Made by Hand: Walter Keeler Masterclass

Walter Keeler jugs at Aberystwyth Arts Centre (2015)

I was fortunate enough to watch Walter Keeler (the legend himself!) give a masterclass today as part of the Made by Hand craft event at Cardiff city hall. Although familiar with his pots for years, I’d never properly appreciated how innovative his work has been. Combining different techniques including extruding, throwing, slab building, press moulding and lathe turning he explores the full potential of clay’s qualities.
He demonstrated how he makes two kinds of jugs, the first from an extruded pipe with extruded handles echoing the twisting branches of trees; the second using more traditional techniques – thrown sections with a pulled handle. We watched as he transformed a stiff jug with what he called ‘a personality disorder’ into his distinctive ‘articulated’ jug design by simply replacing the thrown sections together at a jauntier angle. This new jug, he said, was one you knew you’d have a fun conversation with.
Interestingly many of the different sections are joined together with slip but no scoring. This often leads to a much neater joint and the parts still stay together! Maybe I should be less painstaking when joining next time and trust in the clay more.
I like Keeler’s sense of humour in how he plays with our relationships to his objects. He makes mugs that are intimate and homely, alongside thorn encrusted dishes which we almost feel afraid to approach. What he makes is both traditional and contemporary, organic and geometric. He wants his work to be used not only appreciated for its aesthetics.



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