“Utility with emptiness”

In researching and preparing for my MA Research Methodologies essay / presentation, I came across a presentation by a former MA (Fine Art) student at Bath Spa University called Hyo Sook Lee and a slide referring to “LaoTzui”, linking to the phrase “utility with emptiness” with a picture of a tea bowl. After some research, I tracked down this quote from Laozi a 6th century Chinese philosopher and author of the Tao Te Ching (often simply referred to as the Laozi:

Thirty spokes converge on a hub, but it’s the emptiness that makes a wheel work, pots are fashioned from clay, but it’s the hollow that make a pot work, windows and doors are carved for a house, but it’s the spaces that make a house work, existence makes something useful, but nonexistence makes it work (from: http://mindfuldiscipline.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/utility-in-emptiness.html )

I found this phrase profoundly thought provoking and useful. It also connected to some thinking and discussion I am having with a fellow MA (Fine Art) student at Bath Spa, Michie Lyne around the connection between water and clay and utility. The idea that clay only arrives at a plastic, malleable state, when holding a specific quantity of water (i.e. the water is held within), is the first vital stage for a potter and yet it is only when that water is driven off by heat and fired, that the new ceramic, will then hold water externally (i.e. held without…..) linking to the idea of utility with emptiness…..

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