At Matakana the potters, or the ‘pot team’ as they are known, start work at approximately 7.30am. Depending on the sizes of the pots that they are throwing, they work until just before lunch. If they are making larger pots which are heavy and demanding, they often stop a little earlier. By the end of the throwing session, pots are lined up on horizontal rollers that look much like ladders. As one pot is made it is transferred to rollers and pushed away from the wheel, and one by one the ladder fills down its length. Occasionally though someone forgets to check how close the furthest pot is to the end of the ladder, and when a new one is added, the last topples off onto the floor.
On several occasions, I’ve salvaged these ‘squashed’ pots because of the intriguing almost ‘graphic’ shapes. Although no longer pots in the true sense, they become flattened, two dimensional caricatures of the vessels they were intended to be. Their bases remain intact, so they can stand, but their bodies are compressed together, becoming flat where there should be rounds.
It was interesting to see this hand-built stoneware pot by Chilean potter Fernando Casasempere which had similar visual characteristics. Whereas our ‘squashed’ pots were the result of our process of making and seeing the potential in a happy accident, Fernando purposefully ‘embraced the soft clay form, providing a record of the meeting of vessel and (his) body’.
The end result is much the same, and when I get back to NZ, I’ll upload an image of one of our pots which has been used as a sculptural center piece in a garden in Devonport.
- Nick C