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500 Cups: Ceramic Explorations of Utility &…
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500 Cups: Ceramic Explorations of Utility & Grace (2005)

by Suzanne J.E. Tourtillott (Editor), Kathleen Holmes (Art Director), Barbara Zaretsky (Cover designer)

Other authors: Tom Coleman (Introduction)

Series: 500 Series

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I saw this book featured on the shelf in my college library and was fascinated by it to the extent that, having reached my borrowing limit, I returned one of the text books I'd just checked out so that I could get this instead. Hopefully, my assignment won't suffer as a result!

My main issue with this book is that you can only look at the photographs of the cups, when I want to hold them! At least, that is, those which look functional and call out to be touched and cradled in the hand - there are some cups shown which are more sculptural and deliberately non-functional 'works of art'.

Reading this book has brought me to consider just what it is I think a cup should be. As essentials, I want a cup to be able to hold a liquid; to fit in the hand, with or without a handle is fine, but either way it should be at least comfortable to hold, if not pleasurable; the lip of the cup should fit my own such that the transport of liquid from cup to mouth is efficiently conducted. Many of the "cups" here don't fit my criteria: they may (though sometimes they aren't) be beautiful as objects, but fit Wilde's definition of art as being quite useless. The cupness of a cup implies for me functionality.

Of the cups that fulfil my fundamental criteria for functionality, I find I have a hitherto largely unconscious preference based upon shape, proportions and decoration. Shape: I prefer a balanced design, not necessarily symmetrical but certainly not skewed or highly irregular. Proportions: I'm actually less bothered by this, and find myself appreciating a wide range of proportion, though I'd have preferences for certain types for particular drinks which, of course, is generally the potter's intention. What don't I like? Thick rims which feel like they would obtrude upon the act of drinking rather than facilitate it; if it's got a handle, one that's not too small to accommodate fingers. Decoration: Again, it feels easier to say what I don't like, which is flat colours with a high-gloss glaze. There is so much variety on show here that is truly excellent that it's difficult to narrow down an absolute favourite. It would probably be something of medium size, regular in form and with a gently curving line about it somewhere, probably greenish (though I'm also drawn to many of the reds and ochres, too), and perhaps speckled glaze.

In contrast, the cup I'm using as I write this is a mass-produced, off-white mug with the words "blithering idiot" written in blue typeface on the sides, a gift from my sons to their tea-addled dad. ( )
  Michael.Rimmer | Mar 24, 2017 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Tourtillott, Suzanne J.E.Editorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Holmes, KathleenArt Directormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Zaretsky, BarbaraCover designermain authorall editionsconfirmed
Coleman, TomIntroductionsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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The cup, oh, the lowly cup!
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