by Doug Peltzman
Some of my earliest memories of making pots are of the deep concern and excitement about the pots I had yet to make. I really struggled with things, like throwing a spout, or pulling a volumetric handle, so, my remedy to the frustration was to abandon that way of making, and to learn to make them in other ways. I began slab building and slip casting handles and spouts. This went on for a few years, and they slowly got better and better. When I arrived at grad school, I felt that my pots were pretty sound.
In one of my earliest conversations/critiques, I was told that my handles “needed work” and that they looked “dumpy.” It was one of many critical conversations I had along the way that changed the course of my work. With focus and determination, I began to experiment with different sizes, proportions, shapes and techniques. And more importantly, I was pushed to set aside the crucial time to play, without the pressures to make a “good pot”. Now, making handles is one of my favorite things to do. I pull handles for mugs, teapots, jars, and pitchers…even my knobs start out as pulled handles. Most people who have experienced my pots in some capacity can appreciate my obsession with this pottery appendage. Handles extend into space and ask to be touched or experienced. Placement of mass and negative space plays a major role in this experience. I want my handles to celebrate the space between the cup and the hand.
When I make handles, I take into account the formal consideration of my pots, as well as the physiological nature of the hand. Continuous uninterrupted negative space is one of the ways I try to make my handles visually, as well as tactilely, compelling. Analyzing pots from 7000 years ago to today, helps me to understand what I make and where it falls within a historical and contemporary context. I also use my own work regularly. This practice helps me to understand the pots I make, and to continue to push the ever changing boundaries of what I think is possible.