Naming the Baby
One great joy of doing craft fairs is meeting other artists and collecting their work. Over the years I’ve had fun times with people I’ve met at shows--and managed to pick up a few nice pieces of pottery along the way. Many years (possibly several decades ago) at the Guilford (Connecticut) Handcrafts show I met a potter from Providence, RI. In addition to his wonderful functional pieces, Dwo Wen (aka Luke) Chen (http://www.threewheelstudio.com/) makes great sculptural work. I was familiar with his floral painted work but hadn’t seen the sculpture before. He had a small caterpillar that I had to buy. I didn’t even think about it, it was one of those rare times where I see a piece and it must come home with me. Luke happened to be out of the booth so I paid his assistant, Martin, and proudly put the piece on my bowl unit shelf so I could look at it and send my customers over to see his work when they were done in my booth. A little later, I saw Martin and he told me that when Luke came back to the booth his first utterance was, “What happened to the baby?” They had both been referring to the piece I bought as “the baby” for some reason. It was so long ago, I’m not sure if it was because they had a group of caterpillars and it was the smallest one, or if it was really special...or some other reason. What I do remember is that when he got the chance, Dwo Wen came over to my booth to visit it He also gave me a story (you know, the one mass produced work just doesn’t have) about how it was based on imagery from an animated film I had never seen (the fantastic “Spirited Away” by Japanese director Hay ao Miyazak). I knew a little of how he was feeling when the baby leaves the booth. When one makes a living selling work one comes to terms with parting with the occasional really special piece. With hand made work, every piece is unique of course, but once in awhile a piece is made that is harder to let go. Once in a great while I just take a piece home but more frequently, I put a price on it that will more adequately compensate the loss. It always makes me happy when another potter buys one of those pieces.
Which brings me around to the actual topic of this post. I’ve been working on some new pieces and must now figure out what to call them--or what to name the babies? I frequently have a hard time with this. Do I call my new rimless bowls, “Rimless Bowls?” “Simple Bowls?” or do I go further to hint at their possible uses: Ice Cream Bowl? Rice Bowl? Dip Bowl? French Toast Dipping Bowl (yeah, just kidding about that one even though that is my current favorite use for it--see above photo)... Low Bowl? I eventually will come around to calling them something fairly concise but just like actually creating the pieces and putting them in to production successfully, it takes time and consideration.
I have now incorporated two of the new bowl shapes into my home collection and already feel as if I can’t live without them. I still am not quite sure what to call them, but that will come as I start sharing them with customers and getting feedback about how they are different from the bowls already in my production line. Whatever I call them, I hope I will make at least a few that I’m really sorry to see leave the booth.
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Evelyn Snyder, Potter