Janet DeBoos: Entrophy & other Considerations
The same concern - namely the performative nature of making and using - has characterised my work for the past twenty or so years. I often use names that are verbs rather than nouns to draw attention to the way in which the piece might be used. I also imagine various scenarios and will make pieces for a specific occasion or a particular person.
I work at the limits of thrown porcelain, finishing all work whilst the ware is still wet on the pottery wheel, and throwing as thinly as it is possible to do without complete collapse. I do not turn or trim the porcelain to thin it down after it is dry (the more usual way of working with this material), but try to always 'go with' the clay and retain the freshness of the act of making. It becomes almost a game that I play with myself - pitting technique against material.
In addition, there have developed some distinct themes to which I keep returning as the domestic ware becomes a vehicle for examining broader issues. They are:
Although I didn't start out as a production potter, I spent about 20 years in that role, and came to appreciate the value of repetition in gaining insight and understanding. Making generates ideas. When I am away from my own studio, I always make some cups as a kind of 'grounding' in that new place. In a sense the cup travels with me - the most familiar, and often overlooked piece of pottery - because it is the hardest to get 'right', and I always am hopeful that a new place will be the 'right' place for the cup. Whatever, it is certain that the cup will absorb some of that place and take it home.
I have worked for a number of years with factories in both Italy and China in examining just what 'handmade' means as the ceramic artist interfaces with industry. The work that is made from my own studio pieces goes through a number of transformations, and is inevitably, different from them. But it is still mine. So can I legitimately include these pieces in 'my' own sets? They are slip cast by real people who handle them just as much as any artist who uses slipcasting as a process. So are they handmade?
Although this is a mathematical concept, it is useful in examining just what we mean by a 'set' of something ceramic. The conventions of 'set' are just that, conventions, and as such are free to be challenged. Does everything in a set have to be the same size/ same colour/ same shape/ same pattern? What are the limits of what might be described as a set? If it is a set of utensils to make and drink tea, is it a set if nothing matches? Does everything in a set have to be handmade?
Entropy seriesThe Second Law of Thermodynamics in one aspect describes the tendency of closed systems to move from a condition of order to disorder. This also seems to be the case whenever we seek to control and isolate. Often I find that when I start to decorate I have a fixed idea, an ordered pattern, but as fast as I make marks, the 'system' unravels and tends to become disordered. The entropy series is about this loss of energy - the increase in entropy as surface decorative systems move towards disorder.
Time and stories
In the end I think that what we all respond to in work is dependent on two things - on time and on the story that the work tells. Time is embodied in the skilful manipulation of clay. Not the time of that solitary act in the studio - but the years of time necessary to gain the skills that enable that act. Alternatively, the painstaking and laborious completion of highly detailed work allows us to see quite plainly the 'time it took'. This stealing (or perhaps more properly 'banking') of time is part of the true value of ceramics. And when high fired, it is durable and strong, and able to carry over this time into the future with all the associated stories.
Entropy & other Considerations was exhibited at Skepsi on Swanston in Melbourne from 8 to 26 April, 2008.