Monday, November 11, 2013

Brandon Phillips Wood-Fired Mugs


I've been using the same hand-made mug (see the first set of photos above 
and below) for my morning coffee for a few years now. What I like about it is 
the fact it's been through a fierce pounding of flames in a traditional wood-fire 
kiln, leaving beautiful toasty permanent marks on it unlike any other mug, 
showing the direction of fire in relation to it in the kiln. And I like how it fits my 
hand: it's handle being perfect for my two cup holding fingers, making the 
balance just right. And I like the form, so elegant despite of its deceptive 
chunkiness, with very gracious lines, if you stop and look at it carefully. (I was 
surprised once, when a dinner guest at our place asked a simple question of 
why do I like this particular mug; I guess people don't pay much attention to 
the way the tools they use every day look and feel, as long as they function - to 
me it was obvious it's a very good mug.)

I used to be be a devotee of minimalist modern design (such as objects by the 
great Kaj Franck), and have sets of plates, breakfast bowls, cups, trays, etc. 
following the clean lines of the best of his 20th century unadorned designs. 
Naturally I still prefer these over most of the current mass-market things you 
find at every department store everywhere in the world. (I won't get into 
Franck and his kin's idealistic vision of their products intended being the 
tools for the 20th century combining (simple) form and function, and affordable 
for everybody because of streamlined industrial processes in making them - 
there's a difference between mass-market and considered mass-market, after 

I wonder, if I've mellowed in my older years, but nowadays I prefer earthier 
vessels, such as this post's Brandon Phillips coffee mugs, and my other wood 
fired pottery in our daily use: Justin Lambert's dinner plates, Tom Jaszczack's 
tumblers, JD Jorgenson's pasta bowls, Ryan Strobel's breakfast bowls, etc. 
However, when I mention the word earthy, I guess I don't mean less elitist, 
since these ceramic one-offs do not come cheap, when compared to the 'stuff' 
all over the place.

Well, this is unusually lengthy and verbal (for my blog) introduction to the 
sentiments by the maker of this 'favourite mug maker of mine', Brandon 
Phillips: He's announced he's sadly quitting wood-firing. I'm reproducing his 
thoughts after the images of the first mug.

Brandon Phillips on his blog 

Farewell Old Friend

I've never really looked at my pots as precious, and while I hold back a few 
pieces here and there I've never had the desire to hang on to my own pots. 

Make em, fire em, sell em.  Repeat.  In fact I have very little to show for the 
last ten years.  I spent today sorting and packing pots for the last shows and 
orders of the year and I had a really difficult time letting some of the work go. 

I know why, my relationship with woodfiring will be coming to an end this 
month.  I want to hold on to them because there might not be anymore, 
maybe just for a year or two, or maybe forever. 

As potters sometimes our identities can become wrapped up in the way we 
work.  I'm not just Brandon the potter, I'm Brandon the woodfire potter.  I 
think it's fairly safe to say that people identify me with a specific type of work. 

We could argue ad nauseum whether or not it's healthy to be synonymous with 
your job, but regardless, it's the way it is.  I think most potters might 
understand where I'm coming from.  I've spent a third of my life so far 
completely immersed, in love, first thought in the morning, last thought at night 
kind of obsessed with this process and it's hard to wake up one day and not feel 
that passion anymore.  I may sound a little melodramatic but as a craftsman 
there's a bit of my soul tied up in that kiln and it's hard to let it go even when 
you know it's the right thing to do.  I'm trying not to make this sound too 
analogous to a relationship but really, that's what it is.  We're not happy 
together anymore and it's time for us to go our separate ways, maybe a short 
break is all that's needed, or maybe it's farewell for good, time will tell.  But it 
sure is fucking sad. 

Time for a change.

When I read the post above, I decided to quickly get one more of Brendan's 
mugs, before it's too late, so I ordered this beauty below from the great Schaller 
today, and it's just beautiful!

Brandon Phillips
Photo by Joy Lewis

No comments:

Post a Comment

Books by Ridou Ridou