Designing Pottery by Nan Hamilton Boston MA

Designing Pottery: Thinking up a Design

Where the ideas for my pots come is a mystery to me. Sometimes the concept for a pot leaps into my head fully formed. I might be walking the dogs, or taking a shower, or washing dishes, some sort of down time, and a light goes on and there's a pot waiting to be made. Sometimes I'll be actively thinking about what to do next, having nothing on the horizon, and in concentrating, a concept will come to me. Once I get started, usually one thought will trigger more ideas. Sometimes there will be a visual stimulus - the dogs on a ridge at sunset or a flock of birds gathered in a tree or swans upended, dredging a pond bottom - and suddenly I can imagine it on the surface of a pot. Sometimes I'll have something lurking in the back of my mind for months, then there's a moment when I'm ready to try to make it happen. When I'm really stuck, I'll leaf through photos, magazines or books, hoping something will come to me. One thing for sure, until the pot is done and out of the kiln I never know how successful a design will be. I wish there were a way to tell before I start whether the idea is good or not so good. Since there rarely is, the only thing to do is forge ahead.

I don't keep a journal, but sometimes I'll jot a thought on a piece of paper or on my work surface. There are times when I'll come across those few words later and can't imagine what I was thinking. Fortunately, other times what I wanted to do will come right back to me. Some pots work out easily and everything comes right together. Some pots are a struggle and the surface has to reworked and reworked. Of course, some ideas just don't work out and I'll either give up or come back to them months later. For me, the creative process seems pretty random.

My pots take a long time to make, usually several days. For a production potter whose livelihood depends of volume, speed is of the essence. Speed is not on my radar screen. My goal is to make each pot a special pot, something to be treasured, something that will make people smile for years to come.

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No unauthorized reproduction. Thank you. Text and Photos Copyright © 2006 Nan Hamilton