Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Is decoration a dirty word?

I've been wondering lately why I feel slightly uncomfortable when I use the word 'decorate' in relation to my work. I don't want it to bother me... but it does... a little. Is it because there is something slightly 'twee' or (heaven forbid) 'crafty' about the term?


Dictionary.com defines 'decorate' as "to finish or adorn with something ornamental or becoming".

When I spend the day 'decorating', as I did today, I am brushing engobes onto the surface of a dry or leatherhard pot; I am defining areas with colour, thinking about contrast and cohesion; I am scratching marks and attempting to conjure evocative imagery; I am considering the finish of the piece in relation to its form and function. 


There is more to it than adding finishing touches. Days like today are so integral to my making process that the term 'decorating' seems inadequate. I fear it suggests the addition of a pattern or picture on a preconceived piece. Which, of course, is perfectly acceptable, but not what I do.


Perhaps the trouble is not that the term is dated, but that, it's too general and doesn't apply to anything in particular. Glazing is another form of 'decorating' but on glazing days I say "Today I glazed".

What did I do at work today? 
I ornamented?
I embellished?
I beautified?
I mark made?
No.
"Today I decorated." 

6 comments:

andrew widdis said...

Today you added (colour) and subtracted (gouged away at the colour).
Go figure? I can't, Sleep deprived I am.
Did you see my new pot. I not only glazed, but nearly glazed the pot to the shelf.
I know what I call that!

Anna said...

Yes, I think the term is inadequate for your work. Then again Cressida Campbell (the amazing wood block print artist) describes her work as decorative art.... so I think so long as you enjoy what you are doing and others like it enough to buy it don't worry about the description.

Sinéad said...

The term 'decorative' is closely linked with the 'supplemental'- non essential or perhaps non-functional even useless. However when such decoration interacts with form it give it a purpose - even itis purely metaphorical.
As Derrida would argue, everything relies on the supplemental. Nothing is autonomous as the structures supporting autonomy are supplemental.

createniks said...

First time visiting your blog.
I really like those cups, their very cool.

Adriana Christianson said...

Have not really thought about 'decorating' in that context,but yes,it does seem inadequate,it is my MOST favourite day.... almost to the point of guilty indulgent decadence....I savour it ..

Shannon Garson said...

I hate the word "decorating" too! I prefer to say "drawing" but then no-one is quite sure exactly what you are doing. We should start a movement to re-brand "decorating" into something both more serious and more descriptive!