Friday, January 20, 2012

Friday Critique: Mushroom Serving Bowl

            This is a serving bowl. It is 8 inches wide and 4 inches tall. It is made of porcelain fired to cone 10 in reduction at Simon’s Rock. The inside is glazed with Gustin’s Shino and the outside was covered with black slip and then carved. 

            I am very fond of the shape of this bowl. I find that the curve fits well in my hands, which makes it inviting to hold. The form of the bowl implies that it is meant to contain what is inside of it, with the rim curving inward protectively. It holds a large volume of food, which makes it a good candidate to hold soup or salad. 

            The rim of this bowl is a simple rounded rim. It echoes the shape of the body of the bowl and of the foot of the bowl without drawing attention to itself in terms of shape. However, the glaze does not end in an even line around the rim, and varies in thickness and therefore in texture and color from one place to another. This, I think, draws unwanted attention and would look better if it were either more even or more intentionally drippy. 

            The foot of this bowl is low and rounded. The angle of the foot echoes the angle of the body of the bowl. Because the foot is short, it brings the bowl close to the table and makes it seem more humble. The foot also gives this bowl an appearance of weight and stability. 

            The outside surface of the bowl is not glazed. The black slip has the texture of bare clay, which is what it is. I did smooth it very carefully with a rib, so the surface is not rough, but it is not glassy the way the glaze on the inside is. I like this contrast of textures because it makes the object appeal to more of the senses. Something with different textures in different areas asks to be touched and examined more closely. You see the different textures – the black slip as matte and the glaze as glossy and reflective – but then when you hold the piece you have a new understanding through touch of what those surfaces are like. The inside surface is slippery while the outside surface is easier to grip. You can also feel the rougher areas where the carvings are, which adds another layer of depth to the surface. 
            Why did I choose to carve mushrooms on this bowl? One reason is that mushrooms are kind of cool things. But that isn’t the actual reason there are mushrooms on this bowl.
            I was talking with a friend, and we were thinking of interesting things besides dragons that I might want to put on my pots. It occurred to us that fairy circles are pretty magical things, and also that they are nice and round. Like the outside or inside of a bowl. 

            One of the things that I think is really awesome about fairy circles is that all of the mushrooms are attached by their roots (mycelia). They are all part of the same organism. So when I make mushroom bowls, I put all the roots there, too. I like the idea of decoration that extends to all parts of the ceramic object. There is an aspect of discovery to examining this bowl. The viewer probably does not expect so much decoration on the bottom of an object, which is usually a place that gets little attention. It gives the viewer a reason to turn the bowl upside down (not with food in it! Don’t try this at the table!), and to look at it more closely than they might otherwise. 

            I think that in the case of this particular bowl, the mushrooms would be more effective if they were a little higher on the body of the bowl. When you look at the bowl from the angle you would when it is being used as a serving dish, the mushrooms are only partly visible. I think with this bowl shape the mushrooms could be placed about an inch higher, and that this would be more effective. 

            There is a small dragon on this bowl. Maybe it is a fairy dragon, since it is small enough to hang out on mushroom caps. I added the dragon to the fairy circle because it seems to me that fairy circles attract magical creatures, and it would have been sad not to include such a creature here. Tiny dragons are just the sort of thing I imagine to inhabit fairy circles hidden in some clearing in the woods. 
            This particular bowl is not part of a set, but I intend to make sets of dishes with fairy circles and dragons. I am thinking that some dishes would be better if the fairy circle is on the inside rather than the outside, such as plates, but that cups and serving bowls might work better with the fairy circle on the outside. The carvings are time consuming (so many roots!), but a lot of fun to do. 

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