July 29, 2010

Guest Blogger: Don Pilcher

don pilcher (l), george ohr (r)*

So I’ve concluded this: nice clay, a well-made form, a sensuous glaze treatment and a toasty firing. What have I got? A ceramic fashion show; not much more. It’s what Ralph Bacerra described as “just a pot with a glaze on it.”

After twenty-five years of making those pots, with some success, I quit ceramics to attend to a slew of life’s other demands. In the process I got a new job, new car, new house, new dog, new wife; same kids, same town. The new wife was eager that I make some pots for her. I held her off for about ten years and then relented. What should I make? I can make anything. Same old things? Those classic, bold, precise, graceful, androgynous forms? They lived at the intersection of Danish Modern and the Sung Dynasty; not a bad address, but really not my address. I was just renting – take my word for it.

After a lot of thought, shaped by a provocative, existential question from Tony Hepburn – ‘If you knew that nobody, anywhere, would EVER see your work, would it change what you make?”(A question which requires you to birth your own pleasure) - I decided to employ the formerly silent characters of my personality; some of the dozen or so members of the committee meeting that is my mind. I won’t list them all but I’m sure other people have similar voices within them – curious, funny, skeptical, greedy, smart, impatient, hopeful, scared, wicked, ambitious, dirty, generous, resigned…add your own. It’s been almost ten years now with this crew. Our product is called Rascal Ware.

Rascal Ware is equal parts literature and pottery. I/we write stories about life in the pottery and then make pots to illustrate the stories. Each chapter has its own body of work. The people who work there, in addition to me (the retired professor and “ceramic know-it-all” who can turn any remark into a seminar and who has all the answers to questions nobody asks any more), are Junior Bucks, Georgette Ore, Hairy Potter, Mosley Bunkham and Shakespeare, the studio dog. You can read all about them on my web site.

At present we are living Chapter 10, More to Pour. Georgette is the author and the subject is pouring vessels which, because of age, no longer pour so much as drip or just seep. These are more than just pots and glazes. These are allegorical tales and cautionary icons, or, if you don’t think in such terms, they are just jokes. But they have the singular privilege of being unique and the artistic leverage of being true. We call them sperm bank coin banks. The coin bank idea is from George Ohr, his bare issue is seen in the first image. The seminal sperm bank part is from Rascal Ware. George is first in time; Rascal Ware is first in audacity.

(You can submit jokes, or gags, about first and second comings to my web site.)

*(Original George Ohr pottery courtesy of Richard Mohr)

Don Pilcher lives in Champaign Illinois where he taught for many years at the university there. As a gifted potter, thinker, and provocateur, we hope Don will return often with more rascal stories. In the meantime you are encouraged to leave Don a comment below or at don@sawdustanddirt.com
Visit Don's web site
Other reading: Dave Toan's essay "Why I Think Don Pilcher is Important".