

‘If the fire was to take over the brush work, it would for me have to do so in a very systematic, highly organized way. Chance and necessity, responding to the fire in a tightly controlled way and letting it happen freely, these became the key words for the work ahead of me.’

‘Although I intended fire as an element of decoration, I still wanted to take my ceramics beyond an aesthetic of primitive pottery relying mostly on random traces affected by fuming.’

‘It is important to have an idea of what is going on during the firing and to try and visualize the situation inside the kiln. Only by becoming extremely sensitive toward the fire can one interact with it or respond to it in the proper way.’

‘I gradually became aware that each piece of ceramic was to be a canvas for the fire.’

‘Realizing the interpretatory openness of the work of art I have come to consider the finished work as altogether less important than the process of making it. When I work, a dialogue evolves between the work and the moment I live in.’

‘Any general characterization presupposing or offering the ultimate truth, is a form of violence against the work of art, a violence toward art and, finally, toward oneself.’

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Ruthanne Tudball 1991 [ biography ]

Ruthanne Tudball c1251‘As in most things in life, simplicity seems to be the recipe for success.”I see the plastic nature of clay as one of its most attractive assets and I want to exploit it.’

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Mollie Winterburn 1991 [images and biography]

‘I have always had a non-stop flow of ideas, millions of them, and maybe it is not an advantage. But it is beyond me to understand someone not knowing what to do! The disadvantage of having so many ideas is that they get in one another’s way, and they get far ahead of what can be done.’

‘Bottles had been my first love and I expect somehow they will always be there, that love of contrast of fat rounded shape to elegant neck is something I don’t think I can get rid of however hard I try.’


Jo Dahn jkd994@aber.ac.uk

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