Strictly Functional 2013
"There were 1522 images
submitted from 322 ceramists who applied this year. Jim Connell chose 114
pieces from 107 different artists.
Regretfully, the work you
entered was not accepted for this year's exhibition..."
Doh... we throw our best on the pile. Sometimes it floats, sometimes it doesn't.
|Closed necked vase produced in collaboration with Jessica Fong|
This years juror's statement provided by Jim Connell.
“I get tired of DJ’s, why
is it always what he plays?” Joe Jackson.
Wow, this year
I get to be the DJ. Playing
the hits I want to hear.
How cool is that? First off, I must acknowledge I have never had this kind of power before.
I’ve juried a couple
of small inconsequential show but nothing on the scale and importance of this exhibition. So
if I piss a few people off...
people say that jurying a show like this can
be a challenge. I’ve read the dire warnings of the
time involved and all the agonizing choices to be
made. I prepared myself
by cutting out a week of my
summer studio time to devote to this project. I
even gave myself a specific
deadline to meet (I was headed to the
beach). As I sat down and started to review the slides all of a sudden, boom, it
hit me; this isn’t hard,
it’s fun. It turns out
that looking at 1500+ functional pottery
images is a very enjoyable
thing. Who knew?
the show was enjoyable and relatively easy; I just picked the pieces based
on three things I find
important for a successful piece of pottery: color (or surface), form and
creativity. Of course there are two other very important measurements to consider: craftsmanship and function but these are simply
impossible to judge from a
2-‐dimensional image. I definitely tried to
picked pieces that looked well-‐crafted
and were fully functional but only a “hands-‐on” approach will
reveal their true nature.
The true craftsmanship and functionality judgments will have to wait
until I meet my picks before the show opens.
At that time the best crafted
and the most useful
pieces will get the awards.
So here are my criteria: Color, Form and Creativity. I love color and surface treatment. Without it the best forms suffer.
I absolutely adore rich vibrant colors;
colors with a surface
depth you can dive into.
Second; I am a nut for dynamic classy
forms. Give me flowing lines, well placed appendages, lids that conform to
the body and forms that have the potential to deliver their function. For my third criterion, creativity, I looked for a
concept, some sort of
communication the piece was trying to express. Was it speaking the language of function? Did it cry out to be
Looking over the choices
I made, I think almost
all of them deliver on these
three fronts; dynamic use of
color (surface), great
attention to form and contained some creative zeal. And, if a few
pieces don’t measure
up to all three of my standards…well, as Meatloaf sang: “Two out
of three ain’t bad”.
I did not
do any statistical analysis
of the entries or of
the accepted pieces. No counting
of teapots or mugs or firing
method was tabulated. There were just too many pieces to count. I picked
the best pieces
regardless of their purpose,
type of clay or temperature. I have
no idea if the exhibition is balanced. I didn’t go back
and rearranging or changing
my choices based
on numbers or size. I just picked the best
When I began looking
at the slides I was half
expecting to see a number
of copper reds glazes (only a couple of entries), some sandblasted surfaces
(only one person)
and a fair amount of carved, faceted pots (two or three tops) since that is the type of
work I make. I remembered Linda Christianson telling
me she faced a truckload of wood-‐fired
images when she juried SFPN and Malcolm Davis told me he looked at a
lot of shino pieces. Last year’s juror,
Jack Troy, stated that 28% of the entries
he juried were wood-‐fired.
All three jurors strongly
suggested they were attracting their own element. Well Linda, Malcolm
and Jack, based on this year’s entries, I can tell
you that isn’t the case. It’s not you, in particular, as I too faced a large
amount of wood fired and/or shino glazed pots.
Apparently, there are a
lot of potters out there firing with wood and just as many
using shino/carbon trap glazes.
But didn’t we already know this?
Some quick thoughts about
1) My first look at the images took over an hour,
running through the 1500+ images
pretty fast (click, click,
click). The next day I sat down for my first
serious look. Halfway
through the list I had
already picked out 90 pieces
with 40 maybes. I liked a
lot of what I saw. Over the next three days I proceeded to whittle down and shove aside many, many nice
pieces. When I thought I was finished
I came back two more times making
sufficient changes before I was satisfied. Then I mailed
the accepted choices
off and immediately began to
question a few of my
2) I only recognized a half dozen people’s work.
There were a lot
of first time entries
third of the
total number). Consequentially, I had
no pressure taking care of
friends and relatives.
3) Unfortunately, many artists really
need to concentrate on taking
better slide images.
What a difference it makes! Out of
focus, poorly lit and poorly framed images were abundant and hurt any chance
of being juried in.
4) In my
humble opinion taking a shot
of your piece with a
squirrel (a la Ayumi Horie) or
some other prop is great for a
postcard or a web site but not altogether appropriate for a
a clean, professional paper background. No scratches, no cloth, no tree trunks. Ugh!
in a good camera and an even better lens. A macro
lens is preferred.
7) Providing a second, detail shot is
very helpful and highly recommended.
8) Try not to be
so derivative. If you must look at other pots try
to go back to the
(historical precedent) for good form and
9) I was tickled
by some of the
imaginative titles for mugs and jars. Titles like “Lunch Set”, “Guardian Jar with Fragments” and my favorite “Shot
and a Beer” gave me big smiles. How clever! This coming from an
artist that limits his titles to a dead description, i.e.
“Green Carved Teapot”.
10) I was also surprised that many artists
were very specific when dating each piece.
Many had the exact date the piece
was made, i.e. 5/22/2013. Wow, I always
thought giving just the year was all
that was needed.
some very fine pieces had to be nixed to make the final
cut. To the 10 or 15 artists
who were oh so close I feel bad for you. You will never know how close you came or
how much I admired your work. To all;
keep working, keep experimenting and keep trying.
Well here are my choices. I hope you enjoy this year’s exhibition.
“May your hands
always be busy” Bob Dylan
I want to thank Jean Lehman
for asking me to
jury the 21st Strictly
Functional Pottery National exhibition. One of the last duties Jean performed before
she retired this past year, before turning over her SFPN baby to Amy
Burk and Kevin Lehman,
was to ask me to
be this year’s juror. I have gotten
to know Jean over the years and
have a deep respect for the dedicated work she has performed directing the SFPN exhibition. I entered the first SFPN twenty years ago and have
entered every year since. I loved the concept of the
show and the recognition it brought to functional pottery. For the last 10-‐12
years Jean and I have had a nice little chat at each NCECA conference about whether or not I was juried into
that year’s SFPN exhibition. I have had
the honor and luck of being accepted
into every SFPN exhibition except one and I suspect
Jean might have felt a bit obligated to ask
me to be this year’s juror. Either that or she just wants me to
stop applying! Whatever the reason, I want to thank
her from the bottom of my heart for this
honor and I wish to acknowledge her for all the
hard work she has
done to make this show possible and successful for all these many years. Jean, you’ve done a
great job. I applaud you.