When we think of art forms depicted in modern movies, pottery is honestly one of the last things that comes to mind. But unexpectedly, throughout the history of cinema, pottery has been featured prominently in a number of movies and even TV shows. Let’s have a look at several films that beautifully illustrate pottery making and the stories they convey.
- The Colour Room (2021)
Genre: Biographical drama
A 2021 British drama film called The Colour Room tells the inspiring tale of Clarice Cliff, a working woman who redefines workplace norms at a ceramic factory in 1920s England.
Extremely determined, Clarice defies expectations as she confronts numerous challenges in her pottery career. Despite the risks, she undertakes multiple apprenticeships to gain a variety of skills to help her succeed.
She begins working in ceramics as an apprentice modeler which is an unusual position for a woman at the time. Many seem to notice her gift, and she eventually attracts the eyes of the factory owner, Colley Shorter.
Due to a lack of materials, Clarice creates her Bizarre line by transforming imperfect ceramics into vivid Art Deco patterns. Her decision, supported by clever marketing and celebrity endorsements, would save the factory during the Great Depression.
Clarice eventually marries Colley Shorter, who helped her foster her talent in addition to her own tenacity.
- Utz (1992)
Genre: Comedy, Drama
The 1992 British movie Utz was adapted from Bruce Chatwin’s book of the same name.
The protagonist of the narrative is Marius Fisher, a gallery owner from New York who meets Baron von Utz, a Czech millionaire, while travelling abroad. Utz has a priceless collection of Meissen porcelain in his small apartment in Prague. A monkey orchestra and series of lovely countesses are just a few of the fascinating works in the collection meticulously handcrafted. Fisher manages to strike a deal with Utz, who arranges for his precious collection to be kept up until his death, foreshadowed by Utz’s frequent health issues and sudden stroke.
After Utz’s death, Fisher goes back to Prague to locate pieces of Utz’s priceless collection. However, the figurines have mysteriously vanished. They are also not present in the state museum that was promised to receive them.
His early personal life is shown in flashbacks, along with a portrayal of his behaviour towards Marta, a village girl he previously met and eventually employed. Finding no leads at the state museum, Fisher tries to visit Marta, but is unsuccessful – unravelling the mystery that is Utz’s life along with his lifelong obsession with the stunning Meissen collection so treasured and invaluable to him and now, the community.
- Haruka’s Pottery (2019)
Naruhito Suetsugu, who is also the screenwriter for the feature film, makes his directorial debut with Haruka’s Pottery.
In this film, a young woman unintentionally discovers a display of Bizen ceramics. She has been stuck in a boring office job and appears to be unsure of what she wants to do with her life. After being mesmerised by the beauty of traditional Bizen ware, her passion for pottery is ignited.
She makes a spontaneous decision to quit her job and leave her Tokyo apartment to pursue her dream of being a Bizen pottery apprentice in Okayama. There, she encounters Osamu, a master artist specialising in Bizen pottery.
With this movie, you can witness profound charm and adaptability in diverse and dynamic characters, and grasp the extensive heritage of Bizen pottery.
This is accomplished not only through well-crafted dialogues but also intriguing visuals depicting characters absorbed in the hands-on creation of unique vessels like pots, cups, and flasks from clay.
- We Make Antiques! (2018)
We Make Antiques! is a comedy about the world of antiques and the shenanigans of the people who live and breathe these ancient collectibles.
This story is set in Kyoto, following Norio, a modest antique dealer, who is approached by the elegant Shino to track down a historically valuable tea-cup crafted by Master Oribe from the 16th century. Shino’s late father owned the cup, and she seeks its recovery after he had been swindled, which resulted in him losing the precious antique.
Norio and pottery artist Sasuke team up to create a lifelike imitation to replace the missing cup. However, the narrative shifts when Shino’s true intentions are revealed – recognising their skills, she proposes a lucrative scheme involving exposing an underground network of vice dealers selling counterfeits globally.
Norio and Sasuke then strengthen their taskforce with talented friends to launch a quest to smash the dishonest operation and exact revenge on those who previously damaged their reputation.
- Beef (2023)
Genre: Dark Comedy
Beef is a 2023 dark-comedy Netflix series about a failed contractor and a miserable plant business owner getting into a road rage altercation.
The art in the show hangs in the background, featuring architecture, high-end furniture and eccentric ceramic pieces.
In the middle of the show, the attention moves over to the ceramic artworks of Amy’s husband, George. A group linked to Danny Cho, a contractor, attempts to steal the ceramics. Two of Danny’s acquaintances proceed to break into Amy’s darkened home to steal a piece with figures resembling reddish slugs.
George’s mother, Fumi, accidentally witnesses the robbery while she is in her son’s house to retrieve her valuable mint-colored chair named Tamago. She aims to sell the chair, which was designed by late husband. However, both theft attempts don’t quite go as planned.
Pottery in the Film Industry
Pottery as a recurring theme in cinema has been prevalent for a long time. Its significance in films lies mainly in the fact that it represents various intense and enthralling emotions. It can depict fragility, strength, elegance, and much more.
Pottery in iconic films like Ghost and Harry Potter have also been used as storytelling tools to add another subtle layer of emotional depth. In addition to that, pottery has also been utilised to establish particular moods and characters. It has been implemented in an abundance of ways, from helping to shape a character’s identity to representing a momentous transition.
These symbols in film have come a long way. From classic Hollywood films to contemporary cinema and international films, they can contribute immense complexity, purpose and soul to the screen.
The next time you’re watching a movie, pay attention to the subtle but significant presence of pottery because it offers a window into a time-tested world of skill and imagination. Learn more about how pottery has complemented our lives and artistic desires with us at Terra & Ember, where you are empowered and equipped with the tools and abilities to live passionately, as they do in film.