Ruth King's Pot

I have lived with one of Ruth King's pots for six months. It has a quiet and commanding presence. It stands in a corner of the room on a wooden chest against a grey wall. Sometimes the tone of the pot is so similar to that of the wall that it blends and fuses only to be defined by shadows . In the evening the light from a lamp emphasizes the sharp edge down one side. During the day sunlight falls on the surface, sometimes catching the point at the top of the edge, softening it. The body of the pot billows out, slightly, like a sail with a gentle wind behind it, but it has two shoulders, and could equally be read as a torso or a kind of mannequin with a missing head. At its highest point, off-centre, just above the rounded shoulder, is a tiny lip which surrounds an elliptical opening, or mouth.

Although its asymmetry suggests an ambition as a purely abstract form, the presence of this opening is significant – because it invites comparison with other more conventionally designed, practical, ceramic containers. But if it had a practical use, what kind of pot would it be? A stone bottle or container? It makes us wonder what it could contain. A liquid of some sort – water or beer? The grey of the surface makes me think of salt glazed pots and I associate salt glaze with Germany, where salt glaze originated. So it has a Germanic feel to it for me, and somewhere, a severity. But this pot is not pitted as the surface of salt glazed pots were - it is smooth, it is stone grey with blushes of warmth in the glaze.

There are tensions and contradictions. This is a pot that quietly takes us in one direction and then quietly takes us in another. It disturbs our perceptions; it pokes into our thoughts and makes us wonder what is going on. What is pushing it out to a point on one side so that there is a tension between the point and the rounded shoulder on the other side. At the bottom, the body of the pot is on a small stand so that it is lifted up from the chest. At the side of the rounded shoulder there is a corresponding rounded bottom but then a small protuberance pushes out.

I have made pots and I now practice as a psychoanalyst, and I think both these activities access the self.The self, to my way of thinking is the sum of who we are, our bodies, and our minds. Making pots is very physical - hands in wet clay, kneading, rolling, shaping, knowing what to do to form a pot. For the body and mind to be receptors for the unconscious of another, Freud observed that the analyst must:

....'turn his own unconscious like a receptive organ towards the transmitting unconscious of the patient. He must adjust himself to the patient as a telephone receiver is adjusted to the transmitting microphone.'

What gets transmitted from maker to pot is also an unconscious act as well as a conscious one. And then what transmits from a pot to others is also unconscious, unspoken and steeped in history. Pots are elemental – the making of them involves earth, water and fire. Shards of pottery tell us about people who lived a long time ago. What they ate out of, even what food they ate . Pots are made to hold and contain things. To hold and store : grain, oil, water. Ruth’s pot continues the conversation between the practical and the abstract, and can be said to be a meditation, through ceramics, on the abstract notion of holding and containment.

Julia Ryde March 2016