One of the most important things I've done to train my eye for design is to collect images of pots, both of my own and of other potters. First, I suggest you become the world's leading collector of your own pots. Remember, we're talking about images. Take multiple images of every pot you make, especially the clunkers! Describe what you've done and why things turned out the way they did. I refer to my own pots quite a bit when I'm looking for ideas about what forms to make or what glazes to use on certain clays. It's amazing how much I forget or how distorted my memory is. When I look back at images of pots that I've made, I'll often see how to make that form better or glaze it better or it may even inspire me to make a different form altogether.
Second, start collecting images of pots that are interesting to you for one reason or another. I say "for one reason or another" deliberately. Many of the images in my collection are there because of one thing I found interesting: maybe the way a foot or rim was formed, maybe the way a glaze broke on the edges, or maybe the way a design was carved. Most of the images, however, are of pots that are good all-rounders, i.e. they put it all together. Whatever you do, however, don't collect images of pots just because they're made by famous potters. I don't have any images of pots made by potters like Bernard Leach, Shoji Hamada or Michael Cardew. The reason why? Although their ideas have had a profound impact on me, their pots have not.
Okay, you've stuck with me so far, so let me make some suggestions about how to put together your own collection of pottery images. First, figure out how you want to organize them. I list the images by the potter's name like this: Hans Coper 1, Hans Coper 2, and so forth under each image. If there are two or more images of the same pot, I list them as Hans Coper 3a, Hans Coper 3b, and so forth. It's very important to me to identify the potter so I can remember who they are when I want to do more research on them. Second, figure out where to find images of pots. Here are a few suggestions: (1) Start with the books you have about pottery. Pottery books are usually filled with photos of pots. Which ones really grab you? Now find out who made them. (2) Go to msn.com or google.com and look up the potter ("Hans Coper pottery," for instance). Usually they'll give you the option of looking at "images" which is what you want. (3) Pick out images that interest you and always download the largest image you can find. A larger image file gives you more options, especially for zooming in and getting a close up of the details. (4) Become a member of pinterest and look at images under categories like "pottery" or "ceramics." You'll find scores of images and be introduced to more amazing potters than you may even want to know about. (5) Visit museum websites. For ideas about where to start, look at my page on "Resources." (6) When you visit museums, take images of pots in their collection. Every museum I know of will allow you to take photos of their pieces as long as you turn off the flash. And learn how to use the macro or closeup mode on your camera if it has one. Nothing worse than coming home with dozens of blurry images. My family went to Chicago this past summer and while there we visited museums like the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago and the Art Institute of Chicago. The Oriental Institute specializes in the ancient near east and it was the first time I'd looked closely at ancient pots. I've been to this museum before, but it's interesting how much more I saw now that I've become a potter. The skill of these ancient potters is amazing. I was especially blown away by the Bakun potters of ancient Iran. (I've included images of some of their pots below.) The Art Institute's collection is more diverse and included some of the best pots I've seen anywhere. In one area they have pots made by Africans and Native Americans, including Pre-Columbian groups. There's another section where they have pots by the Ancient Greeks and Etruscans. I took dozens of images and look back at them often for design ideas. Locally I enjoy visiting the Honolulu Museum of Art which has an outstanding collection of Asian pots. Their collection of Korean and Japanese pots is especially deep and they periodically put out new groupings for us to enjoy. (7) Keep an eye out for auctions of ceramics. For instance, look at www.cowanauctions.com and click on "Modern Ceramics." Garth Clark and Mark Del Vecchio have teamed up with Cowan's Auctions in Cincinnati to offer great pieces of pottery for sale at least two times a year. The next sale is May 16, 2014. You can also look at past catalogs and get images from them as well. Here are two more examples of auction catalogs that I just ran into. Bukowkis (www.bukowkis.com) is a Swedish auction house that offers Scandinavian ceramics on a regular basis. You can usually find them in their "Modern" sales they have a few times a year under "Ceramics." For some great examples, look at their auction of February 21, 2011 (A Large Private Collection of Swedish Ceramics). For me the interesting stuff starts on page 6 with Wilhelm Kage. Bukowkis not only offers great ceramics, I'm especially interested in how large and clear their images are. Easily the best I've seen and the detail helps me understand how the pots were made. I just ran into another great auction catalog recently when Invaluable put out their latest "auction alerts" email. Piasa in Paris is offering a wide variety of French ceramics in their December 17th, 2013 catalog (Ceramique Francais: 1945-1970). I'm not familiar at all with French ceramics, so every potter was new to me. Not all of these are to my taste, but many of them are and I'm sure you'll find some amazing pieces here. The images are all high quality. (8) Visit gallery websites. Most galleries carry high quality pieces and have high quality images of each one. For instance, if you'd like to see some of the best recent work by artists like Warren MacKenzie, Barbro Aberg, and Masamichi Yoshikawa, visit Lacoste Gallery in Concord, Massachusetts (www.lacostegallery.com). Lacoste carries the work of other great contemporary potters like these and has high quality images of their pieces. Third, periodically save your images on something like a flash drive. It would be quite a waste if your computer crashed and you lost all of those images.
So, here are some images of Bakun pots at the Oriental Institute, University of Chicago, that were made more than 6,000 years ago...