Friday, June 12, 2009

Work by true "Unknown Craftsmen"

Many of us who make pots know "The Unknown Craftsman" by Yanagi Soetsu. It's long been a sort of handbook for Mingei folkcraft philosophy. But, in fact, though we revere the concept, most of us sign our pots with our names or initials, the better for buyers to find us the next time they want a mug just like the one that holds their morning coffee. True "unknown craftsmen" are hard to find these days, at least in the Western world.
But I found the beautiful work of some anonymous Vietnamese potters last week at the Swanson garden center in Seattle. Wonderful wood-fired garden pots, some of them big enough to hold small trees in hotel or office lobbies, were on sale at Swanson's. The bulging round pot in the top photo was perhaps three feet tall and might hold 50 gallons of soil. It had a monumental and pleasing presence and was on sale for just over $200. It much reminded me of the work of UK potter Svend Bayer and I can guarantee that Bayer gets considerably more than $200 for similar pots.
The remarkable thing about these pots is that they are apparently turned out by the hundreds and thousands at potteries in Vietnam.
I've only done a bit of research and haven't found much written about them, but at you can get a look inside the factory and see the vast numbers of pots and the wood kilns used to fire them. Check them out. The quality is excellent. I'd be more than proud to be able to turn out a single pot the size of that one big planter, let alone do it day after day.

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