Kim Ellington (NC)
On Making a Twitter Whistle Cup. As I looked through the photographs of drinking vessels to choose from for The Last Drop project my eyes kept returning to the Whistle Cup with Cover. I had never seen nor heard of such a vessel. The whistle cup looked to me to be the epitome of a celebration mug. With a vow to be merry inscribed around the rim and a whistle to blow for more, what else could you ask for in a drinking cup? However, I am puzzled as to why the cup is lidded. Is it to keep flies out? Perhaps it is just a nice way to give the cup a meaningful presence.
My first consideration for making was the size. I decided on one liter. To drink a liter of alcohol per cup typically involves a celebration of some sort. After determining the size I considered the shape. I have made a typical straight walled, German-style beer mug for many years. I decided to make this pot a rounded shape to reference femininity and our Earth. The feminine expression is becoming very important in the 21st century.
This cup rests on a pedestal. Finding the correct proportion of the pedestal in relation to the cup required some trial and error. I made the pedestal separate in a variety of heights and widths to see what would work best with the cup. The handles were next. I decided on pulled lug handles rather than a strap handle. An important aspect of the handle style is that it also provides the perch for the whistle. With so many components of the pot, I did not want the handles to draw particular attention. I chose to make a rounded lid and to use glass for decoration. Using pieces of glass to make “runs” in the glaze is an important component of the Catawba Valley tradition in which I work. I used the inverted shape of the pedestal for the knob.
A crucial decision was what shape and size to make the whistle. I wanted something that would definitely nail the piece down as an early 21st-century object. After much consideration and beer, I decided on using the Twitter logo as a whistle. The whistle is the primitive and Twitter the modern way of getting attention. The crucial part of making a whistle is the placement and angle of the whistle hole and the mouthpiece alignment. Fortunately, the shape of a bird accommodates these concerns. I made a few “blank” whistles of different shapes and sizes to learn the technique. Once the final form was made, the wings were cut from a slab and attached. After drying to leather hard and testing the whistle, the bird was attached to a handle.
Next were the inscriptions. Around the collar, separated by the handles, I wrote this verse: Lift Up / Put Down / Too Much / A Clown. Depending on from where you start reading, the verse can have different connotations. I wanted the inscriptions to make 21st-century references to drinking alcohol. I put a post on facebook asking for input on the project hoping to garner something clever from social media. All of the fun responses were rooted in 20th-century alcohol lore. However, the dangers and heartbreak of alcohol abuse, which is timeless, were also expressed. The nearest I could come to referring to the dark side of alcohol use was my reference to a Clown. I have an aversion to writing of death and suffering on a pot used for celebration. While seeking more light-hearted inspiration, I visited the website of a local Craft Beer store. While reading the names of available beer I realized that these are the names that represent the current attitude towards alcohol consumption. Around the main body of the cup are the names of current craft brews made in North Carolina, Colorado, and California. The bottom inscription has a verse reading around the bottom of the handles: Fill it up from / Bottom to the Top / Drink it all Down / To the Very Last Drop.
This Tweet Whistle Pot is glazed in the traditional Catawba Valley alkaline glaze. As Dave the Slave made evident with his early 19th century pottery making, this glaze has the ability to enhance an inscription. In the making of this pot, I thought of how profound his work is in the context of his era and aspired to tap into just a tiny part of that inspiration.
was born in 1954 and grew up in Hickory, North Carolina. After serving in the US Army for three years I attended Haywood Community College in Clyde, North Carolina, where I was enrolled in the Production Crafts – Pottery program from 1978 – 80. I returned to Hickory and opened my first shop in 1982. I am currently in my 35th year of business. In 1987 I was provided the opportunity to construct and operate a traditional Groundhog kiln at Hart Square village, located in Plateau, NC. After construction of the kiln, I closed my shop in Hickory and moved to work and live in Vale, NC, home of the Catawba Valley pottery tradition. Through my friendship with and guidance from Burlon Craig, the only potter working in the Catawba Valley tradition at the time, I adopted the use of local clay, alkaline glaze and wood firing to make my pots.
The past influences my current work through the use of these time-honored methods and materials specific to the Catawba Valley tradition. I am also greatly influenced by the skill level and dedication to the use of local materials that has persisted locally for centuries. I do not attempt to replicate pots from the past. It is my objective to make relevant the forms, techniques, and materials of the Catawba Valley tradition to the present day and hopefully inspire others to carry them forward through their own interpretations and use.
Twitter Whistle Cup
Kim Ellington, 2017. Vale, NC. H. 9½”
This is the piece Kim created for THE LAST DROP: INTOXICATING POTTERY, PAST AND PRESENT.
Whistle Cup with Cover
South Wiltshire, England, dated 1705. Lead-glazed earthenware with incised decoration and inscription. Chipstone Foundation. 1994.2. H. 11 ¾”.
This is the historical piece from which Kim chose to draw inspiration.