From March through July 2012 this was the only work I made: formed by hand from template cut slabs, then dried and bisqued, glazed both inside and out, and finally fired to cone 6 oxidation. I worked steadily making between 10 and 60 a day and in the end I had over 1000 of the tiny pots.
Mostly, it was a surprisingly comforting time and I loved knowing what I was going to do each day. Other times, there was a tedium and restlessness to do something else, but I stayed with the project. It gave me a lot of time to think, and to respond to questions that people asked me about what I was doing.
Why are you doing this? I want to make work about change and growth, and to do this it seems best to make a whole lot of small things first. Then I can make large things.
What’s the mark on the side? The mark is my mark: JJ, with the second J flipped around to make it into a decorative rectangle. The stamp was to mark my work in shared studio space, even though everyone knew this work was mine. In the beginning it seemed way too big for the tiny piece, but it let me work over the seam where the slab was joined together, so became part of the construction technique, a little like sealing wax closes an envelope.
How many are you going to make? From the beginning I knew I wanted to make 1000, which sounded ridiculous in March and April. After a while, people just asked me how many more I needed to make. I kept careful count, arranging them in grids of 10 x 10 on 1 foot square floor tiles.
Why only 1000, why not 10,000? I wanted to see how long it would take to make 1000 of something. It was an arbitrary number, but I didn’t want it to be torturous, or for the project to become Kafkaesque. It was about seeing where my limits were in terms of work, of keeping focus and finishing a long project in the way I had defined it.
Why don’t you mold them? I didn’t think about molding them, though it’s maybe a better choice for making 100s of the small object. Not sure if it would be quicker, or make work as well finished. Vaguely I don’t like casting slip as much as rolled clay which gets compacted when rolled. By the end it took around 10 minutes to form each piece.
Why do you call them “units?” Soon after I started making them, I began thinking of them as units, singles or even ceramic pennies. I liked the term “Unit” because it seemed to be both concrete and abstract. Concrete because it could be used to give the size of larger cylinders that were multiples of the units, and could be called 2s, 3s and even 6s and 10s.
But the pieces also took on the abstract meaning which a term like “unit” implies. The idea of having “ceramic units” raises the possibility that they could be substituted for units of something else. What that something else is, is very open. Also, the units could represent larger ceramic work in different contexts, while being very contained and small.
1000 of the units were installed in September 2012 in the 2nd Floor Hallway Display Case at The Clay Studio. Because of their versatile nature, I created a series of four related installations representing the four stages of a wave: Water, Surge, Crest and Foam, each displayed for 1 week.
Following this work, the units were packed away in a 1 cu ft box. There is something sad and unfinished about the work now. So much potential, and yet they’re just sitting there, waiting for something to happen, waiting for life to begin again.
Below are several arrangements of the 1000 units on a dark stone wedging table.