The Duty of Form


From the dawn of time, philosophers have argued what the meaning of life is. Some, like Aristotle, argue that is the pursuit of the golden mean, or to fulfill our duty. This duty is the law of existence, as it is the definition of our being. For example, a knife’s duty is to cut, for if it does not cut is it not a knife. This would imply that creations have their duty bestowed upon them by their creator. We will be talking about the duty that we, humans, have given pottery. For what reason did we create these forms and what is the relationship that it has between other worldly things? 


Pottery is made of clay, to which it comes from the earth. In its natural state, it is just dirt. An excess from the creation of the earth to which we, humans, have utilized in the creation of various forms. Early humans have used its properties of water resistance and durability to hold water and other things. Does this mean that the duty of pottery is to hold water. What about other forms that do not hold water, since that goes against the duty that we, humans, have prescribed, would that mean that it cannot be considered pottery. We know that this is not the case, so it would have to mean that the form of the creation has more significance to its duty than the actual material that it was made from. Going back to the knife example, we can see that if we sharpen even glass or stone into a blade, it would be considered a knife even though it was not made of its usual metal material. 


Duty of Form

When we often practice pottery, there are those who think of the form as they create, and others that simply zone out and let the will of nature guide the process. For those who think of form have a set duty already prescribed to the creation while those who let nature take its course do not. The duty of these free forms are prescribed after its creation, to which they may change depending on the situation. A bowl may be used as a projectile object one day, being thrown at an attacker. This is a duty prescribed in the heat of the moment. 


If a cup that does not hold water is not a cup, then what is it. Or what if a cup has broken and no longer holds water, what does it become now. In these instances the form and failed its prescribed duty, to which it has been reinvented through the process of rebirth. Forms that go through rebirth are assigned a new duty inherienty through its accidental or intentional recreation. These accideal recreations often lead to its new duty being shards of pottery, which are often quite useless. This would mean that the prescription of said duties are not only held by the creator, but by any force that may influence the form such as nature. 


It should be of concern that duty has its limits as well. If a vase is created to hold flowers, it should not overpower the beauty of the flowers in terms of complexity and beauty. The vase duty is to just hold the flowers and make the flowers be the main centerpiece. It is a common situation in the pottery world today where vases are created with ornate designs and such but have nothing in them. Of course, the duty of the vase is to look nice itself, not to be the bearer of flowers. Duty is about balance, to which the form does not overstep its duty. 

Usual forms that have the duty of bearing things such as food and flowers do not have overfly complex designs as it would take away from the beauty of the objects, food and flowers. These forms are to act as frames of such objects, that support their beauty while sticking to their duty of support. Form needs to have a balance in its existence as an overpowering existence would lead to it breaking its duty.  When we are creating forms in pottery, do keep in mind of this harmony and the duty that you would want to prescribe your creation.