|Cups from 3D Systems press release|
This freaks me out!
I don't mean to behave like a Luddite, don't get me wrong, some of my best friends are machines! And the older I get the more I appreciate them. I'm talking about the pug mill that makes reclaiming clay easier, for example (what did you think I was talking about?). My current favorite tool is Tom Whitaker's ball opener, a neat little invention using nothing more than pvc pipe that saves fingers and wrists from overuse and is easy to make. And, where would I be without my electric wheel and all my other tools?
But, you have to be a potter to use these tools. What I mean is that, at some point, you would have decided that you wanted to learn pottery. Note that I'm saying "learn pottery" not "make pots." And that's the difference that the 3D Systems company is alluding to when they say that this printer will democratize what their press release calls, without a hint of irony, "the ancient artisanal craft of pottery and ceramics." The use of these printers gets rid of "ancient," "artisanal," and "craft" in one fell swoop and just leaves us with the end product. We lose the process, the long apprenticeships, the trial-and-error learning to make that shape you've been thinking about. It seems that now if you can use the software, the sky's the limit as far as form is concerned.
This is great for those people whose interest is in design. They can now bring their idea to fruition w/o "wasting time" trying to figure out how to make it on the wheel or by rolling slabs or pinching clay. And that's a great leap forward for them. For me, though, I make pots because I love the feel of the clay, I crave the solitude of the wheel, I delight in opening a kiln and feeling like it's Christmas morning. And I think that the people who buy handmade pots are looking for exactly that: pots imbued with the spirit of the maker.