While walking through the Amish and Pennsylvania German collection at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, my friend pointed out a donut-shaped hip flask because of its simplicity. It looked rough and old, but the idea was something I knew I could reinterpret with a modern sensitivity. The circular shape stood out—it‘s easy to hold or tie a slipknot around to wear or carry.
c. 1830-1850, glazed redware
When I set out to make my own version of the circle flask, I learned that it is a simple process that requires a lot of patience. To start, you center a ball of clay and gradually open up the middle until it looks something like a flat donut. After steadily applying pressure to the middle of the body, you join both walls together, trapping air as you put pressure on the top to seal the form.
Origin: Mt. Crawford, VA
I got so carried away on the first few attempts to refine the outside that I ended up with a few deflated donuts. The walls would be too thin on one side or the form would go off-center. It was probably the sound of air escaping from the donut, much like an abrupt sigh, that kept me practicing until I got it right. Looking back at the earlier prototypes, I notice small embarrassing details. There is always room for improvement and interpretation.
Although I take a lot of pride in hand making things in small editions, I'm happy that this piece is now accessible to a wider audience. The more people it starts a dialogue with about the history of the flask, the better. I've also become familiar with other interpretations of the flask and love that a classic and ancient form can bring modern creators together.
Object & Totem is a small handmade ceramics and jewelry studio produced by Julianne Ahn, a graduate from The Rhode Island School of Design and The School of the Art Institute of Chicago with a background in Textiles and Fiber & Materials Studies. Inspired by the nuances of meditative processes such as cording and turning, each product is created by hand with a focus on maintaining its novelty, craft and memory whether functional or an intimate piece of decor. Formerly based in Philadelphia and Berlin, the studio is currently located in Brooklyn, NY and continues to evolve, with a current emphasis on classic tableware, limited edition vessels, hand thrown beaded jewelry and experimental art objects.