The main challenge still exists for a person who makes functional wares. That task is to make an object that not only functions well, that is, does its job, but is beautiful and meaningful when it is not being used. It is not easy. On many occasions I have had artists ask me if function ever got in the way of creativity, and the answer is always the same. “No, it is just a part of what we do, and it is still art.” For those of us who make vases for flowers, we have to compete with the Mason jar, which holds almost any flower perfectly. That it is boring, meaningless and ugly is beside the point, and is the point.
I had my vase epiphany moment in Paris. I was in the Marais and lived near a florist that sold roses and nothing but roses. One of the arrangements they made struck me as absolutely wonderful, and at the same time ugly. They cut roses off at about the 3 inch range, and stuck them cheek by jowl into an oasis that was jammed inside a container. They used just about anything they could find for the container…tin cans, glass squares, and concrete boxes…mostly ugly miserable things. I loved the idea, but as a potter, hated the containers. For me, it was the beginning of lots of new ideas, using their idea of roses in compact formation, but with beautiful containers.
My new rose houses come from working on a form I was already liking and playing with. I was thinking of making little compartments for the roses, and row housing came to mind. The Rose House pun is not too bad, and I am reminded that I really have never liked any row house project I have seen. Every time Maureen and I go into our main cities, we are amazed at the architecture of the surrounding suburbs…row on row of cookie cutter houses. Many of the new condominiums are nothing more than row houses stacked high …mostly unimaginative, and sadly overpriced.
I believe my Rose Houses function when they do not have roses in them. They might remind people not to be so accepting of sameness, and to look more carefully at the creeping corporate agenda of making us all the same little consumers. They might also point out that there are a lot of people who live in tiny little ugly boxes, not because they want to, but because they have to.
I also think that it is really important to make the dining room table into a street scene. These containers can be lined up as one street, or arranged to make two or more streets. They can be set up as a barrier in the middle of a table to be used when you want privacy…remember the corn flakes boxes between your brothers and sisters at the table when we were kids. Now you can do it with your in-laws! Alternatively they can be set up parallel to your arms as little suburbs with space in between, so you can see the love of your life, and watch her eating the lemon garlic pepper sauce on capellini that you just made using Parmigiano-Regginano cheese that friends brought you all the way from Italy in their hand luggage. Guess what we did last night!
Not a big deal, but better than a Mason jar!
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