Light Gatherer

Posted: 25.11.2008

Rudolph Staffel, Light Gatherer, 1980, translucent porcelain, 7 3/4 x 5 1/4 x 5″. Photo:

This beautiful pot was made by a subtle, profound, quiet, but very large presence in the world of art, Rudi Staffel. Rudi was on the ceramics faculty of Tyler School of Art for 38 years, and he changed the way everyone at Tyler saw, felt and dreamed about the process of making things. His involvement in Buddhism was deeply manifest in his work. When asked about spontaneity in his work he said:

Spontaneity would have to do with the physical mudra or gesture that encompases Buddhism. That is, the same moment can never happen twice, so be aware of it as it passes.

In order to improve the translucency and strength of porcelain, Staffel revolutionized the “recipe” for porcelaneous clay bodies, which enabled him to create glowing, calligraphic vessels.

Staffel was a former student of Hans Hofmann. Abstract expressionism and Hofmanns’s “push – pull” theory are evident when he says:

Translucency absorbs light, holds light, and lets some go through… it stores light, while it transmits light… inner light.

To be aware of translucency, you must have opaqueness… You are not aware of push until you see pull. It’s the contrast in the body of the pot, between thick and thin, that gives the sensation of translucency.

I think about Rudi’s work frequently, grateful that I was able for 4 years to watch these beautiful forms develop. His Light Gatherers can be seen at The Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Smithsonian Museum of American Art.