” The studio potter of today is not and cannot be just a peasant potter; books, museums, travel, have brought to his notice the pottery of all ages and places, widening his knowledge and experience, and bringing also the eclecticism inescapable to our generation. No longer are the established standard accepted without question; the potter must think as clearly as he can about the thing he wants to make; he must have the courage, and the honesty, to make it in the best way he can without any faking, and the result must justify itself. To have so many techniques all waiting to be tried, so much available information, and so many examples to follow is very exciting, even a little heady, and the student should feel free to try anything, even the most orthodox methods…”
Dora Billington, The Technique of Pottery, 1962
Billingtons remark of potters of today is a perfect remark. As a student, alongside my colleagues we are bombarded by so much imagination, creativity and information throughout all subjects that are alive in the world as well as creating our own subject. Technology also opens up so many possibilities. Only ceramists and artists know the huge amount of information can be hard to accept, whereas people outside the artists realm create a stereotype of artists doing nothing useful for the driving world. As a young ceramist I fear the mass of information we could spend hours going through. I fear the idea of never having anything final. The possibility of all work can never be final. So much can come from everything.
My interest with Dan Arbeid is more to do with him as an artist rather than the work he produces. He was a free-thinking potter who started experimenting with the material of clay and its plasticity with no formal training. This new way of working paved a new generation of potters such as Richard Slee and Alison Britton, yet Arbeid stayed as far away from mainstream as possible. He is the one that is not heard of but influenced many new techniques, ways of thinking and new artists. Just as Arbeid did, my intention is to really experiment with clay and to push its boundaries. This may be a typical statement said by most second year ceramics students. But I want to create the least aesthetic pieces. The work I expect to create is very expressive, emotional and abstract work. I work in a very Fine Art way, by drawing and painting then transforming and creating 3D creations within this process. As I concentrate on process so much I want to research in to Eva Hesse, Alice Stockwell, Lynda Bengalis and Robert Morris. Rather than aiming for a result, I’d like to start to take more time and concentration in looking at the actions, thoughts and dynamics that take place to create a piece of work. Then to question what the work is, why am I making? What responsibility does that piece of work now have? How will others, as well as myself, gain anything from being in the company of my work? Throughout these questions I ask now I want to be able to answer them through different works I created during the project.
As the small booklet says ceramics courses were being founded from scratch by artists who had come from other creative fields and have been credited with developing entirely new beginnings for their subjects. Throughout the time that Arbeid was studying a huge influence and art movement of his time was Abstract Expressionism. More and more artists were experimenting with clay such as, Picasso, Miro and Fontana. Dan Arbeid was neglected because he didn’t court publicity with his work as much as other artists around him such as, Gordon Baldwin and Gillian Lowndes. I admire his want for privacy in the work he was making. He was not aiming for a wide audience to market his work, he was not creating work for others, he was creating work for himself with the skills he learnt from an early age during his time in a textile factory. Money wise his wife had a well paid job to keep them going and to allow him to continue with his studio work as well as technician work in a school, taking over from Gordon Baldwin. His creative routes came from coiling, throwing, slab work, folding and cutting. Actions I’d like to take up within each other, creating new processes with no intention of the form at the end. I admire Dan Arbeid for his independent route within ceramics. I feel I relate to him a lot, not as much to his work, but to him as an artist and his intentions. Although I do love his fluidity within the clay and broad amount of pieces.
Dan Arbeid 1928/2010 A Retrospective, Curated by the Ken Straddling Collection
After visiting Ken Straddling collection in Bristol where I found out about Arbeid, Tuesday 21st second year ceramics had a mini trip to the welsh national museum with Claire Curneen and I was very happy to find Arbeids pot! It’s even one that he’s handling in an image above which I find very exciting. It was great to see his work in the flesh, its rusticity and organic elements are very present years on after its mere creation. I hope to establish Arbeids free-thinking within ceramics in the Connections and Object(tons) project.