Saturday, March 12, 2011

Sixty Minute Man


SP: There are reports that you've turned your pottery over to the making of leaves. Is there any truth to the rumors?

JB: Scott, to tell you the truth, I'm tired of waiting on the trees. It's been a long, cold winter and the trees are, quite frankly, taking too long to bud and leaf out.

SP: But it's only Marc...

JB: "Only". Yeah. "Only" March. It's been a full five months now since I've seen anything but dried up old, brown oak leaves hanging from mostly naked trees like so much dirty laundry. As I said, I'm tired of waiting.

SP: How exactly do you make theses leaves?

JB: It's a combination of slab, throwing, casting, and altering techniques.

SP: All that? ...for just one piece?

JB: Yes, well, I had this idea in my mind -- almost a full-blown idea the moment I thought of it. I knew what I wanted and I knew how I was going to make it.

I took one of my huge, 20 inch bowls and, using it to define the dome of the future leaf, I cast plaster molds with leaf imprints in them. With these molds I can toss a slab down on them and the slab will then have the desired dome shape AND the impression of a leaf on it.

Then I walk over to the wheel with the plaster mold -- slab atop it -- and chuck it up with my Giffin Grip. There I can throw and compress the leaf from the backside by pressing a wet sponge against the spinning slab and working my way out from the center.

Then I attach a thrown foot to the slab...

SP: It's beginning to occur to me that this is a lot more work than necessary. For just a leaf bowl? Couldn't you just slam the slab on the mold and let it dry and pull it off? Do you really need a foot on it?

JB: First, "could" isn't a very good measure around a pottery shop. "Should" works better for me. I don't favor the notion of "good enough". Thinking that way is not only an affront to my sense of what makes a good pot, but it also would imply that I think very little of the sensibilities of the people who might want my pottery. I don't think so little of my customers. I'd like to hope that the people who buy my pottery aren't searching for "good enough". And so far, they've proven me correct.

So, no. I didn't want these leaves to so easily betray the method by which they were created. I want the method of creation to be so transparent that the first impression my pot leaves isn't how it was made, but rather, what it IS. I didn't want the "slab-ness" of the piece to be so readily evident.

SP: Well, I'll grant you that it's not. I hadn't really thought much about it, but it appears at first glance to be a leaf that's cut out of a thrown bowl form. That's why I wondered more about how you got the leaf impression in it than how you formed the bowl.

JB: Thanks. That's what I was after. That's the illusion I was going for. Beyond that, though, I also wanted a piece that would be elevated from the table -- lifted above it by a foot. Leaves are light. They flutter and float in a breeze. When they land on the ground it is not with a thud, but with a silent resting. And they don't entirely touch the ground even when they rest upon it. They aren't flat. Sometimes they rest aground with just the slightest touch of stem and lobe. I didn't think my leaves should appear any less light.

SP: And then you further push them out of shape?

JB. Yes. I like to lift the leaves from the plaster in time to manipulate the edges quite a bit. I pinch, bend, and stretch the edges and try to create a more natural undulation to the rim. Again, I'm going for that mystery -- the using of my hands to disguise the use of my hands.

SP: Well, if you get these fired in the next week or two, you'll beat the trees to greening out our Springtime.

JB: Exactly.


  1. You like leaves a lot, I assume.
    Infinite variations too.

  2. hi john, that post cracks me up... i actually lol-ed, well really it was more like burping a bit of throwup into the back of my mouth, but still. the doctored photos don't deny the doctoredness which is always a plus with me. i also wanted to thank you for posting the videos of peter mulvey last week, just enough for me to check him out and i've got 2 of his cd's in rotation and have listened a good 5 or 6 times through and i like him. his guitar playing is top notch and on certain songs, reminds me of ani difranco. lyrics are great too. thought of you again last night as pbs had tommy immanuel on "woodsongs" (i think that's the name of it). he was tearing it up. great solution to the leaf bowl by the way.

  3. love that your creativeness is not limited to clay :)

  4. You done put a real spin on them there leaves.

    Enjoyed the heck out of your " interview"