Ceramics Essay, Research Paper

Richard Fairbanks, although many times overlooked, was an important American ceramist. He was known as a “loner” and because of this he was never really appreciated for his talent. Fairbanks was greatly influence by his professors. Professor Paul Bonifas, who taught at the University of Washington, was one who left a huge impact on Fairbanks work. Fairbanks created a system of sketching pottery profiles, which stemmed from Bonifas? teachings, as a mean of “thinking on paper.” This approach to pottery through sketching was a crucial element that separated Fairbanks from many other Asian-inspired American peers. Although, Fairbanks was a wheel thrown expert, he continued to “think on paper” throughout his creative life.

Much of what absorbs Fairbanks interests can be seen in his making of candlesticks, casseroles, and vases. During the later part of his life he created three of his final pieces. One being the Stoneware Heart Plate, 1985, secondly the Stoneware server, 1985, and thirdly the Stoneware Vase, 1985. These were three of Fairbanks last works, which suggest the direction in which he was headed, in terms of what defined his style, before he became deathly ill.

The plate, which is an exploration of decoration, is liquid clay or “slip pattern” of concentric circles around a valentine heart. This plate was wheel thrown, and glazed with iron oxide and copper red washes. I find it very interesting because it seems to portray more emotion than most of his other pieces. This can probably be indirectly associated with Fairbanks illness and how he was feeling at the time.

The next piece he made during his period of illness was called the “Stoneware Server.” The server can be explained by “unadorned simplicity.” It also takes on some style of the art deco period. Fairbanks decided that for the server, he would decorate a new style of handles. The thrown thread-spool shape. Many people explained this server as a “model of modernist formal unity.” The server is covered with red matte glaze. I became attracted to this piece because of its simplicity. It creates room for interpretation, which I find culminating.

His last and final piece, which is very interesting, is called the “Stoneware Vase*” It has two curled spiral handles, suggestive of ancient or pre-historic civilizations. It is a thrown vas4e that is 10×8x6. It is interesting because many feel that if Fairbanks had lived longer, he might have taken on an exploration of ancient or pre-historic cultures.

Instead of purist forms, Fairbanks explored the less traveled road of rough and crusty clay bodies, which emerge, from the surface of the glaze. This in turn removed his pieces from any realm of perfection. In the end Fairbanks demonstrated, trough his pieces, the p [positive and negative approaches that he was exposed to during his years. Fairbanks wrote, “My eyes are lazy and don?t see well. With my hands I se, and that is good. I can hold the whole world in my hands when I am seeing with them a good pot. Then there is the earth: dense and heard, yet at one time it grew, expanded and breathed; there like seed to stalk to flower to fruit, it patiently endured the potters tactile search. The clay speaks softly but firmly to the potter, it is not afraid because it will always have the last word, even if it must atomize itself to return again and seeks its destiny anew in another?s hands. My hands see the clay and the clay murmurs to them take it easy, you?re in good hands. The dialogue continues long after the brief communication when the hands and the clay see each other, they know. They know.” This statement was said to take great poignancy because of the last two years of his life. Fairbanks was diagnosed with malignant brain tumor, which created little to no studio activity. As his disease progressed, Fairbanks lost more and more eyesight. This passage softly states his awareness to the distinctive connection between hands and clay.

Takeshi Yasuda is somewhat of a treasure. His main focus in pottery is engaged in pots as a focus of our daily activities and rituals. Pots are not just a visual object, but something to be cherished on many levels. Yasuda?s objects are often marked as sensual and tactile, which reveal the fluidity of his ideas. Yasuda was a wheel thrower, who was “intrigued by formal complexities of wheel thrown pottery. Takeshi Yasuda does a wonderful job at involving and engaging the user.

His most intriguing work, are his studies of the fluid nature of wheel thrown porcelain. Many of Yasuda’s pots are about tension, tension between the upward and downward, this is what I find absolutely intriguing.

Much of what Yasuda created crossed over the line of what gravity would allow. It was said that most of the time his pots would collapse of the wheel and he would hang tem upside down to dry. Two interesting pieces that he had done was the Sprung Bottom Bowl, and the Platter with Handles. Each of these pots is interesting in shape and use of texture. His approach to each piece creates a more interesting view. He creates each piece with special qualities. Yasuda’s view should not be looked at in terms of design, but in a way a pot can generate and be part of a ritual, and add depth to the viewer or user.

In his Bowl, which is made from stoneware, we see the use of glazes. The glaze Yasuda uses creates a freedom for modern abstraction. Even though not extreme, the glaze on this piece is very interesting and captivating. Although this is true, he never wants a purely visual analysis to disrupt the analysis by the hand. In Yasuda?s Sprung bottom Bowls, he takes plate forms and fits them over rigs at the leather hard stage and pushes them down to create deep containers.

In Yasuda?s Platter one sees the movement that he tried to captivate in many of his works. This Platter is made from Creamware, which was an invention of 18th century Staffordshire. Creamware was what eventually replaced the popular thin glazed products. Yasuda gave a new name to creamware. He was impressed with its “optimistic and visually liberating appearance.”

Though not strongly shown in the pieces above, Yasuda’s ability to control and rescue a form before a complete collapse takes place amazes me. His interest in gravity and directional pull played a huge role in Yasuda?s style.

I feel strongly that Yasuda?s success comes from his love of exploration, especially of the unknown. By challenging the “normal” his pots engage and provoke his audience.

Richard Fairbanks and Takeshi Yasuda are very different in nature, but I find each of their works visually and aesthetically compelling. Difference creates questions, which creates interests, which creates answers. I feel both of these men treasured simplicity in its realist form! Fairbanks and Takeshi both explored the “unknown” to create identity for themselves. The creativity, ingeniousness, and capacity of knowledge that these men display helps identify who they are and what they stand for as artists.


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