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Glass or Clay… or, Why not Glass?

What makes me think there’s a market for porcelain pipes, when the world is so full of wonderful glass pipes?

The vast, vast majority of artful pipes being made these days are coming from the hands of glass workers.  One of the reasons I decided to start creating pipes again, after so many years, was the excitement being generated by glass artists.  I saw the film Degenerate Art last year, and it became clear to me that pipe making was going to become a major movement in the art world.

One of the more interesting scenes in the film involved a big name in academic glass art who was complaining a little that the artists making the best glass pipes could be making glass sculpture just as well, so why didn’t they?  One of the pipemakers replied, saying something like, “Well I could go that route, approaching galleries, entering juried competitions, trying to sell my stuff at shows and so on.  Or I can put bowls on my stuff and sell everything I make.”

That mainstream glass artist is now making pipes too.

So with all the brilliant work going on in glass, what made me think that making porcelain pipes by hand would be worthwhile? whitedovea

Glass pipes are brand new, in historic terms.  People have been making clay pipes for millenia, so there is a historic reservoir of ancient forms to draw inspiration from.

Glass pipes have certain formal limitations.  Glass is an amorphous material.  It is possible for glass to show fine detail and sharp modeling, but it is more difficult, and in my opinion, is not really respectful of the material’s nature.  One rarely sees fingerprints  as a permanent part of a glass surface, for obvious reasons.1birdd

Surface quality in glass also seems to be more limited.  It’s easy to put a matte glaze on a porcelain piece, not as easy to get the same surface in glass (sandblasting can give beautiful matte surfaces in glass, but the effect is different, especially in a tactile sense, which is so important in hand-held objects.1steampunklizd

Ceramic glazes in general are more varied than glass surface treatments.  I’d say also that accidental effects are more likely to occur in the extreme temperatures of high-fire ceramics, and I really treasure and prepare for those beautiful accidents.

But the biggest reason I want to make porcelain pipes rather than glass pipes?

Because I’m a potter, not a glass maker.  I just like clay.  The feel of the stuff in my hands, the white heat of the firing, the near-immortal quality of the best pottery… I could never give up those pleasures.  My whole life as an artist has revolved around clay, and I hope that involvement will last as long as I do.

See my Etsy shop for more work.