[Clayart] how long does a mug last

David Hendley farmpots at eastex.net
Fri Apr 29 05:27:46 UTC 2022

This reminded my of my 2009 Clay Times column. I enjoyed re-reading it:

Fingerprints That Never Disappear

My favorite aunt died recently, and my cousin, while cleaning the house, 
offered to return a pitcher I had made and given my aunt in 1972, the 
first year I started making pottery. Wow, I am glad to get it out of 
circulation. It reminded me once again that clay is forever. I try to 
keep that in mind every time I step into the studio. It’s the best 
reason I know of for self-imposing high standards in the pottery studio. 
Don’t make junk! It may be hanging around longer than you, your 
children, and your children’s children.

I was doing some repair and maintenance on my home earlier this year and 
it got me into a long-term mode of thinking. As in lifetimes, not years. 
Some of you may know that, in the late 1980s, I retired from being a 
potter for several years so I could design and build my own house. It 
was a great few years. I had not had a break from pottery since I took 
my first ceramics class in 1972. I had gradually begun to do more and 
more wholesale business, which meant filling orders for the same pieces 
time and again, and quite frankly, I was in need of a break. Everyone 
should be able to retire for a while in their 30s!

I put my heart and soul into building my house. I evaluated every design 
and material option for energy efficiency, aesthetics, and longevity. I 
had never lived in a new house before, and those first few years in the 
new house were fabulous because everything worked, nothing was worn out 
or deteriorated, and no maintenance was required.

Of course that has changed over the course of the last 20 years. Oh, I 
still love the house. It is well crafted, with lots of great features 
such as big timber frame beams, lots of thermo-pane windows, extra thick 
insulated walls, and a solar design that keeps the sun out in the summer 
but lets it shine through in the winter. But things have broken, worn 
out, and weathered at a disappointing pace.

In spite of my best efforts to buy quality building materials, I have 
had to replace the kitchen faucet twice, the water heater three times, 
and just about every light dimmer switch in the house. Many of those 
great thermo-pane windows have clouded, and last summer I used my 
“economic stimulus check” to buy a new door, because the old one was 
showing signs of dry rot.

Everyone tells me my expectations about the life span of things are 
unrealistic. A few years ago, when our vacuum cleaner had broken, I was 
complaining to the vacuum store owner about how things don’t last like 
they used to. “How long have you had this vacuum?” he asked. When I told 
him, “Twenty years,” he just laughed.

I guess my expectations are skewed because of a lifetime of working with 
clay. I mean, 20 years is nothing in “clay time”.

A while back I heard an intriguing public radio feature story about an 
archeological site in Denmark. It seems that there was a new discovery 
of an ancient civilization that was previously unknown, much older than 
anything found in that area before, estimated to be 5,500 years old. As 
usual with such a discovery, mostly what they found was ceramic. What 
was unusual, instead of the broken bowls and shards that are usually 
found, there were fully intact pieces of pottery. Even more unusual, on 
that pottery, they found the potter’s fingerprints, still discernible on 
the surface of the clay.

During the four years that I was building my house, I envisioned that I 
was working on the biggest project of my life and that the house would 
be my longest lasting legacy of achievement. But 5,500 years, or a 
thousand years, I doubt it. One of my bowls, on the other hand, who 
knows, might still be around for the next few millennium.

After hearing the radio program, I was inspired to write a song about 
how it may indeed be the humble potter who is remembered longest of all.

/Fingerprints That Never Disappear/

/The rich make money and spread it around./
/You’ll see their names all over town./
/But plaques on the wall and buildings will fall,/
/from wars, disasters, or the wrecking ball./

/The powerful rule with armies and police,/
/bring rivals to defeat, on their knees./
/But times they will change, as new leaders are found,/
/and the monuments and statues can be torn down./

/We long to make it clear, that we were here,/
/before the hourglass runs out of sand./
/Most things fade away, from rust or from decay,/
/but clay records each touch of the human hand./

/And the potter, using water, earth, and flame,/
/will be remembered by her touch, if not her name./
/It’s a touch that can last a thousand years,/
/the fingerprints that never disappear./

/Life goes by too fast, nothing seems to last,/
/in two generations all connections are lost./
/An abstract memory, a footnote in history,/
/life’s about change and forgetting is the cost./

/But the potter, using water, earth, and flame,/
W/ill be remembered by his touch, if not his name./
/It’s a touch that can last a thousand years,/
/the fingerprints that never disappear./

David Hendley
david at farmpots.com

On 4/27/2022 9:04 AM, mel jacobson wrote:
> I woke up this morning laughing to myself.
> If one re/fires one time,
> how long will that mug last?...1000 years instead of 1500 years.
> or maybe 35,000 years if it is well cared for.
> Most of what I have made in my lifetime will be in the dump or crushed
> in the next 50 years. It will still be seen in some garage sale../50cents/
> who was MJ??  We will let the dog eat out if.  It matches the kitchen.
> My pots are not that special, never have been...interesting maybe.
> anyway, something to smile about.
> (in 1965 there was a study asking high school children if they felt special.
> about 7 percent said yes.  In 2022 that number is near 70 percent. does one
> wonder why there is "road rage".  "Why are those people in my way, don't they
> know I am special."??????)
> mel
> website:www.melpots.com
> www.melpots.com/CLAYART.HTML
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