Tom White Bio

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Tom's Point of View

Tom WhiteIn one sense the potter’s art never changes. Out of earth and water and fire, with the vision of his imagination and the skill of his hands, he makes something useful and beautiful. The creative act is today essentially the same as that of the very first potters of the ancient East.

But if ceramics is in that sense unchanged, it is at the same time a record of change. No art may be more indestructible than ceramics. In fact, all we know of some ancient cultures is what their pottery tells us. Their language may be lost, their tapestries destroyed by fire, their books consumed by time, but we still read some of their story in their pottery. Out of the shards of their pottery we piece together a kind of mirror reflecting those who came before us. We see, however dimly, what they valued, their sense of beauty, event glimpses of the rhythms of their daily life.

What will the ceramics today reflect about the culture that crafted them? For one thing, they will show an extraordinary leap forward in the technical aspects of ceramics. Ceramics may still be in essence the same shaping of alumina and silica and water and heat, but the potter today has at his command methods and materials undreamed of by the ancients and even unthought of just a century ago. Inventions like the slab-roller, new refractory materials, the bright colors of the low-temperature palette, all suggest a new range of possibilities for the potter. The artist is freer than he has even been to create his sense of the useful and the beautiful. But the artist does not work in isolation: his sense of utility and beauty is constantly explored, examined, tested by those who buy, use and appreciate his work. Ceramics today show a free, creative society at work: a fusion of imaginative artists and discriminating users.

And it may be that in the long distant future some curious mind will piece together the shards of my pots and in that mirror see my idea of utility, my sense of beauty, and even the rhythms of my daily life.

Tom White