Richard Burkett on Computers, Then and Now

By Christina Dabek
Jun 20, 2019

IBM 1620 at DePauw University. Photo courtesy of Richard Burkett.Screenshot of Rhinoceros software. Photo courtesy of Richard Burkett.The current issue of Studio Potter highlights the importance of 3-D printing in the ceramics field. Professor and author Richard Burkett’s article, “A Perspective on Computers & Clay,” acts as a time machine that exposes the computer’s role in ceramics through the years. He recounts his first experience with a computer, the IBM 1620, in 1968. Twenty years later, he developed the first working version of HyperGlaze, a glaze calculation software. Fast-forwarding to 1992, Burkett became a co-owner of ClayArt Listserv, the first online ceramics discussion forum. He then takes readers through the mid-nineties, when he was introduced to Rhino3D software for ceramic design. Zooming up to the present, Burkett writes,

I would love to see where technology takes us in another seventy-five to one hundred years. I can only hope that the hand is still involved, along with the heart and mind… Be fearless about art and by all means embrace change and innovation, while respecting the past.

Speaking of the past, let’s jump in our own SP time machine: Richard Burkett wrote an article about computers in Studio Potter, Volume 20, Number 2, June 1992, titled, “Ceramics and Computers.” In it, he explains the benefits of his educational glaze calculation software, HyperGlaze, including calculations of percentage recipes, batch recipes, cost of the batch, and estimated thermal expansion and unity molecular formula for the recipe. At this time, the computer did not have much of a role in ceramics. One subheading is even titled, “Do Real Artists Use Computers?” Burkett explains why artists were hesitant to use computers by writing,

There is a great deal of questioning by the art world whenever artists make use of such seemingly alien pieces of equipment as the computer. Computers, many would argue, are in the realm of engineers and scientists who measure the world in numerical data. Artists deal with visual descriptions and translations of the same world on a more personal and emotional level.

Who would have thought that just twenty-seven years later computers, that were once considered “alien pieces of equipment,” would become a crucial tool in the ceramic arts? Subscribe to become a Studio Potter member and gain full access to the history of ceramic art through our journals.

Recent News

Feb 1, 2023

On a recent excursion to raft the Grand Canyon, I found myself contemplating the depth of time. Time, when you are six thousand feet below the horizon line, presents itself in wonderous complexity: measurements, sequences, dimensions, and experiences (past, present, and future). Having survived... Read More

Share Share
Jan 1, 2023

We wish you a happy new year from all of us at Studio Potter.

2022 was a year of sweeping social change, and I loved – most of – it. I valued the growth, the inclusivity, the challenges to oppression, and the hard questions... Read More

Share Share
Dec 1, 2022

There exist a great variety of landscapes that are representative of a sense of place and identity. Physical and cultural landscapes reveal our evolving relationship with the world – a symbiosis between human activity and the environment. Communities and individuals alike benefit from scenic,... Read More

Share Share