Obsessing Over Shapes – Be A Better Designer

gilded and patina hand turned vessel by Colorado artist Brian Benham

gilded and patina hand turned vessel by Colorado artist Brian Benham

My friend, a ceramic artist David Garrison, had an obsession with finding the perfect form, and pushing the materials limits.  He would go through painstaking renditions, throwing cup after cup on the wheel until he found the perfect curve for the edge of the cup, an edge that would fit perfectly against his lip to make drinking from it as pleasurable as possible.  Too much curve and water would dribble down your chin, too little curve and he would say that shit feels like it’s from Kmart, then smash it to pieces.  Each transition had to be perfect; from how it curved away from its base to the final curve on the rim, and every curve in between.

The above picture is a maple vase I turned on the lathe, and then gilded with silver and added a patina with sulfur potash.  The shape of the rim came from one of Dave’s vases, where he tried to push the clay as thin as he could get it.  He wanted to make the inner curve of the neck turn outward from the main body as sharply as possible as it turned into the flange.  Then have the flange lay as flat and thin as possible without the clay sagging, losing its shape, or worse yet become so thin it couldn’t hold itself together and come apart on the wheel.

While on the lathe, with wood, I don’t have to worry about the rim sagging under its own weight.  I do have to worry about it becoming too thin and breaking through to the inside.  I also have to worry at the inner curve of the neck where the grain switches from holding itself together vertically to holding itself together horizontally, that will most likely be a week spot.

I’m sure I can go much thinner and find the balance between the curves and how flat and far the rim flairs out.  In this vessel, I have 2 flat spots, one where the flange curves into the vase, and one where the body of the vase starts to curve towards the neck.  In my next rendition, I want to smooth out those transitions so all the curves blend together seamlessly.

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