I started thinking about what pottery tools are important to my creation process when packing for a two week pottery workshop in Italy. The school said they provide tools so we don’t need to bring our own. This is good because I don’t know what TSA would do with my fettling knife once they confiscated it. However, I am not sure I can make it through two weeks of throwing with only a standard tool kit. All this got me thinking about – with real consequence – what tool(s) could I not live without in the studio.
Some potters make wonderful art with not much more than the tools in the standard Kemper tool kit. Others are resourceful and use all kinds of specialty and found “tools” to make their art. Still others are known for their tools (i.e., Bill Van Gilder, Cynthia Bringle).
My early instructors advised on not using a lot of tools so you could really feel the clay and what it does. This is great advice, which I give my own students. Indeed, the tactile nature of making pots and the need for so few tools is what attracted me to the medium over painting and photography. Despite this influence and counsel, I fall squarely in the category of having a large box with a variety of tools. I’ve used a lettuce knife to create texture. I regularly use a pastry roller to attach and form my slab bottoms. I use a rubber tipped tool to blend and smooth attachments in tight corners. My collection of rubber ribs is vast. And the list goes on.
I found that I am not alone. A poll of potters revealed that even the most utilitarian potter has a “can’t live without” tool in their box. Some of the responses include rubber ribs and mudtools (www.pumpkinpyeboutique.com; www.ragingbowl.etsy.com) and the Van Gilder wiggle wire (www.bearcreekpottery.etsy.com).
As my departure date quickly approaches I am faced with making choices. I can’t bring my entire box of tools, so which ones do I bring. There is no question I will bring my Cynthia Bringle pick. I could not make the forms I do without this tool. I will also bring my elephant ear sponge and my pastry roller. I’ll throw in a few sculpting tools and my throwing stick, just in case. And of course, who knows what I will find while in Italy that will be my next “can’t live without it” tool.
Ciao bellas and see you on my return.