Edmund de Waal interview (part II)

More notes from the Radio 3 interview…

On the relationship between the value of the material and the value of the product:

JT: You’ve said something about porcelain, but the fundamental material is clay, isn’t it? You’ve said that one of the fascinating things about clay is that people don’t know how to treat it in many respects, because what is it? It’s earth. We’re all human clay. It’s a base material. Has this never worried you?

EdW: Not remotely. Clay’s a very interesting material in that sense, in that it’s got no value at all. As it happens porcelain has got value, but no one really knows where it is in the hierarchy of materials. It’s very low.

JT: Just above lead perhaps?

EdW: Way down, in the sense that anyone can dig it. It’s free. A free material. It’s also, of course, a material that is part of our poetry in that clay and people go together very well indeed. We are earth, we are dust, we are shards. It’s part of the biblical resonance.

On the act of throwing a pot and the way it involves creating space both inside and outside 1 the material:

JT: The thing about clay is that you’re constantly reworking it. If you don’t like where you’ve got to on the wheel, you just go back to the basic lump, don’t you?

EdW: Pretty much.

JT: That was put very crudely.

EdW: It’s only when you fire the pot; that’s the point of no return. Throwing pots is very interesting because it’s one of the great iconic images – the potters hands moving on the clay. It’s a very seductive image. Of course what you’re doing is making an inside and outside simultaneously, which doesn’t happen in very many places in art. You’re making a volume in a very short period of time. You’re creating an internal space.

JT: Back to your spaces and cathedrals? 2

EdW: Completely. So when you’re making a vessel – actually I really am only interested in vessels, that’s, for me, the most interesting thing about ceramics – when you’re making a vessel, every single touch of your hands after you’ve thrown the basic cylinder changes the interiority, the sense of internal space, completely. You can make twenty pots in a row and by just moving them ever so slightly each of them has a very different resonance, a very different sort of pitch.

  1. see ‘Contextual Slippage and the Info Pimp Force Diagram’ for an alternative description of this condition
  2. see part I

Leave a Reply