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Brad Lail | Episode 867
Brad Lail trained in North Carolina as a production thrower. Brad’s training has been informed by the teachings of Leach pottery, Michael Cardew, and traditional North Carolina pottery. Brad studied abroad in Jingdezhen, China, and then in England. Brad was a journeyman potter for much of his career before deciding to try his hand at his own company, Lail Design.
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What makes a good tumbler?
I think what makes a good tumbler is that it needs to be, well the width of a tumbler is generally between three and four inches. In my opinion a tumbler should not be bigger around than three and a quarter inches finished and fired because most people’s hands are not going to fit around it that well. And if it’s a three and a half inch wide thing, you know, an NBA player that can palm a basketball it’s going to be great for them but for most of the population it’s not. And mostly when I think of tumblers I really like it to not be tippy. A lot of them that are small on the bottom, I don’t like that they are tippy and I think that’s a real flaw in a tumbler is when it’s tippy and too small on the bottom.
Is a mug just as simple as putting a handle on a tumbler?
Yeah, it is. That’s what would make it a mug. To make a good mug that you would want to use every day is a very different situation. And I think what I want in a mug is I want it to stay hot. I want my coffee to stay hot in there and I want my drinks to stay cold in there, so I don’t like it to be small at the bottom and big at the top. It needs to be slightly conical or a barrel shape is a good mug that I want to use. So it’s not too small at the bottom. Basically the same principals as a tumbler with a handle that you should be able to fit two fingers or more in.
Do you think a mug should have a little thicker wall just for thermal retention?
Not necessarily. I mean I think great mugs are thin and great mugs are thicker walled sometimes. A lot of times it depends on clay density really. Because if it’s porcelain it’s going to be too heavy if it’s a thick wall. If it’s stoneware and it’s got a lot of rocks and stuff in there maybe it will be lighter to pick it up. It’s more about balance I think than it is about thick or thin.
What makes a great bowl?
I think a great bowl is one that is made for the intention that it gets used. You know, an ice cream bowl if it’s made for ice cream it’s going to be around four inches wide and two and half, three inches tall. Honestly what makes a good bowl is how it fits in your hand if you are holding it and eating with the other hand.
What makes a plate really good?
I think if it’s just the right size to fit a sandwich in that’s where you want it to be. But if it’s a dinner plate I think eleven inches is a little big. I like it between ten and eleven for a dinner. I made these plates recently that were six inches wide, muffin plates, that are great for little snacks. So I think if you consider what food is going in it and how it’s going to be used and it ends up going in the sink, in the dishwasher, and back on shelf to immediately going back in with the other members that are in your house then you know you have arrived at a good thing.
What’s your favorite piece to make?
Lately I’m really interested in making large scale planters. If I am going to choose how to spend my time I’m going to make pieces that are between ten pounds and thirty pounds because that’s what I’m interested right now. I enjoy making mugs a lot. I feel like that’s pretty meditative.
The Unknown Craftsman by Bernard Leach
Pioneer Pottery by Micheal Cardew