Thoughts on the Hand
This week I've been thinking about hands, fingers and the sense of touch.
-Every ceramic artist comes to a crossroads in their studio where they must ask themselves, "How much evidence of the hand do I want in my work? How much do I want a sense of touch to be part of the finished object?" Mold makers often forge a path that emphasizes clean untouched surfaces that are reminiscent of shaped metal and stone. Uniformity is the goal and the quest for "clean" is undertaken as an aesthetic focus. Throwers on the other hand turn the other direction emphasizing variation and irregularity in their surfaces. "Fresh" becomes the focus as the potter quests for the perfect gestural line or bulge. Although I use molds on occasion I definitely fall into the thrower category. I can't get enough of the fleshy quality that freshly manipulated clay has on the wheel. I push it, pull it and bend it as I touch it from all angles. My finger marks are evident at every stage from the forming to the decoration.
-The hand is intimately tied to our brain because of the importance touch plays in our interactions with the world around us. "In fact, the hand is a privileged part of the body. It is represented by about 15% of both the sensory and the motor cortex of the brain, although the hand occupies a far smaller proportion of the total surface area of the body. Recognition by touch is also represented within the parietal association cortex. Thus the hand appears to eat up a substantial proportion of our sensory and computational powers."
Bruce Metcalf The Hand: at the Heart of Craft
-"The finger has hundreds of sensors per square centimeter" says Mark Goldstein, a sensory psychophysicist who cofounded MommaCare a company devoted to training nurses and physicians in the art of the clinical exam. " There is nothing in science or technology that has even come close to the sensitivity of the human finger with respect to the range of the stimuli it can pick up. It's a brilliant instrument. But we simply don't trust out tactile sense as much as our visual sense."
Malcolm Gladwell- The Picture Problem from What the Dog Saw
-I ran across the above passage from psychophysicist Mark Goldstein last week and immediately thought of this iconic Johnny Cash image. It has graced tshirts, stickers and ads as a sign of the rebellious spirit that has often gone hand-in-hand with the life of a musician. In the image Cash was about to play one of his infamous prison concerts at San Quentin State Prison when photographer Jim Marshal turned to him and said "John, let’s do a shot for the warden". Cash responded with a gesture and an image was born that helped cement Cash's reputation as country music's bad boy.