Pete Pinnell talks about cups

I saw this a while back, and although it is 32 minutes long I will undoubtedly watch it again and again over the years. I think its a must see for potting folks, so I hope you all share it with your potter friends and colleagues.

These are some of the things he talks about (You can also skip ahead to any of the sections):

00:00     A short history of art. Modernism and Postmodernism. Intimacy vs abstraction. Variations in how things function.

11:30     What makes a good cup. Visual, formal, compositional considerations. The requirement of dissonance.  Making a statement overtly or as unconscious content. References to context or kinds of object. The difference between apples and oranges.

16:05     Cups and mugs.  The different demands of use. Different kinds of cups for different uses.

17:30      A Linda Christianson mug.  Comfort can lead to inattention. Discomfort brings awareness and interaction. Pots communicate by means of dialog, not by being “seen and not heard”.

Pete discusses his revelation about interacting with pottery, something he learned from a Linda Christianson mug.

22:20     How men handle cups and how women handle cups. Age and society, strength and expectations.  Generic and specific considerations.

Pete models men’s and women’s styles of holding a mug.

29:20     The case of teabowls. Interaction and teaching moments.


This was all such great stuff, but probably the part that most blew my mind was his discussion of how women and men almost always have different ways of holding mugs. I have since made my own survey of students and friends and come pretty much to the same conclusion. Fascinating stuff! I wonder how many of us design our handles with the gender of the user specifically in mind?

What do you all think?

About Carter Gillies

I am an active potter and sometime pottery instructor who is fascinated by the philosophical side of making pots, teaching these skills, and issues of the artistic life in general. I seem to have a lot to say on this blog, but I don't insist that I'm right. I'm always trying to figure stuff out, and part of that involves admitting that I am almost always wrong in important ways. If you are up for it, please help me out by steering my thoughts in new and interesting directions. I always appreciate the challenge of learning what other people think.
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2 Responses to Pete Pinnell talks about cups

  1. tracey says:

    I saw this a while back. I still think of the Linda comment about handles every time I pick up a new mug and consider how it feels! I got to hear Pete Pinnell give a talk on the Silk Road at Arrowmont and it was remarkable, he is a great speaker!

    • I’ve never met him, but I’ve heard others say such great things about him. And from this video I can see what an eloquent charming man he is.

      The part about Linda’s mug was fascinating. I have two of her mugs that I bring out for special occasions, but I also don’t use them everyday because I have never liked how the handles feel. I love looking at them, but the pain of holding them is usually too much. The funny thing is that at one point in school I had the attitude that things like cups and mugs were usually TOO easy to take for granted, so I ended up putting small spikes on cups where you’d have to hold them. Kind of crazy, but maybe not all that crazy after all….

      The whole idea of discomfort is a potter’s way of ‘shocking’ an audience back to its senses. The stupor of the daily grind needs art to remind us of the things that are important, and it doesn’t need to be the outrageous extremes of some contemporary art. A small unergonomic pressure can be all it takes to make someone aware that they are holding something precious yet humble, quiet yet beautiful, in their hands. What a tremendous capacity!

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