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Documenting a period in my development that could become pivotal

Monday, June 15, 2009

Highlights of the Dialog on Peace Making Art.

The reason I compare pottery wheel cultures with ones that did not have a wheel is to show that cultures with the similar techonology have symbols in common. With common symbols from our past, we can artfully communicate bridges to trust. My comaparison does not show that hand made art is inferior to art made with invented tools.
To see some examples of pots made without a wheel click on this link. http://images.encarta.msn.com/xrefmedia/sharemed/targets/images/pho/000a4/000a4fbe.jpg


The dialog on the subject of American Indian ceramics warents a more in depth explanation than I was giving in comments. Below I have tried first to pick out important parts of the dialog on a previous post. Then I will go into my extended explanation.

"Peace making art"

Darlene said...
What a fascinating post on the history of ceramics. I really enjoyed it and compliment you on the exhaustive research on the subject.
2:02 PM
Parapluie said...
Thanks Darlene, I have picked up on these ideas over many years and I keep thinking of their meaning by writing and painting making connections.Recently I have watched the Questar Mystic Lands DVD series. It was interesting to contrast the ancient mariners of Persia with an advanced culture that did not develop a potters wheel.The Anasazi mysteriously disappeared 700 years ago in the four corners of the United States. The Anasazi made lop sided ceramics that look like they were made on the dry ground without even a turnette. Yet they were always seeking a spiritual center according to Pueblo myth. They built a spiritual space with temporary dwellings in a canyon. It had seven roads leading to it like the spokes of a wheel. All appeared to be lead back to settlements except one that lead to a dead end with unusual rocks. All along the road were shards of broken pottery. The Pueblo people believe the ceramics were offerings to the gods. The Anasazi broke them because they feared someone would come and steal them if they were whole. I speculate that the rounded boulders in the canyon at the end of the road symbolized life and trust in the other world from which they appeared to come like themselves. The eroded pedestal was the hopelessness of this world. They did not have a feeling for their pottery was a vessel like themselves filled with life's waters. They could not have felt the feeling of clay centered on the wheel and the water in the clay along with the centrifugal force giving the potter the feeling that the pot is alive.

Then "Rain", who has studied the Native American History of the Four Corners found my premise unsupportable from her own experience owning replicas of their ceramics. She believes a wheel is not needed to make uniformly round pots. Rounded uniform pots can be made from coils or slabs. Rain contends furthermore that water cannot be kept in ceramic vessels burned at low temperatures in open pits because the low fire ceramic is too porous.

To make a uniformly round pot from coils the clay is rolled between the hands making the clay particles line up around and around themselves in tight formation. The coils configured of organized particles resist being pushed together. The wrapped coils forming a vessel must be either glued together with slip or pinched together leaving weak and strong unevenness at its basic structure. The appearance can be evened out by beating the exterior with a flat potters rib while pressing from the inside of the vessel outward with the other hand. All the while one is beating on the clay either the vessel must be moved evenly like on a tournette or the potter has to move around. When the potter moves around lopsidedness occurs which is then distorted even more during the firing.

Building uniform rounded pots from slabs has a number of physical problems. First, when the flat surface is pushed out for the belly of the pot, the slab becomes thinner. When the slab is necked in for the top of container the slab becomes pinched together in folds and much thicker. A rounded slab construction may have all the clay particles in alignment but because the clay wall is so thin at the belly and thick at the neck it may not even make it through the firing. And the pots that hold together through the firing may not contain water well.

In contrast with hand building, wheel "thrown" pots have the help of an extra hand - centrifugal force pushing up and outward. The potter keeps the clay particles centered while a uniformly thick wall is thrown up by the force.

I do not have an expertise for a comparison of the quality of clays of the Colorado River and Four Corner Area to the clays of the Tigris, Euphrates, Nile, and Yellow River. The inland clay of the Four Corners may have been so poor for holding together that even with a tournette or potters wheel the clay could not have stored water.

As for clay slab construction: Hand building is not without the technology of the wheel. The outer edge of a hand rolled slab is thinner than the center. So if a pot is fashioned from a rolled slab the foot would become the center of the vessel and the thinner outer edge would have to be the necked in to a smaller top.

There are other ways to make uniform slabs without the wheel. A slab can be formed by throwing the clay on a flat surface repeatedly. This works with clay of good elasticity but if the clays of the Four Corners were poor quality the clay would have just crumbled apart. They may have been limited to coil or small pinch pots.

Still another way to make slabs is to cut a rounded ball of clay with a long cutting edge like twine or strong hide strips.They probably did not have wire. Cutting a ball of clay would make a slab with less organized particles than the rolled ones. The air bubbles could cause the pot to break during firing.

The drawings were done about 30 years ago. They show the physical dynamics of the hand building technique as being awkward for making uniformly rounded vessels.

4 comments:

Parapluie said...

In a converstation with a friend who isn't making comments on this post some very interesting questions arouse that I wish to share and try to answer as best I can.

1)Why in all the thousands of years that the Middle East has had this common technology, why are they still wagging wars? The vase must not deserve being considered a way of creating peace?
Answer: The vase has no magical power to create peace. The power is when a leader or museum makes the people feel empowered to feel they are capable of changing history as their ancestors did from time to time. As yet too many times countries are powerless in face of war victors so the under dog country become underground terrorists. Rather than magic the role of the vase would be as a visual prop for a speech that could spark a dream of emerging countries caring about the values that ceramic technology has given from time to time in isolated places.

2)So who are the ones who have the peace resulting from the gifts of a vase?
answer:The people who will have peace will be our children and their children for generations. They will feel that they have some say in their destiny.

3)I don't think that the most important invention is a pottery wheel. It can not explain man's desire for or lack of desire for peaceful living. At present it does not explain man's desire or lack of desire for peace. It has the potential of getting people to think of themselves in a historic perspective. Pottery technology has in the worst social regimes been used creatively to made people more humane. Examples include democratizing buial rituals, replacing human and animal sacrifices. Remembering the creative use of ceramics can fuel the hope and desire for change that will bring peace. The exchange of vases and recognizing common past roots of our culture can be the beginning of the desire to work together.

4) A perfectly round shape of the first low fire water pot is ugly without any real feeling in it as it's shape is artificially machine made. A pot shaped by human hands with no tools other than their own hands might have the most energy.
The low fire water jugs of prehistoric times in the Middle east were awful plain without decoration. They had a little lip so tey could be hung. And the slow dripping through the low fire clay cooled the pots and water inside. Imagine our thirsty ancestors enjoying a cool drink from the pots. Tey thought the experience was vital and therefore good.
In today's world I do like pots shaped by loving human hands alone without tools. And I feel their life energy but the way people associated the early water pots with life has nothing to do with our asthetics today.

Here I am saying that the history of ceramics is what we need to understand as givers and receivers of diplomatic gifts. We need to admire past pottery so people associated pots with human life. Then the architect politicians and diplomats can use them as a tool in approaching nations of strongly different opinions to level and equalize creating a working realtionship and the hope of continuing real peace.

Rain said...

In the discussion regarding the Anasazi, this is a link I found that shows what the pots looked like. My modern southwestern pots are different although I do have some replicas of this old style, the black on white. There were several cultures in the SW and the Hohokam, Sinagua and Anasazi had differences and similarities but often their pottery would tell who they were: Images of Anasazi pots from their time, not the modern replicas. I wish I was in Tucson as I'd photograph the one I have down there but it is black on white also

Parapluie said...

Thank you Rain for the link to imges of the Anasazi pots. The link is outstanding. The photo shows the pottery in relation to their architceture. Thes are beautiful strong well made examples from about 700 years ago. some were pots for storing food. And Rain is comparing the beauty of these pots with the first water pots in Persia at about 6,000 BC. This argument against the usefulness of pottery in human socail ties has noting to do with the power of the symbol.
To the ancient Persian culture the rounded water pot was like a woman rounded in a full term pregnancy. Thus the pots took on the symbolic meaning of the continuation of life - a notion that is spread through out the cultures that used the potters' wheel. I was attempting to say that the potter's wheel universally gives the maker a sense that pottery making is like feeling life in the clay. The Anasazi did not have a wheel. They were a spiritual people who like the surviving tribes today saw spirit in all things, plants and air. The idea around death was that it was a transition between parallel worlds. Because they didn't have wheel turned pots the association of pottery with life and after life may not have occured to them. The comparison is not to show one culture is better than another. I want to show that the wheel is important to the forming of the symbolic meaning of cermaic clay. the symbolism spead to all but issolated cultures.

Parapluie said...

A friend offered an excellent comparison. The symbol of a diamond for marriage does not make the marriage. The desire to be wed comes first.

I add the symbols of marriage do influence the desire and dream for marriage. Children do get educated about marriage before the time comes for them.