Artist: Larry Brow '80
(American, b. 1958)

Location: Hallway, 1st floor
Bucksbaum Center for the Arts
Brow, Chair #931202, 1993



Campus Sculpture Tour

Larry Brow


CHAIR #931202, 1993
Cone Six Stoneware
28 x 21 x 17 inches

Larry Brow constructed Chair #931202 as part of a week-long ceramics workshop at Grinnell in 1993 to illustrate methods of technique. Though the technique demonstrated was neither new nor original, it is unusual for contemporary ceramic artists. Based on the techniques of Korean Onggi potters, Chair #931202 illustrates Brow’s adaptation of an innovative process developed to build large pots very quickly without the use of water. Brow describes the process this way: “The chair gets taller in five-inch strips, and new strips of clay are only added when the previous bits have stiffened enough to bear the weight.” In the Korean tradition, a paddle and anvil are then used to smoothly connect the pieces. Brow also demonstrated throwing and trimming techniques on the wheel, including “trimming with a machete.”  The workshop was designed to encourage students to find new prospects for their work. As Brow says, “The point was generally that the students should expand their sense of the sort of things that were possible.”

Brow has long been dedicated to expanding his and others’ sense of the possibilities of ceramics, making clay chairs since the 1980s and writing his M.F.A. thesis on the subject. As he writes in his thesis, these chairs challenge viewers, tempting them to sit, to touch. “To know and understand each chair, you must give up your personal doubts and ‘DO NOT TOUCH’ training. You must sit. Only then can you begin to understand the piece.” But Brow’s chairs do more than challenge his viewers—they comfort them. Chair #931202, a low, almost squatting chair, cups you in its cool clay, with its back gently pressing yours. Its low support allows you to lean back fully—it arches and curves so that you may, too. Though sitting is, of course, a stationary activity, Chair #931202 invites you to move slowly, exploring its spaces and surfaces. The chair’s surfaces comfort just as its structure does. Mottled with raised and recessed patterns, its slight textures intrigue fingertips. These decorative details move away from the traditional aspects of the chair’s construction—some of the subtle texture on the chair’s surface are patterns imbedded from the sole of a shoe Brow borrowed from a student attending the workshop.

Brow’s work combines technical and traditional aspects, melding them into a functional object. For example, the number of the utilitarian-sounding title, 931202, refers to the final day Brow added wet clay to the chair (Dec. 2, 1993). Brow uses this information to calculate drying time when bisque firing the pieces. Chair #931202 merges the ancient tradition of Onggi pottery with contemporary sculpture, uniting form, function, and process to create a comfortable, unique chair. Technique and form intrigue Brow, but his ultimate concern is always for an active viewer. “[T]hough the process has been important to me, the joys and frustrations of its construction are part of my memory, evident in the shapes and surfaces of the chair, but never more important than the final product and its relationship to you. I want you to feel better because of my art.”

About the Artist: Larry Brow ’80, an alumnus of Grinnell College, earned an M.A. in 1988 and an M.F.A. in 1989 from the University of Iowa. Currently, he operates Please Touch Pottery in Lawrence, Kan. Brow’s thrown pots reside in locations across the United States, Canada, England, Australia, and Norway. In addition to maintaining his business, he is a faculty member at the Lawrence Arts Center, where he teaches ceramics.

Essay by Christine Hancock ‘06


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