[Clayart] Handmade

JENNIFER STEIN jensteinpottery at me.com
Fri Aug 5 03:30:07 UTC 2022

Hello ClayArters- 
I so enjoy these conversations about imponderables!
As far as I am concerned, ‘handmade’ means I get to use my hands and I get to manipulate clay to make my pieces. I realize this is a purely hedonistic viewpoint. It has nothing to do with marketing, but rather with my relationship to the medium. I throw my pots on a wheel and am completely addicted to this dance with the clay to obtain the desired shape.

Once thrown, I impress my pieces with stamps I have made from the same clay, inspired by images I research online. Like some other ClayArt members, I only sell wholesale so that every piece I make has a place to go before it’s made. This allows me to spend as much time as possible actually handling the clay, as that is what brings me joy. I also get to make hundreds to pots and not worry about having to store them.

I use mostly glazes we make in-house, except for the details of the bas-relief which are painted with Stroke and Coats, then covered with Ron & John’s Clear Liner which has been blessedly reliable over the years.

As for the propriety of the term ‘handmade’ I find myself at a loss. Please forgive a brief digression: my daughter received an MA in Art a decade ago - since then I have been utterly confused about what ‘art’ means, whether it can be permanent (as opposed to temporary or evanescent or performative) whether it remains ‘art’ if it is sold (gasp!), whether anyone has the right to label an object ‘art’ other than its maker…
So after all these obtuse thoughts about definitions of ‘art’  or when I try to unscramble whether molded or jiggered or decalled clay objects might be ‘handmade’, my mind runs to a memory of spending way too much time cleaning seam lines, and I just end up shaking my head and going back to my wheel for more of our glorious dance. Throwing feels too good to worry too much about what another ceramist might choose to call ‘handmade’. 

I personally prefer the look of pieces made with the hands, pieces in which I can see the potters’ fingerprints/marks.  I remember getting goosebumps at the sight of a fingerprint in an Ancient Greek pot in a museum. If that really perfect mold mentioned in another post can convey the fingerprints to the user and bring that user joy, then good for the maker.

We each make the choices that feel best to us - and happily these are many and varied, as this adds spice to all our lives.

So happy clay to you today, and tomorrow, and the next day too…


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