Oh the handle…that small piece of clay that makes all the difference in the ever popular mug. The handle serves great function on a drinking vessel….to keep our sensitive hands from the heat and to assist an ease of motion to our mouths. Almost every day there is a brief moment where I select a vessel as I reach for a mug to hold my morning cup of tea. All of the mugs in my cabinet are delightful; therefore my quick decision is related more to my mood and level of thirst than anything else. Do I want the small, faceted white mug my friend Amber bought me after a trip to Dobra tea? What about the mug I bought at a craft fair over 10 years ago when I was first enamored by pottery…the one the artist described as his “pizza glaze” (although that glaze combination never even remotely resembled pizza to me)? Maybe this morning I would like to drink out of the mug that Sarah gave me in a care package last year? Whichever one I decide I know the tea will taste that much better as the story of its origin floats in the back of my mind.
Our task for this season in the Independent Study and Mentoring Program is to work on handles and attachments. More than a few master potters have said that the handle (similar to a glaze) can ‘make or break’ the piece. Handles, however, are not as simple and effortless to make as they often look. Due to its integral nature to the pot, there is much to consider when creating a proper handle- its placement, the negative space it creates, its cohesiveness with the base, its style, weight, and fit. The handle needs to flow, fit, and favor its pot (quite a lot to ask of a small strip of clay).
There are also multiple ways to create a handle, sometimes it seems as many different ways as there are potters. A few weeks ago Sarah and Lori each demonstrated their preferred methods of making handles, as well as other ways that we could explore. One can pull a handle off of the piece, handbuild something one of a kind, or create handles from thrown rings. The holder does not often take note of how the handle was made, but rather how it feels. Right now I can imagine the feel of my hands resting around one of my mugs- snuggly using the handle so lovingly placed.
Handles take time, consideration, and for me….patience. I am still striving to improve the design and level at which I create these important little additions. I’ll keep working at it, all the while enjoying those mugs waiting for me and my morning cup of tea.