Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Functional art

There's a great ceramics museum where I live and, as a longtime collector of old spotted cups and little plaid plates, I've long wanted to go and never had the time. But yesterday, I did! and what a relief, as it was hot outside and cool and delicious in.

Well, I learned a lot, including how much zing a bit splosh of super bright yellow grabs your attention. I don't use a lot of that shade because ew, but oh what I've been missing: temper it with other colours and it's so nice. Really very much so.

The other thing I realized, having limited myself to spots and stripes in my own collection, is how artists have used functional canvases for their work, allowing it to become part of its owner's daily life. Paint a picture and it might only go into a giant carry-bag until there's wall space to accommodate it, but if you paint a teapot you could be admiring it every morning.

And as a bonus: a ceramics museum can teach you a lot about life for people who lived hundreds of years ago, which is my favourite part of studying history. Like for example, there used to be a drinking game - or maybe this is just a possible explanation for the three-bowl cup I saw there - in which three bowls were connected by a ceramic tube thereby allowing liquid to spill between each, and the participants tried to drink the liquid from all three on their own turn.

If that makes sense. Writing it down I'm thinking it sounds a lot like those tippy ball-bearing puzzle games you always see for sale at Christmas time or sitting on some lucky executive's desk. That and plague, smallpox, and other communicable illnesses probably explains why you don't see so many of those around any more, don't you think?

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