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Lindquist Studios



Mark Lindquist

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I began the Ascending Bowl Series in 1979. 
After many years of polishing wood, achieving beautiful surfaces on bowls, I began experimenting with texture and exploring the hidden identity of wood that had been traditionally covered up by wood turners through the polishing process.  Inventing new techniques through experimentation, I developed ways of scarring the wood to reveal the fibrous nature of the material.  Many of the techniques I used were replications of accidents on the lathe that tore the wood.  These were the result of slips of the tool that I had remembered from when I was learning to turn wood as a child.  

Ascending Bowl #4, 1981 has particularly unusual aspects about it that speak to the idea of serendipity or "happy accident" that the Zen potters talk about.  While roughing out the blank with the chainsaw, I inadvertently uncovered an irregularity within the wood that suddenly reminded me of a Japanese seal or chop mark (the identification mark used by the Japanese to signify ownership by means of a formal insignia).  I was taken by the pattern and left it on the rim of the bowl, working around it to be sure not to harm it.  These kinds of happy accidents occurred occasionally, but they became part of the work only by being a conscious observer, else the moment would be lost.

Following is a statement about my Ascending Bowls that I wrote in 1980, as it appeared in Studio Potter Magazine Volume 10, #2, June 1982:


Whenever I go to a museum, I wonder why people look at the vessels of ancient civilizations that have been carefully preserved and presented in glass cases. I’ve watched the bowls, I’ve studied them for many years.  But now I look at the people who watch the bowls. 

These bowls were made by ordinary people, who, in those civilizations, were artisans and craftsmen.  The creation and use of the vessel was a vital and meaningful part of society.  People relied upon vessels for their existence, but not merely as a means to an end; they invested their making and use of the vessel with ceremony, as an integral art of their lives. 

Now our vessels mean very little to us as a society.  We take them for granted, useful adjuncts to our lives, having little meaning.  They are usually mass-produced, and made of a nondescript impersonal material.  Our interest now is in seeking meaning from the earlier works, the ancient vessel.  The obsolete vessel that lies precious behind impenetrable barriers fascinates us.  I am intrigued by this fascination.  What is it that creates a need, a yearning, to search, to look at and explore these objects?  What are we trying to find?  And what about the objects?  They transcend their function.  What secrets do they hold?  It is as though they have come hurtling through time and space to fill a void created by our depersonalized, unceremonious lifestyles.

 To arrive at the point of the Ascending Bowl—which for me was extremely difficult—I had to turn my back on what was traditionally expected of a woodturner and face the apparent surrounding darkness.  Somehow I managed to turn what was wrong into what is right.  So many years ago, the craftsman I apprenticed with told me, “A true craftsman is the one who can make good his mistakes.”  That’s all I remember from him – I’ve been thinking about that for over twelve years.  Ascending Bowl is, now, a series of controlled “mistakes”—mistakes made, naturally, before I knew what was “right”, before I was shown the “right” way of doing things.

These thoughts influence the work I do in vessel making.  The forms I create are not functional, although they have a heritage of utility.  The objects, being containers, are inherently functional and could be used.  However, as the museum pieces would quickly be destroyed by use because of their age, my vessels would also be ruined by use because of the delicate and precious materials from which they are made.

 In reality, my bowls are made for people to see, to study, to confront.  They serve as the ancient vessels in cases do—they are mass and energy from another place, they offer problems and solutions, questions and answers.  They have begun the transition from utility to iconography.