Don Pilcher and Rascal Ware Pottery  

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The Rascal Ware Foot Fetish

By Georgette Ore

Chapter Five

Rascal Ware Foot FetishJunior Bucks, Mosley Bunkham and Don Pilcher have a collective ceramic experience of about 92 years (the 2 belonging to Mosley), so you’d think that by now they are immune to cheap tricks and stolen aesthetics. But they are also men and they have a passion for exotic feet. I count my blessings it’s not for erotic feet. They make no apologies and you don’t want to press them on the matter because they get very defensive, especially Junior. Since he writes the checks, one needs to know when to walk away.

Still, the seashell thing. Honest to God, you talk about sucking the hind teat of a foreign culture. The truth is that there are a number of cool things you can do to dress up a pot. Lots of people get a little weak in the knees when they see them … and I say a little weak in the mind when they use them. Hold your stomach – here’s a short list: using river stones for the knob on a lid, frying the living bejesus out of the clay by hanging the work on the bag wall, torching a copper-saturated glaze when cooling, adding a marble base and three zeros to the price, and double smoking a talc body. The list goes on, add your own. (On the other hand, double-smoked bacon is pretty fine. You can get some of the best at Vi’s in Door Country.)

I first saw the seashell stilt on some pots made by Shoji Hamada on Okinawa in the 1960’s. I gather it was a common and ancient practice then. Shells do seem like a gift from God to all the potters. They are naturally resistant to high temperatures and wood or salt vapors, sized for an array of pottery shapes, moderately decorative, wildly abundant, and free for the taking. If you travel to Florida in February to gather your shells, the trip is in part tax deductible. That’s the part that seduces Pilcher. In a pinch, Junior will send Mosley out to the kitchen of the local Red Lobster to grab a few dozen shells, remnants from the bouillabaisse. Seashells in the heartland are one of the seldom appreciated aspects of our franchise culture. So what’s the problem?

You can think of it as the heroin problem. Seashell stilts reduce the distance between artistic impulse and aesthetic nirvana to almost nothing. What’s more, it’s an aesthetic that requires no practice and allows for almost no evolution or improvement. The first time you use it you have accomplished the ultimate in “attractive and eye pleasing” solutions. You’ll never get any better at it. Further, the stilts cover a multitude of sins like poor glaze application and careless firing. It's choosing fortune over finesse. That kind of sloth is addictive. The proof of this tide of addiction is the growing frequency with which potters use shell marks like a hickey on the sides of their jugs. At least on the foot we sneak up on the ultimate, a coda to conclude our knowledge and appreciation of the vessel. But these shell broaches fairly scream, “I got laid.” And so they did – on their side, next to the fire box.

Rascal Ware Foot FetishPardon my use of the word “vessel.” It seems popular to use that word when one needs to pump an argument – a sort of literary marble base and always worth a few zeros. The fact that the strategy is so common says volumes about our pottery world.

Going back to my guys and their foot fetishes – they can’t give it up. It comes from the “hunt,” that too male thing where they will trample the good searching for the perfect. They think it’s the coolest thing in the world to find an aesthetic Shangri-La, hidden until handled and then, once touched, it lives in their memory like the love of a woman who seldom speaks. That would not be me!

Pictured here are two Rascal Ware pieces with their “hottie” feet. Just for the record, I didn’t glaze them and I didn’t fire them. But there are times in any job that you have to do as you’re told. When people ask how I feel about being a part of this venture, I tell them it’s a job and I revert from whore to Ore as quickly as possible, and move on. Winners adjust and that shell crap seems inevitable when you remember that the Rascal Ware motto is “We’ll make anything.” The whole experience gives the phrase “shelling out” a nicely twisted meaning. I can do twisted; I'm a child of the ‘60s and I took art in college.


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