Wednesday, August 4, 2010

TJ's German Adventure Part 2

Now there is a plan: two salt chamber firings, two markets, wood fire conference, open studio. Not necessarily in that order, but plenty to do for the next six weeks. 

And I regress, I may not have fully explained the purpose of the experience. Truthfully, I didn't know what to expect when I agreed to come, and of course my views will continue to change through the days ahead. The internship, has a very malleable structure, the interns bring their skills, knowledge, talents, and everything therein to add to the company; to learn from the people with whom they are working. Being grafted into a one person company gives a much more focused perspective. Previous assistants for Susanne have had knowledge, but a very empty toolbox. "It is likely that I will never have another assistant like you," she says. Most of them never learned to throw, and I am the first that has been able to help with some of the other processes as well. Although it is a very different experience from being a resident artist, being an assistant lends itself to learning better studio practice. I am finding what it is like to struggle through making the pots that you like in a culture that, much of the time, doesn't appreciate the style. Thanos' always told me that it is our (the potters) responsibility to educate the public on what good pots are. Subtext: what they are worth, and why they are worth having. 

As we work it is a joy to have conversation about many different topics, of course a reoccurring one is tasks for the day. Also, her journey with clay for the last three decades. It is nice to share the different experiences that we have had, failures, successes, and of course there are at times more than sprinkling of personal life that shapes our choices and paths. "It is difficult, a few years ago, I had a business that I was making good money at, but I felt empty. I didn't like the work I was making, and when I started to really pursue learning again it was like waking up from a very long sleep. Now I am happier, making less money, but I feel connected to my work again." These conversations give light to what studio life is like here, and aid in the formation of a friendship.

Last weekend we went to Höhr-Grenzhausen, the capitol for German ceramics. There are many factories that are still functioning, making traditional German ceramics, tiles, etc. One that, eleven generations later, is still making salt glazed vessels, I had the pleasure of a private tour through their factory. This company does many different things: slip casting, jiggering, and wheel throwing are all utilized. One of their biggest productions is the steins for Oktoberfest; these are jiggered, then hand decorated and handled, the girl that was pulling handles did 100 per hour. While their line of hand made objects are for special customers, the production is still quite amazing. Depending on the size, 10-20 pitcher per hour for 8 hours, completely uniform. 

Just a few minutes walk down the road was where the weekend was spent. Suzanne's partner, Fritz (also a potter), is building a community of studio artists and potters. He and some colleagues have purchased and have been renovating a massive slip casting factory, providing living space and studios for more than a dozen artists. The number varies, but with the Glass and Ceramics University 10 minutes away there might be a continuous feed into the workshop. Cheap labor at least. :)

After picking up some raw materials we head back to Mörsingen. Back to work...our first firing is less than a week away.

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