Phil Rogers books

Phil Rogers: “Potters need to know an awful lot”

Phil Rogers, English “studio potter”, author and FB friend, died at the end of last year at the age of 69. A great loss for his family and friends, but also for the pottery community in the world.

Phil Rogers has taught us what good pottery can mean in our contemporary society. His rustic thrown and decorated vases, bottles, cups, plates and jugs showed his skill, respect for the material and the ceramic tradition. He has shaped the future of traditional ceramics in modern times.

“The drawback in pottery there is so much that can go wrong. Everey stage there is someting that can go wrong. We as potters […] have to know an awful lot”

(Goldmark documentary “Phil Rogers: Drawing in the Air” June 2016)

I have always taken it to heart that a terrible amount of knowledge is required to make ceramics….

Philosophy behind the wheel

I got to know Phil Rogers mainly through his books and a few years ago as a Facebook Friend. A potter pur sang.

When I first sat down behind the wheel in the 1990s, his book “Throwing Pots” (1995) was my instructor. I not only learned practical things from it, but I discovered the philosophy behind this technique.

He taught me the differences between the Western “oxhead” and the eastern “spiral” kneading technique. The use of much (UK/Europe) or little (US and Japan) water while throwing. And to strive for the most efficient way of shaping on the wheel.

Phil tried to convey not only the concrete actions, but also the tradition and philosophy behind these age-old techniques. He taught me about powerful, rustic and spontaneous design on the potters wheel. But also that perseverance, patience and energy must be balanced. He taught me about “mindfulness” years before I got to know this term.

Wood ash and salt glazes

A few years later I read his book “Ash Glazes” (1991), when I became more involved in glazes. A wonderful work on the history, theory and practice of glazes with wood ash as the basis raw material. Another book expressing his respect for the ceramic tradition.

It is also the book I drew from when I started my first experiments with wood ash myself. It’s still the book I use up to get inspiration or just want to see beautiful ceramics.

Phil’s first two books are unfortunately no longer in print and second-hand difficult to obtain. His last book “Salt Glazing” from 2002 was reprinted a few months ago. I haven’t read this book yet, but I’ve ordered it (before it’s sold out again 🙂 ).

I am convinced that this book again contains an enormous wealth of knowledge and inspiration.

The ceramics journey of discovery

As Phil Rogers said: The drawback in pottery is there is so much that can go wrong in the making proces. But that’s also an advantage: it encourages learning, exploring the past and discovering new possibilities.

We don’t just make the pots we have to know how to make glazes, understanding the basic geology, we have to know about fire and draft, pyromania and all of these things that go towards making up a potter.

It’s a lot, a lot of work and a lot of knowledge that you have to gather together.”

(Goldmark documentary “Phil Rogers: Drawing in the Air” June 2016)

That is why it is so important that knowledge is passed on. Phil Rogers was one of those ceramists who gave his time to carry out the ceramic tradition and transform it into the future.

The ceramic world mourns the loss of one of her own. But his contribution to the ceramics tradition is enduring. His inspiration lives on.

Philip Marston Rogers, potter, born 28 May 1951; died 22 December 2020

This post is also available in / Dit bericht is ook beschikbaar in: Dutch

Daniel Bende
Daniel Bende
Keramist bij DFB-keramiek
Designs and creates under the trade name DFB-ceramics hand-thrown stoneware figurative ceramics.

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