Monday, March 5, 2012

Ron Philbeck's Possum Cup

     Whimsical possums appeal to my odd sense of humor.  My brother once adopted a baby possum that sat on his shoulder like a pirate's parrot until it got bigger and took to nibbling not-too-gently on his ear.  

     Back in college I played with possum imagery using underglazes on cups, bowls and tiles.  It kept me amused for a long time.  A few years ago I painted a series of watercolor possums on ACEO cards.  When I saw Ron Philbeck's possum cup it brought back a flood of memories.

Troy Bungart possums: L underglaze on bowl, R watercolor 

Ron Philbeck Possum Cup
     Ron's terra cotta cup is coated with buttery white slip then hand-incised with a sgraffito design of a grinning possum hanging by its tail.  The bold color is entirely the result of his rich red clay.  The cup is sealed with a clear gloss glaze that fits remarkably well, with no pinholes or crazing.  

     Ron's relaxed approached to his functional wheel work results in a comfortable feel and posture to the cup.  He gives the cup a solid stance by trimming the foot with a wide base. He doesn't consider finger ridges or tool marks to be defects, but instead incorporates the parts of the process into the design of the cup.  

     Ron has impressed his name with a well-made chop low on the side of the cup along with "signature" finger indentations.  His spiral tool mark on the bottom is a decorative element, a hidden surprise.  The "paint drips" of slip on the inside could be an "oops" that wasn't worth fixing, but they are too well placed to be really accidental.  They carry the casual humor to the inside where I can notice them as the level in the cup goes down.

     For a while most of my own pottery work involved surface imagery.  Imagery is a quick way to convey the emotion of a pot.  In his lighthearted way, Ron pushes his possum into the realm of the comical.  He isn't dealing with the reality of a possum.  His is a cartoon depiction from our collective imagination where possums hang by their tails (they don't).  Possums are sometimes known as "grinners," and Ron's sports a huge, comical grin. 

     Ron's work is easy to enjoy.  It lightens the load after a hard day.   He explains his work on his Etsy profile page:  "Pots are made in small series, each similar, but not the same as the rest.  Think of them as a large extended family."  I like his metaphor.  When I look at Ron's Etsy gallery, I see chickens, goats, rabbits and possums staring at me through lines of laundry like snapshots in a family photo album.  

     Fact is that I feel rather akin to the little possum buddy on my cup.  He puts a smile on my own face.  It makes me feel like Buddy and I belong in Ron's family album, too.  


  1. Hey Troy. That post sure put a smile on my face. Thanks so much for your kind words. I'm glad you like the cup. That last photo is brilliant! ~Ron

  2. Troy, nice post! I also like the pictures. Can't help but notice the "possum gray" in the last one. Gosh has it been that long since I've seen you my friend? Lol
    We will have to rectify that soon. ~ Frank