I am convinced that a large part of the reason we potters do what we do is that we love to create with our hands. There are few processes as elemental as making pots from clay. If we leave aside the mechanical wheel (which, after all, post-dates humankind's discovery of pot-making) our first tools splay out at the ends of our arms, ready to work. We can use our hands alone to make the raw clay pot. Many pots, in fact. And big ones, too. And quite elegant, if we know what we're doing. That sets us apart from woodworkers, sewers of fabric, printmakers, painters, carpenters. After basic handwork, we begin to use tools - the wheel, ribs, trimming blades, hole-cutters, fettling knives, decorative stamps - to refine our work or make the creative process more efficient. I started thinking about this Saturday, when I found an apple-corer at a giant antiques store in New Bedford, not far from Cape Cod. Someone perhaps 70 or 80 years ago took great care to roll, join and solder sheet steel into a perfectly lovely, efficient and functional tool to core apples. It's a brilliant thing, handsomely proportioned and simple. And there it was, selling for five dollars, who knows how far in miles and time from its original maker. It appears to be a one-off, with no brand name engraved anywhere. I'm guessing that a wife told her husband, "We need a new corer," and he went out to the metal shop and made one. Or he went to his friend and that friend made one. I bought it because I loved the shape and because I thought it would make a great hole-punch if I should need such a thing on a teapot or ... something else. I photographed it for the blog and then I thought I'd photograph my grandmother's boning knife, which I rescued from the ruins of her old kitchen not long after her oldest son - my uncle - died. Like the corer, this knife is marked with no brand. But it is comfortable, elegant in its simplicity, and its steel sharpens well, unlike today's stainless steel blades. It does the job and I use it in our own kitchen every day, perhaps 60 years after my grandmother first bought it. The other tool here is an idea stolen from Welsh potter Phil Rogers. At a workshop many years ago, he showed us this ingenious tool he uses to decorate his pots. It's one of the two barrel-shaped blades found in a common mechanical pencil sharpener. Mounted on a handle made of stiff coathanger wire, it leaves a pattern of lines on leather-hard clay. The lines adapt well to ash and other glazes. I don't know if this tool was Phil's idea or if he stole the idea from someone else. Doesn't matter. It's a good tool, like the others.
I make and sell functional pottery at Hatchville Pottery in Hatchville, a neighborhood of the town of Falmouth, at the west end of Cape Cod in Massachusetts. I'm a former journalist - 20 years as a photographer, writer and editor - who began to make pottery about 20 years ago in Alexandria, VA. My training is in pots for eating, drinking and displaying flowers, often with an Asian or late British influence. Hamada Shoji, Phil Rogers, Dan Finnegan, Nakazato Takashi, Kanzaki Shiho are all influences.
Married 40 years to Dee, a massage therapist in Falmouth, with one child, Marcus.
To see more of my pots, go to my website at http://web.me.com/hatchvillepottery/Site/Home.html
DIRECTIONS TO THE POTTERY: We are at 494 Boxberry Hill Rd. in East Falmouth. Take the Route 151/Mashpee exit off Route 28 in North Falmouth, go east on 151 to the first flashing light, take a right onto Boxberry Hill. We're about a quarter mile down on the right, at the corner of Brady Drive. Call 508-563-1948 for more information, or email firstname.lastname@example.org