The Weekly Potter*
Elizabeth “Betty” W. Penski and Pamela Bluh
Written about 1979
Many librarians have hobbies or avocations; ours is ceramics. Although the messiness of working with wet clay is the antithesis of the orderliness of library work, centering and pulling a well-made pot on the wheel, selecting and applying appropriate glazes, and mastering the intricacies of loading and firing kilns are also demanding and exacting. We have been told by fellow members of the Potters’ Guild of Baltimore that things are not as they used to be; information that was transmitted informally from teacher to student and from potter to potter is now passed along much more formally. A wealth of information is available about ceramics and pottery, indicative not only of the popularity of the craft, but also of the formal channels of communication that have been developed to further the craft.
In order to provide a brief overview of the journal literature in ceramics, sample issues of fourteen publications were reviewed. They may be grouped in four different categories: journals dealing with stoneware and porcelain; magazines focusing on low-fired ware; general craft journals; and publications on industrial ceramics. The titles are representative of the diversity of literature about ceramics and pottery. These terms are often used synonymously, and for the sake of uniformity, we will consider “ceramics” to be high-fired stoneware or porcelain and “pottery” to be low-fired ware.
A new book that deals with both the contemporary and historical aspects of ceramics introduces our subject. Pottery and Ceramics; a guide to information sources 1is a selective, annotated bibliography and the first such work to be published since 1910, when M.L. Solon’s Ceramic Literature; an analytical index appeared. While Solon’s book claimed to be comprehensive and included all works about ceramics published at that time, such a claim cannot and is not made for Pottery and Ceramics, which provides information on recently published, English language materials. In the preface the editor points out that there has been tremendous “glut of materials on crafts, including ceramics, flooding the market today [and] much that is written is of poor quality and repetitious. “ The bibliography is intended for the ceramic historian, collector and artist, and for the “professional craftsperson [rather] than the hobbyist.”
The editor of Pottery and Ceramics, James Campbell, is a graduate of the Catholic University of America and has an MFA from the Pratt Institute. He is presently an instructor in ceramics at Friends Academy in Locust Valley, New York. In an explicit prefatory statement he outlines the purpose, objectives, inclusions and exclusions of the publication. The book is organized into fourteen chapters including bibliographical topics such as “Reference works,” and “General histories, dictionaries, encyclopedias.” Historical material is included in chapters such as “Ancient and pre-Columbian ceramics” and “Contemporary world ceramics.” Special chapters devoted to “Ceramics marks,” “Ceramic periodicals,” “Ceramic organizations and societies,” and “Museum collections in the United States” are also included. Author, title and subject indexes are provided at the end of the book.
Each chapter is preceded by a concise note summarizing its contents. Full bibliographical citations are provided for every title, together with brief annotations of descriptive nature. The arrangement of the chapters and their internal organization is logical. The lack of critical comments about the individual titles may be explained by the editor’s decision to include primarily works of proven significance. Page numbers in the subject index are underlined for the titles whose importance is particularly noteworthy.
Although much of the information contained in Pottery and Ceramics is available in other sources, this reference book consolidates the material and presents it in a compact, easy-to-use format. Intended for the researcher and student of ceramics, Pottery and Ceramics should be useful for both amateur and professional potters and would be a welcome addition in both home and library collections.
Clay fired to 2305 degrees Fahrenheit or above is called stoneware because of the extreme hardness and vitreous quality it achieves as a result of firing. Stoneware has an earthy color and a somewhat rough texture. Porcelain, also fired to the same high temperature as stoneware, has a clay body containing few impurities, giving it a white appearance and a smooth texture. Potters who work with stoneware and porcelain use a wide range of methods: throwing on the potter’s wheel, casting, hand forming with coils or slabs, and various sculptural techniques. It may be a misnomer to refer to the finished pieces as “pots,” since many are non-utilitarian, abstract, or purely inventive. Ceramic Review 2 and Ceramic Monthly 3 are publications for the stoneware potter. The range of topics they cover is roughly similar: illustrated reviews of exhibitions, information on shows and events in which potters may participate, clay and glaze formulas, descriptions of techniques for the creation of pots, well-illustrated essays on individual potters and potteries, information on supplies and equipment, and book reviews.
In the past few years, Ceramics Monthly has featured historical articles on ceramics in various countries or specific periods. The October 1978 issue contained an excellent article on the salt-glazed ceramics of central Germany from 1500 to the present and another on I-Hsing (17th to 19th century Chinese style) teapots.
Both publications carry advertising related to ceramics. The layout of the journal differs, however, and Ceramics Monthly. The margins are somewhat narrower and the text and photographs occupy a greater portion of the page. There seems to be a tendency to group smaller photographs, all in black and white, together.Ceramics Monthly uses many color photographs, and the layout, while not lavish in its use of space, appears more open than that of Ceramic Review. Ceramics Monthly, a commercially published journal, has somewhat more advertising than Ceramic Review, the publication of the Craftsmen Potters Association of Great Britain. Both titles are included in Art index, Ceramic Review having been added to their list of journals in 1979. Ceramics Monthly is available on microfilm and microfiche from the University Microfilms.
Both publications are of interest to the stoneware potter. Libraries in the United States able to select only one journal would probably prefer Ceramics Monthly, since the exhibit and show information is more relevant and the terminology for clay and glaze ingredients would be compatible with that used by suppliers in this country.
Studio Potter,4 a semi-annual American journal, deals exclusively with ceramics as a craft, and tangentially with the business aspects of the craft. Each issue ofStudio Potter contains approximately fifteen short two to three page articles, half of which focus on various aspects of a specific topic, such as porcelain or single fire glazes. The remainder of the articles covers a variety of topics both contemporary and historical in nature. The text is illustrated with many beautiful color and black and white photographs. Studio Potter caters to the specific interests of the craftsman potter, and the complements rather than competes with Ceramics Monthly. Studio Potter is an excellent periodical, with thoughtful, well written pieces. It, too, has just been added to the list of tittles indexed by the Art Index.
The interest in ceramics is as great in other countries as it is in the United States, and the foreign literature dealing with ceramics is extensive. In England, Pottery Quarterly 5 offers an alternative to Ceramic Review. As its sub-title indicates, Pottery Quarterly is devoted to “a review of crafts pottery.” Each issue includes several brief sketch-like articles, and excerpts of works originally published elsewhere, such as a short selection on salt glazes from Jack Troy’s book Salt Glazed Ceramics. An “art section” provides recipes for clay bodies and glazes, and there is a short book’ review column. A very brief cumulative index to the issues of the previous volume is included at the end of the first issue of the next volume.
Although intended to be published quarterly, the journal appears irregularly. As an indication of its commitment to conversation and ecological responsibility, Pottery Quarterly is printed on recycled paper. Consequently, the many black and white photographs are of diminished quality; instead of being sharp and clear, they are hazy and the contrasts are poor. Pottery Quarterly accepts advertisements and groups them together at the end of the issue, rather than interspersing them throughout. Serious potters may wish to subscribe to Pottery Quarterly; libraries in art schools, particularly those with ceramics programs, may find Pottery Quarterly provides an added dimension to their collection.
The ceramic arts in Australia and in the South Pacific region are represented by Pottery in Australia, 6 published by the Potter’s Society of Australia. Established in 1956, the Society and its journal hope to “encourage and foster the development, appreciation and recognition of pottery made by individual craftsmen and designers in a ceramic medium.” The issue of Pottery in Australia that was reviewed contains the summary of the proceedings of the first national ceramics conference held in Australia in May 1978. In addition to the report on the conference, this issue contains articles on both the artistic and technical aspects of ceramics. There are many fine quality black and white photographs. The advertisements, also segregated at the back of the issue, do not interfere with one’s enjoyment of the articles. Pottery in Australia provides a view of the ceramic arts in the southern hemisphere for the potters wishing to expand their horizons.
Earthenware clays are fired at temperatures below 2000 degrees Fahrenheit and they remain somewhat absorbent after firing. Pots are formed in plaster molds and designs are painted under or over the glaze. Ceramic Arts and Crafts 7 and Popular Ceramics 8 are “how-to” publications for the earthenware potter. In them the potter is led step-by-step from the molded, green ware piece through the various stages of decorating and glazing. Complete drawings of the designs and detailed list of supplies and materials needed for each project are included. Each issue contains many projects, such as a porcelain night light, simulated San Ildefonso (Southwestern American Indian) potter, pinecones, and ice cream set, a holiday bell and a festive wassail bowl.
The directions of executing each of these projects are very precise, and considerable emphasis is placed on using specific brands in order to obtain the desired glaze effects. It is not surprising, therefore, that both journals devote a great deal of space to advertising. At times, the advertisements, with their full color photos, are more prominent that the articles. Because of its smaller size and more crowded layout, the tendency to separate parts of an article with double page ads is more annoying in Ceramic Arts and Crafts than in the larger format of Popular Ceramics. In addition, the proportion of pages devoted to the advertising is greater inCeramic Arts and Crafts, where over half the pages in the issue examined were full pages of advertising. In Popular Ceramics, slightly under half of the issue was devoted to advertising.
Both journals have brief book review sections and calendars of events, describing shows in which potters may exhibit. Since the subscription price of these two magazines is practically the same, librarians interested in providing one journal for earthenware potters might consider the more readable format of Popular Ceramics.
Ceramics and pottery information is also featured in general craft publications. Two journals, Craft Horizons 9 and Crafts 10 , are representative titles in this category. Craft Horizons is the official publication of the American Crafts Council and is devoted to stimulating public awareness and appreciation of American crafts. Each issue contains several well written articles on suck diverse aspects of the contemporary craft scene ad fibers, furniture, leather, and glass, as well as ceramics. Contained in each issue is a section called “Craft World” which provides new items and technical information for craftsmen. The photography in Craft Horizons is excellent and many of the plates are in color. Craft Horizons is published eight times a year and is indexed in Art Index and the Readers Guide to Periodical Literature. Book reviews are indexed in Book Review Index. The journal is available on microfilm from University Microfilms and in microfiche from Bell and Howell.
In its presentation, Crafts, the journal of the Crafts Advisory Committee in England, is similar to Craft Horizons. The Crafts Advisory Committee is an independent agency establishes in 1971 to advise the Minister for the Arts on the needs of artist-craftsmen, and to promote a nationwide interest and improvement in their product. Crafts serve as a, “forum for ideas, for the study and the sheer enjoyment of crafts.“
The issue reviewed deals with developments in the contemporary crafts movement and addresses the important question of the future of crafts in an age of increasing mechanization. The journal has a news section and an extensive crafts calendar. There are beautiful illustrations in color, and black and white. As withCrafts Horizons, there are many advertisements. At the end of the issue there is a “Directory of British Craft Shops” and a section of classified ads. Beginning with the January/February 1979 issue, Crafts will be indexed in Art Index. Both Craft Horizons and Crafts cover the contemporary craft scene exceptionally well. As with the ceramics journals, American craftsmen and librarians considering only one title for their collections may wish to acquire the domestic title due to the greater relevancy of the information, Those familiar with Craft Horizons, and able to invest the money, will be delighted and surprised by the scope of Crafts.
Industrial Ceramics Journals
A discussion of ceramics and pottery journals would not be complete without a brief overview of publications dealing with industrial ceramics. Intended for the ceramics engineer, these journals contain some excellent technical information that may be of interest to the advanced studio craftsman.
The American Ceramic Society is the professional organization for industrial and ceramics engineers in the United States. It issues three major publications, The Journal 11 , The Bulletin 12 , and Ceramics Abstracts. 13 The focus in these journals is on ceramic research and on the industrial processes of the research scientist and chemical engineer. The papers are technical and highly specialized and, in keeping with the scholarly orientation of the topics, include brief abstracts, extensive diagrams, chemical and mathematical formulae, footnotes and bibliographies, the Journal is entirely devoted to papers, discussions and notes, It contains no advertising. The Bulletin, referred to by the society as Ceramic Bulletins, contains, in addition to scholarly papers, notes of interest to members, such as government matters related to the ceramics industry, programs of divisional and regional groups, new product information, personnel notes, book reviews, and an index of advertisers. Both of these titles are indexed in a variety of sources, including Applied Science and Technology Index, Chemical Abstracts, and Engineering Index.
Ceramics Abstracts, published until 1974 as a section of the Journal, is the abstracting and indexing tool for ceramics publications. The abstracts are arranged under seventeen subject categories, including topics such as “ceramic-metal systems,” “structural clay products,” and “kilns, furnaces and fuels.” Each section contains abstracts of journal articles as well as patents.
Individual issues of Ceramic Abstracts have no author index, and no mention is made about an annual author index; one would hope that such an index is issued at the conclusion of each volume. The list of journals abstracted is available only upon request, and no list of journal abbreviations is included in the bimonthly issues. The unavailability of the complete journal list with abbreviations within the publication itself is a serious omission. Ceramics Abstracts is available on micro-film from the University of Microfilms.
Euroclay,,14 from England, and InterCeram,15 from Germany, are similar in outlook and serve the needs of the ceramics engineer. Euroclay is the publication of the Institute of Clay Technology and began in 1973. Despite its title, Euroclay is devoted exclusively to the British ceramic industry. Articles are extremely technical in nature and deal with such topics as the heavy clay industry, refractories, and related industrial topics. Euroclay is indexed in Chemical Abstracts and in the British Technology Index.
As its title indicates, InterCeram is a publication of international scope, and draws its contributors from industrial ceramicists around the world. Articles are in English, with summaries in French, German and Spanish. Although technical in nature, many articles have a degree of applicability for the studio potter. InterCeramis indexed in Chemical Abstracts. It may be worth noting that neither InterCeram nor Euroclay appear to be indexed in Ceramics Abstracts.
These publications, because of their highly technical nature, are of interest primarily to engineers and librarians in academic and special libraries where there is a strong orientation towards engineering and industrial ceramics.
As aspect of the growing tendency to develop more formal means of communication among potters became apparent in the preparation of this article. Not only are journals being published to transmit information previously passed by word of mouth, but a greater number of these journals are being included in the established indexes, making the information even more accessible. Three of the titles, Studio Potter, Crafts, and Ceramic Review, have just been added to the titles included in the Art Index. Librarians considering expanding their holdings in the ceramics area may wish to give special consideration to titles contained in such bibliographic sources.
Elizabeth W. Penski
Audio Visual Librarian
Essex Community College
Baltimore, MD 21237
Milton S. Eisenhower Library
The Johns Hopkins University
Baltimore, MD 21218
1. Pottery and Ceramics, a guide to information sources. Edited by James Edward Campbell, Detroit, Gale Research Company, 1978. XI, 241 pages. (Art and Architecture information guide series, Vol. 7) LC card number 74-11545. ISBN 0810312743. $22.00
2. Ceramic Review No. 1- 1970- London, Craftsman Potters Association of Great Britain. Price: $5.50: overseas $6.00. Bimonthly. Issue reviewed, No. 53, Sept./Oct. 1978
3. Ceramic Monthly . Vol. 1- 1953- Columbus, Professional Publications. Price: $12.00. Monthly except July and August. ISSN: 0009-0328. Indexed in Art Index and Readers Guide to Periodical Literature. Issue Reviewed: Vol. 26, No. 8, October 1978.
4. Studio Potter. Vol. 1- 1972- Warner, N.H., The Daniel Clark Foundation. Price $8.50; 2 years, $16.00; 3 years, $22.50; single copies $4.75. Semi-annual. ISSN: 0091-6641. Indexed in Art Index. Issues reviewed; Vol. 6, No. 2; vol. 7, No. 1.
5. Pottery Quarterly. Vol. 1- (No.1-) 1954- Northfield Studio, Tring, Hertfordshire, England. Price $10.00 for four issues. Irregular. ISSN: 0032-5678. Issue reviewed: vol. 13, No. 50; 1978.
6. Pottery in Australia. Vol. 1- 1962- Darlinghurst, New South Wales, Australia. Potter’s Society of Australia. Price $A7.00. Semi-annual. ISSN: 0048-4954. Cumulative index: 1962-1971. Issue reviewed: Vol. 17, No. 2; spring 1978.
7. Ceramic Arts and Crafts. Vol. 1- 1955- Detroit, Scott Advertising and Publishing Co. Price $10.00. Monthly. ISSN: 0009-0190. Issue reviewed: vol. 24, No. 3, Nov. 1978.
8. Popular Ceramics. Vol. 1- 1949- Los Angeles, Popular Ceramics Publications. Price: $9.50. Monthly. ISSN: 0032-447. Issue reviewed: vol. 30, No. 4; 1978.
9. Craft Horizons. Vol. 1- 1941- New York, American Crafts Council. Price: $18.00 (membership in ACC) Monthly except for January, March, May and November. ISSN: 0011-0744. Indexed in Art Index and the Readers Guide to Periodical Literature. Available in microfilm from University microfilms International and in microfiche from Bell and Howell. Issue reviewed: Vol. 38, No. 8: Dec. 1978.
10.Crafts. No. 1- March 1973- London, Crafts Advisory Committee. Price: $18.00. Bimonthly. ISSN: 0306-610x. Indexed in Art Index. Issue reviewed: No. 36, Jan./Feb. 1979.
11.American Ceramic Society. Journal. Vol. 1- 1918- Columbus. Price $45.00, including Ceramic Bulletin. Bimonthly. ISSN: 0002-7820. Indexed in various sources. Available in microform from University Microfilms. Issued reviewed: Vol. 61, No. 9/10, Sept./Oct. 1978.
12.American Ceramic Society. Bulletin. Vol. 1- 1922 Columbus. Price: $20.00 Monthly. ISSN: 0002-7812. Indexed in various sources. Issue reviewed: Vol. 57, No. 9, Sept. 1978.
13.Ceramic Abstracts. Vol. 1- 1922 Columbus, American Ceramic Society. Price: $45.00, including Ceramic Bulletin; $60.00, including Ceramic Bulletin and the Journal of the American Ceramic Society. Bimonthly. ISSN: 0095-9960. Available in microform from the University Microfilms. Issue reviewed: Vol. 57, No. 910, Sept./Oct. 1978.
14.Euroclay. July/Aug. 1973- London, London and Sheffield Publishing Company. Price: $12.50. Bimonthly. ISSN: 0306-1841. Indexed in Chemical Abstracts and British Technology Index. Issue reviewed: July/August 1978.
15.InterCeram, International Ceramic Review. Vol. 1- 1951- Freiberg, Germany, Verlag Schmid GmH. Price: DM60.00. Quarterly. ISSN: 0020-5214. Indexed in Chemical Abstracts. Issue reviewed: Vol. 27, No. 3, 1978.
* As far as we know this document was never published.
** Pamela Bluh is currently (2012) Associate Director for Technical Services and Administration, University of Maryland, Francis King Carey School of Law.
Pottery made by Betty Penski, photographs taken by Sheila Richards, and this website programmed into HTML by El Penski and Sheila Richards