Thursday, July 17, 2014

So Many Plates

Many years ago, someone asked me why so many potters hate to make plates. I couldn't answer for all potters; it wasn't even easy to answer for myself, though at the time I did, in fact, hate to make plates. It wasn't the skill involved - it's hardly more difficult to make a plate than a bowl. They do have a pretty high breakage & loss rate, but it wasn't that either. Plates occupy a funny place in the world of functional ware. They are ubiquitous on western tables, but almost always in sets. Even the most casual of households tends to put matching plates on the table at mealtime. People think of mugs as individual. A mug with a cute saying or a picture of somewhere you've been, or indeed, a handmade mug can help define your identity to the world somewhat like your clothes or your car or even your sofa do. Nobody seems to have their special plate that speaks to who they are. Nobody buys one plate.

It never was plates that I hated; I hate making sets of plates. People's eyes are so accustomed to the exact match of machine-made plates that the tiniest differences read as flaws. Once I accepted that I prefer making plates that are cousins rather than twins - a lesson driven home by the Great Plate Debacle of 2012 - I discovered that I actually love making plates.

I don't think I blogged about the Great Plate Debacle at the time, I was so discouraged and annoyed. A couple from Colorado bought four plates of mine in a local store. They later called the proprietor to ask if they could order more. Despite my policy to never, never, never, never take custom orders, I took this one because the store owner is a good friend of mine, and, like all of them, it ended poorly. (Even the ones that end well end poorly, as I always put far more time into a custom order than I could ever hope to be paid for.) I made the plates, but the customer said the oribe was a little brighter on some than others, and there was an eighth-inch difference between the biggest and the smallest...ugh. Not clear on the "handmade variation" concept! Worst of all, now they didn't want ANY of the plates...even the ones they had purchased, in the store, six months previously, before they even placed the order. There's more to this stupid story, but even typing it is giving me a stabby feeling, so I'd better stop and go watch some cute-kitten videos.

Whew! I'm back. Anyway, here in the present, I love making plates. They are a wide canvas of space that cries out to be stamped, slip-trailed, and glaze-embedded. Even better, I need five plates for a group show in the fall, and they have to be fabulous. I'll probably make between 30 and 60 plates to get the Fabulous Five.

Above are some in progress towards this goal. I had hoped to trim and decorate today but the humidity is not cooperating! Maybe today is housecleaning and lawn-mowing, and tomorrow, back to the plates. 


Barbara Rogers said...

Ditto on the custom orders...who needs em! (Tell self to remember that next time!) I also love making plates...and now have this new decorating thing going so will probably make lots of singles. Great to hear you're going for 5 out of...whatever!

Deb said...

I love pottery plates and I think the table looks amazing when they don't match but rather compliment each other in colour and pattern.