Six years in and I am still learning. Many of the lessons are ones I have been given before, but did not yet have the ears and comprehension to appreciate. Today, as I observed my work under the evaluation of one of my first instructors, i realized that haste is still my Achilles heel.
I used to think the signature of a great piece of pottery was the form, or the glaze treatment. Those things are important and significant, but what completes a piece are the subtle things a potter does to "finish" their work. It shows great care, an attentive eye and the desire to complete the experience for the person who decides to take that piece into their home. As it relates specifically to "mugs" (my form of obsession at the moment) here are some tips or things to consider:
1. Balance. Does the piece rock when on a flat surface? Is it "tippy" or teetering when bumped? A good (functional) piece will have great balance, sitting steady and without movement when touched.
2. Does the rim meet the user's mouth? A slightly flared rim allows the fluid to flow smoothly. The surface should be smooth and slightly beveled.
3. Does the handle complement the cup? Nothing feels more awkward that a handle that is too "bulky" or too "fragile" for the cup. The handle should be beveled and not too much wider than the rim (if it can be helped). The fingers should be able to grasp the handle without bumping the cup (two or three fingers - depending on your style).
4. Texture is nice, but ensure there's no sharp edges. For effects like chattering or carving - check your greenware. Before the first fire, handle the cup - extensively. Turn it around in your hands. If there is a sharp or jagged point, it will be sharper after bisque and glaze firing. Greenware is always easier to smooth than bisque. Save yourself some elbow grease and smooth sooner than later.
Today, after I smoothed, sanded and ground out imperfections in over 40 bisque fired cups...I learned that lesson number 4 is CRITICALLY important.
Now, on to glazing.