The beauty of small pots

Seven small pots

As we unpack pottery and find places for each piece in our new work room, I keep being surprised by the beauty of small pots. Here is a sample that I’ve gathered from the shelves. The tallest, at 13 cm high, is the Taggerty Pottery spill vase on the left, with its characteristic landscape decoration and surprisingly monumental form. The richly-lustred Andrew Gibson vase third from the left is also monumentally conceived. The baluster form is usually reserved for a much larger vase. I find both vases to be disarmingly small and like the way in which they can be cupped in one hand.

The Phillip McConnell vase second from the right doesn’t invoke the same response. Although it has McConnell’s impressed mark and some fine sgraffito decoration, it looks like a sample, with the clay too thick, the glaze too thin and the mark too large, for a fully-conceived form. It is only 7 cm high but the Chris Sanders vase next to it on the right is even smaller and yet seems to me to work better as a finished piece, or as a model for a larger one.

Second from the left, the Sylvia Halpern bud vase with its dry glaze is perfectly proportioned.  The thin neck with its slightly ragged lip completes the ovoid form in a very satisfactory way. A bud vase is small by definition and it is hard to imagine this piece being any other size. Fourth from the left the tiny goblet made by Victor Greenaway, with its peach fuzz glaze and unglazed flanged stem, is one of a set of four meant for use as liqueur glasses. Its size is thus directly related to its function. This is also true of the little Kevin White beaker next to it, which could be used as a shotglass. However, we bought it solely for the beauty of its decoration.

From this sample, it seems that potters make small pots for a variety of reasons: to be fit for purpose; to meet the needs of tourists wanting something that they can take home in their luggage; to give collectors with small budgets an opportunity to own a representative example; to test clays or glazes or ideas for a larger piece. And, of course, some potters simply express their ideas best in small forms.


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