Entertainment :: Books

Edmund de Waal

by Daniel Scheffler
Contributor
Monday May 19, 2014
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The first monograph on Edmund de Waal, this grainy grey book "Edmund de Waal", a Phaidon beauty, documents how a ceramic artist and his craft live their day, separate yet together. An intellectual take on beauty, and in specific the beauty of craftsmanship and creating by hand.

De Waal, born in 1964, is a British ceramicist and author of the most exquisite and alarming "Hare with the Amber Eyes" from 2010. Having trained in pottery in Japan and eventually to read English at Cambridge, the man manages to straddle artistry with a sense of place and words - revealed in his work naturally. His dedication to his work, and to the art form itself, is evident in his work and even in the curating and display of his beauty - it’s not just mindless craft, it’s an overwhelming sense of self and "poetry" that cannot escape the artist.

"I make porcelain. I make my objects out of porcelain. I sit at my wheel. It is low and I am tall. I hunch. There is a ziggurat of balls of porcelain clay to my left, a waiting pile of ware boards to my right, a small bucket of water, a sponge, a knife, and a bamboo rib shaped like a hand axe in front of me. I have a cloth on my lap to wipe my hands. There is music. I pick up a ball and throw it into the centre of the wheel. Today, like yesterday and like tomorrow, I am making nothing grander than a cylinder. Barely a vessel, more a sketch of a pot, an inside and a straight profile, the merest impression of my hand and then my impressed seal"

"I make porcelain. I make my objects out of porcelain. I sit at my wheel. It is low and I am tall. I hunch. There is a ziggurat of balls of porcelain clay to my left, a waiting pile of ware boards to my right, a small bucket of water, a sponge, a kni

This book, heaven to behold really, includes contributions by novelists Colm Toíbín, Peter Carey and AS Byatt, and critical essays by Guggenheim curator Alexandra Munroe and architect Deborah Saunt. All of these great writers are yes complimentary but also adequately fair about de Waal and his mastery. The book, divided into "A Potter ...," "Spaces," "Synergies," "Stories," and "who Writes" swells and deflates with such mastery that you want to have it open on a loop.

Emma Crichton-Miller, a journo with arts and crafts knowledge, contributes a biographical analysis of de Waal and his magic comes through in a more narrative way. When she calls his craft a "calling" and refers to him with "modesty of intent," you know you’re in the presence of greatness on both sides of this fence.

"Edmund de Waal"
$100.00
Phaidon

Daniel Scheffler is a writer who spends his time in New York, Cape Town and India. Follow him on Twitter @danielscheffler

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