Cfile’s Ostracon 4: A Guide to Recent Books: 2017 is now available for free! Members and nonmembers can access the publication here in cfile.campus. The Introduction to the publication by Cfile’s Publishing Director Marie Claire Bryant is below.
We learn to read objects and symbols, people and circumstances, and then we learn to read words. From these, we derive context and meaning, we deepen our capacity for expression. And then, if we are very lucky, we learn to read pots.
Some very interesting books and catalogs on ceramics were released in 2017. Quite a wide variety, in fact. “Things of Beauty Growing,” the book to accompany the exhibition at Yale, is stunning. With essays by Alison Britton, Sequioa Miller and others, both “Things of Beauty…” and “That Continuous Thing: Artists and the Ceramics Studio: 1920-Today” have engrossing discussions about Leach’s contemporary William Staite Murray, whom Cfile has written on extensively this year after Garth encountered a family member of Murray’s in Australia last spring.
Like books, your hands are keepers of cultural knowledge, knowing they must move this way and that, in order to grow the shape in the chosen direction. Traces of every motion lie in the knuckles and creases. Between your hands, clay spins and wedges, with another biological knowledge, this time embedded in the material. Who could understand the climate, remember the evolution of flora and fauna, know the battles fought in a place better than the land itself? Through its plasticity, clay remembers its first wedge or slab or curvilinear form, so it also takes on the spirit of its creator in that way. All of this primordial knowledge and history, in a sense, endures in the pot.
In the last sentences of his introduction to the “Things of Beauty Growing,” Glenn Adamson writes, “Pots, like much that is worthwhile in human creativity, are not insistent. They do not demand attention; they earn it. We invite our viewers and readers to lean in close and attend to these singular objects, not only for their beauty, but also for the lastingly relevant ideas they contain.”
Of course, a pot must do more than simply be made of clay. “Bernard Leach often spoke of the “taproot” of tradition. He and his colleagues were great proponents of the idea that pottery was best when it expressed a genius loci and was rooted to place in more than a material sense,” writes Adamson in that same essay.
I have to put a nod in for “Creole Clay.” My copy is still on backorder, but I am so excited to dive into Patricia J. Faye’s new volume concerning contemporary Caribbean pottery. The brightly colored high-fired vases have astonished me. And to imagine the knowledge held within those pots. If pots could talk!
—Marie Claire Bryant
Look for links and for the bold signifier “Recommended“ to see what Cfile thinks you need in your library.
If you enjoyed this, click here to check out last year’s Ostracon 2: Books.