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Joseph Fireborn

Quality Of Work Sold?

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I am constantly looking at other pottery after I finished up my work for the day. I start my kiln for testing, I come in and look around the internet shops, etsy, and other venues to relax and draw inspiration.

 

When I browse through pots and look at the high detail pictures. I see so many people selling functional pots with obvious flaws. While the pot is beautifully designed, I see several things like glazes not being fully melted on the inside of mugs. I see micro dimples all over the place. Some people are selling functional pots with tons of pinholes on food surfaces. Now I understand non functional pots can have all sorts of defects as part of the pot. I also understand some aesthetics have those defects on purpose. However when I look at these pots, I don't think they were aiming for these results.

 

I am not being a snob or anything like that, I just am a bit confused. Why are these people selling pots like this? I am working so hard to fix small flaws in beautiful glazes.  My wife says I am crazy and that I should be selling my pots. However I can't think about selling a pot with micro dimples, or even a single pinhole. I work hard to find liner glazes that fully melt and look good on the inside of cups and bowls. 

 

Am I just crazy or do others feel the same way I do. I feel like I am on the cusp of fixing most of my problems, and I hope that when I do sell pots, others who receive them will feel like they have received a beautiful well made and tested pot. 

 

So just out of curiosity and not bashing any potters or anything, how do you others feel about this? Do you feel micro dimples or pinholes degrade your work, or do you sell it anyways?

 

Also, just as a side note, I was browsing through pottery at the mall, and plenty of high end wares had micro dimples, which I found surprising.

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only the highest quality work should be offered for sale.  that said, everyone has an opinion on what is high quality.  i know a person who paints flowers on pots.  she would never sell a badly painted flower but she sells collapsed pots as planters and after several discussions with her, she still thinks that is perfectly ok.

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Guest JBaymore

 Do you feel micro dimples or pinholes degrade your work, or do you sell it anyways?

 

The aesthetic I am after for a lot of my work includes rocks breaking out of the surface of the clay, crawling, pinholing, crazing, fire erosion, rough ash deposits, and other such stuff.  And yes... on "functional work" (whatever that actually means).

 

It is all high-touch, heavily controlled, and deliberate.

 

Totally different view than you will likely hear out of most here. ;)

 

Pinholes when you are NOT looking for them, crazing when you are NOT looking for it, cracks when you are not looking for them, crawling when you are not looking for it ....... that is a totally different story.

 

FIRST you have to gain solid control...... before you can let it go.

 

You are on the right road as expressed above. 

 

Too many see work that is of a high level but allows for serendipity...and mistakenly assume that it is lack of control.  It is ultimate control. 

 

Missing that... they often think that "anything goes".  Big mistake.

 

Example... want to throw good loose pots?  Learn to throw like a robot making lathe turned metal parts first.  Then you can make good loose pots.

 

best,

 

.......................john

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John,

 

I have looked at your work several times and I understand that is the look you are going for. When I look at your pots, it is obvious that was the look you were working towards when you created the pot.

 

I am glad I am not crazy. I feel like it's a hill, once you climb to the top you can create funkyness on your way down, before that its all perfecting the small details. I am enjoying testing my way to the hill top, even though I know its years and years away. If I can get one or two glazes that I feel I know them good enough and can expect the results to be consistent with them, I will be happy enough to sell those pots.

 

By the way: I define functional as used pottery, not pottery sitting on a shelf forever and never touched until the owner moves it to another shelf. Not sure if that is accurate, but its simple and easy to explain to someone who doesn't pot when they ask me what I am trying to achieve.

 

So a silky smooth pot with a beautiful illustration and pinholes around the rim of the pot is a defect in my mind. A mug with a glossy slick outside and a semi melted inside that has pinholes and roughness is a defect in my mind. I can't imagine selling these things, but I guess what you said makes sense. They see others do it, and thus it must be ok. 

 

Again not being a snob, just wondering what the world views as what.

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Just a couple random thoughts . . . a few years back I was looking through the pottery at a Sugar Loaf event (juried entries/high cost booth fees). Was surprised at how many pieces had bits of kiln wash stuck to the pot feet. Talk about detracting from the wares. Just no excuse for that lack of workmanship.

 

Sometimes, I think we potters are even more critical of flaws than the general buying public. Mostly, that is a good thing. I've tossed many pots my wife thought were okay to sell. I keep reminding her, it is my name on the bottom, not yours. I am not comfortable selling crazed wares, especially if it is intended for food use.

 

This summer, while visiting New Mexico, stopped by the Taos Pottery to find something to take home with me. After much looking, I found a teapot that begged to be taken home. The potter had several available and it was a tough choice. While wrapping up the teapot, the potter working the gallery asked why I had picked that particular teapot. I told her it had a glaze flaw that made it unique. A potter's teapot.

 

And a quote from Picasso -- Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist. At times I think we have too many potters working that backwards; they want to break the rules before the learn them.

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Guest JBaymore

And a quote from Picasso -- Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist. At times I think we have too many potters working that backwards; they want to break the rules before the learn them.

 

One of my undergrad ceramics professors at UMass Amherst... a very inspirational and smart lady named Brenda Minisci, gave me one gem one day in a crit that has stayed with me all my life.  I had already been introduced to the Japanese aesthetics that have steered my career at that time.  And I was trying to emulate those totally "wonky" pots I'd been looking at in books and museums.  She looked at some of my work and said something like,  'The flesh of these pots does not have any bones to provide support'.  I realized that at that time I was only seeing the superficial... the outside of the potter's soul.  I did not understand what I was actually seeing... and I then strove to look deeper.

 

Another important guiding idea from my early life that helped to form how I have approached the craft comes directly from Hamada Shoji-sensei.  Most everyone sort of thinks of him as a quaint "folk potter" making very casual and loose pieces in a very earthy and natural tradition.  But before he became the hand-craft potter everyone knows.... he had an undergrad degree in technical ceramics and also the equivalent of a ceramic Engineering masters degree.  His mastery of the technical side allowed him to let all of that go and work intuitively.

 

Those two things have been "guiding principles" that I've tried to assimilate over the years.  And ideas that I try to pass on to students.

 

best,

 

.........................john

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.  His mastery of the technical side allowed him to let all of that go and work intuitively.

 

Those two things have been "guiding principles" that I've tried to assimilate over the years.  And ideas that I try to pass on to students.

 

best,

 

.........................john

 

 

I often have those students, who question some famous art/ artist.  "How is that Art?!!!"  "I could do that!!!"  And I, of course, also have some, who try to create similar works, just to be lazy.

 

I point out, that often, those artists, are the first to be recognized for creating such a work.  They developed the technique, or process.  I also point out, that many artist, trained in the "traditional" techniques.  Picasso may be known for his Cubism, but he started with Realism, and worked his way there, over YEARS.

 

On the other hand, there are those artists, who don't feel like taking the time, to learn necessary techniques, instead trying to just create their own style, without a proper foundation.  I think we've all met artists like that.  I went to school with a few of them...

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This might not be a popular view, but to me, beauty is much more important than perfection.

 

I could easily produce a mug with a "perfect" glaze.  No pinholes, or excessive flow, or crazing.  A perfectly uniform surface.  After all, this is what you get when you go into a department store and buy a mass-produced mug.  But it wouldn't be an interesting object, at least to me.

 

There are reasons why interesting glazes are usually problematic glazes.  They do something other than melt smoothly and boringly on the surface of the clay.  They move, they boil, they develop bubbles and swirls.  As a result, their surface will not be perfect... but they may be beautiful.

 

As an example... when I was a young potter, I used an as-dug-from-the-ground stoneware for a number of years.  It was dug with a backhoe from a pit out behind Hamm's Pottery near Tuscaloosa, and sold in plastic form.  In order to use it for functional ware, I built an extruder, so I could force the stuff through a stainless screen.  This removed twigs and roots and large hematite nodules, but left many small hematite bits in the clay.  When fired to Cone 10-11, in reduction, these bits melted out of the clay and ran down the sides of the pot.  This left little holes in the surface of the piece, but the effect was beautiful and random.  Later, when my production reached the point that I no longer had the time to process the Hamm's clay, I switched to a Standard body.  My work was thereafter more uniform, and the melt-out flaws no longer decorated my work... and the work was not as beautiful.  It was a kind of regression, even though the pieces were more likely to be flawless.

 

Here's another example.  If you go to the department store and buy a cheap plate, you'll get a near-perfect glaze.  If you go to Dansk, you'll get a beautiful plate.  My wife has a set of beautiful and expensive Dansk stoneware plates, and they are beautiful.  They are also not perfect, because the body contains random bits of iron that melt out and leave pinholes in the surface.

 

Anyway, I guess what I'm trying to say is that if the piece is functional-- you wouldn't want to use a crater glaze in a soup bowl-- the important thing is how beautiful it is (or how well it succeeds in displaying whatever value you hold dearest.) 

 

A lack of pinholes does not definitively imply a good pot.  An abundance of pinholes does not definitively imply a bad pot.

 

I'll close with an example from my own work.  It's crazed and pinholed and has areas of devitrification and flashing.  But to my eye, it is more beautiful than a smooth perfect glaze would be.

 

 

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post-65900-0-27471800-1436247861_thumb.jpg

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,

 

I tend to draw a line between defects on functional work and surface flaws/effects that add character to a piece.  For example: I was sorting through a firing yesterday and found a bowl with a lovely glaze effect but a very tiny 's' crack in the bottom, inside of the bowl.  In my heart, I know that it could have been sold as a fruit bowl (as a second) without a problem...but knowing that someone might attempt to use it as a large soup serving dish rules it out (for me) as something I am willing to sell. Knowing that the defect is actually something that I caused in the making process made it a frustrating mistake and the piece ended up in shards for the dumpster.

 

I will always err to safety when it comes to surfaces that come in contact with food...I consider any technical defect that might trap bacteria or cause a problem over time a fatal flaw and will not sell those items. If the glaze has bubbles/blisters in the food contact area, I may re-glaze/re-fire a piece, but I'm not willing to take the risk that someone's eating utensil might chip off a bubble and end up as food.

 

When it comes to surface treatments where there is contact with the hand/skin, I am all about tactile experiences (excluding anything that might actually cut/break the skin).  In a related issue, I try to be sensitive on how a piece might rest on someone's furniture...I think it is essential to make feet a smooth as possible to avoid the possibility of scratching someone's favorite table.

 

Beyond the functional world...all rules above are much more relaxed (with the exception of smooth feet).

-Paul

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I think too many potters are convinced to start selling before they are even close to understanding anything much.

 

Make a few pots and someone will try to get you to justify your efforts by trying to put a $$$ price on it. "What are you going to do with all this stuff?" "You should sell some, it's really nice." "I would pay for that!" Then you get bad pots shoved out into the world.

 

When I voiced this opinion that no one should sell any work their first couple years, I was accused of being afraid of the competition. No, I was afraid of what I was looking at ... a platter's glaze had crawled so much there was none left on the food surface ... or a raku fired pot sold as dinnerware ... Dishes so heavy and badly formed they could be weapons.

 

There is nothing wrong with waiting until your work is up to your standards and resisting other people's need to attach their outcome to your effort.

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I agree with Chris that there is a lot of cringe worthy work out there. There are also questionable "craft sales" at every hospital and church do. I try to walk past before the spirits of the bad pots get to me.

I don't know who is the arbiter of good technical skill, but I would say that you shouldn't be selling anything for at least the first two years.

Like I told my 17 year old daughter the other day...she won't be dating until she is AT LEAST 35.

TJR.

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As students, we were warned not to put matte glazes on food surfaces, but that Stoneware Yellow was so pretty on the inside of my favorite mug, which I kept and used constantly for my coffee/creamer/sugar. It took about a year before it had a sour-milk smell that washing in the hottest soap/bleach/water couldn't remove (this was before microwaves or it probably would have happened sooner). It's still a beautiful mug-brushholder-reminder!!!

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Guest JBaymore

I think too many potters are convinced to start selling before they are even close to understanding anything much.

 

Make a few pots and someone will try to get you to justify your efforts by trying to put a $$$ price on it. "What are you going to do with all this stuff?" "You should sell some, it's really nice." "I would pay for that!" Then you get bad pots shoved out into the world.

 

When I voiced this opinion that no one should sell any work their first couple years, I was accused of being afraid of the competition. No, I was afraid of what I was looking at ... a platter's glaze had crawled so much there was none left on the food surface ... or a raku fired pot sold as dinnerware ... Dishes so heavy and badly formed they could be weapons.

 

There is nothing wrong with waiting until your work is up to your standards and resisting other people's need to attach their outcome to your effort.

 

 

Amen and Amen and Amen!  THANKS for being brave enough to say it first.  I thought about it... and said to myself.... "Nah...... can o worms."  I chickened out.  (Bad on me.)

 

And now of course .....we'll be called "elitist".

 

This kind of "beginner's work", when presented to the public, creates an impression,... and that impression of what "hand-crafted ceramics" is damages the field for all.  Short term gain for long term loss.

 

As an educator... I believe in education.

 

BUT...... free enterprise.  So...........................

 

best,

 

....................john

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I have participated in many art fairs where the booth across from me was a potter who makes less than acceptable work and sells it for a third of the price of mine. I have sat there in my booth for hours and hours watching the line of people wanting to buy their $8 mugs and $12 baking dishes. At first it drove me nuts and made me angry. Now I just ignore it and focus on what I'm doing. We will never be able to educate the entire buying public on what makes a pot good or bad, nor convince every potter to take a few more classes. It is what it is, as frustrating as that can be.

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Every art medium has it's rules to keep the medium itself from being inferior or deteriorating . So those who are artists learn the rules. And if they don't their work can suffer. So if I didn't pay attention when weaving , and wove away, well maybe the flaw developed right after removing from the loom, or after washing , or during garment construction . The flaw would be obvious and would either fail the project or ( rarely) add charm.

So when I decided on clay, no way did I understand what I was getting myself into. How could I understand that a chemical degree would be necessary? I am actually in awe that commercial glazes go down to a mm of the foot.

The pot isn't cracked , chipped or breaking, how do I judge whether the potter is inept or brilliant? I am just learning, but I am going to go by aesthetics first: I do have a good eye, and if they got that right , I will investigate further. I know enough now to look for a liner glaze for food surface.

There is a difference between one off pieces and pieces done in a run. Pieces done in a run I judge for function, durability, ease of use, safety. This is whether from an artisan or a "Walmart". I am much harder on functional wares , thus my standards go way up. If I feel a defect is going to break etc while in use I will not buy it.

Now special pieces, one offs- even when functional are judged on aesthetics, if I am drawn to a piece enough, I will take special care to make sure that it won't get hurt. In that case pinholes be dam*ed.

I can't afford 35 for a mug, but 20 I can justify if special, but I won't be able to afford a master, probably a masters least favorites, experiments, bad colors. Or an apprentice's firsts. Or somebody learning w a good sense of aesthetics.

If there was just perfection out there, I would own only my own art. I would never be able to buy it because: I am an artist and do not make a lot of money.

More important I would have never developed a personal sense of hand craft, because I would never have been able to buy things made by people if perfection was the bar. It takes years and years for anyone to get good at anything, if I could only buy them at there peak , they would be broke and I couldn't afford them.

The more that is out there, the better educated people will become. When that happens , when people know, then the inferior either can't be sold or will be sold for a lot less.

So I would rather see artisans out there making , selling etc, than everyone just bringing it out when perfect.

 

All that with the note: those who don't not follow safety and health hazard precautions, need to be told to do it, or else. Those people endanger the futur of ceramics.

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As for health hazardous pottery ... NO this should not be sold.   But as far as selling pottery that lacks aesthetic appeal or quality ... the customer is the judge of that.    There is no accounting for taste.     Those junk buyers won't become "more educated". During my 17 years of retailing, I never found anything that was so yuk that it wouldn't sell at some price.    And I've seen some really high end customers buy what I considered appalling merchandise.   I never considered it my job to tell them have gosh awful taste. :P  (but there were times when I ran in the back and laughed)  Why did I buy this appalling merchandise to begin with?  (appalling to me)  Because I KNEW it would sell.   It's all up to the customer.  What you see as imperfection, they may see as "unique".  

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Not sure I would use years to qualify potters, I think plenty of folks turn out a few pots as a hobby here and there, mostly for gifts or prototyping, so even if they have been doing it for 5-10 years they may still be making a lot of bad pots.

 

I personally don't think the problem is when they sell but rather what they sell. As long as a potter, of any duration, only takes professional level work to a show it's fine. That just means a huge toss rate when u start out that's all. Of course the artist gets to decide what he/she considers to be professional level work and that's as it should be, right?

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I think too many potters are convinced to start selling before they are even close to understanding anything much.

 

Make a few pots and someone will try to get you to justify your efforts by trying to put a $$$ price on it. "What are you going to do with all this stuff?" "You should sell some, it's really nice." "I would pay for that!" Then you get bad pots shoved out into the world.

 

When I voiced this opinion that no one should sell any work their first couple years, I was accused of being afraid of the competition. No, I was afraid of what I was looking at ... a platter's glaze had crawled so much there was none left on the food surface ... or a raku fired pot sold as dinnerware ... Dishes so heavy and badly formed they could be weapons.

 

There is nothing wrong with waiting until your work is up to your standards and resisting other people's need to attach their outcome to your effort.

This gets to the heart of it. I see a lot of stuff that should not see the light of day. Take the time to learn the whole deal no matter what the meduim. Practice makes perfect they used to say not sell it and make more.

There is far to much work that gets put out before the public (they are not even close to understanding anything much)as Chris said.

Thanks for stating this as I was thinking I'd flame up folks by stating this.

Mark

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This isn't just a problem in the market place. At art school, you see platters with big cracks in the bottom being offered up for a critique. I have also seen grad students carefully gluing work together to last long enough that they can take a photo for their portfolio.

Of course this is not the case for everyone but we need to make pretty sure that "craftmanship" is involved in the process.

If students are flogging questionable work, there is justification by admin for closing ceramic programs.Once these programs are gone, they are difficult to restart.

TJR.

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I have had several discussion of quality with other art teachers over the years, and family members. There are those out there that have such high opinions of their work that can not be challenged and not worth my effort.There are also those that have such low opinions of their work that they would never venture to sell anything, even though they should. It is frustrating to deal with the highs and the lows of egos.

 

It is even more difficult to deal with those that for some reason or other have had high acclaim from teachers or professors on the quality of their work when I see obvious immature flaws in design elements involving line, color, value etc. Seems to me that sometimes misdirected praise must have other concerns rather than the work. Just wonder what the reasons are. It is one of the reasons I tried to grade student work on the work, without looking at the name, then if need be adjust the grade. Sometimes a piece would be over and above their usual work and thus better grade. Sometimes too the work would be worse, and thus appropriately adjusted grade.

 

I believe all of these thoughts pertain to the present discussion. Yes, people get inflated egos when told "you should sell, this is great!" When they go out and sit for hours after the first show and go to the next with lower prices, selling much more, does it vindicate them, or the system. Yeah everyone out there is looking for a bargain. Some people know a real bargain when they see it. Others do not.  A good reason to have craft fairs/shows juried. I mean really juried, no "Oh he is a member of the guild, we let him in." Another reason why guilds have juried members and non juried members. So there is a need in our own dealings to ensure that the organizations we belong to set values for the organizations shows, and proper rules to support those values.

 

You asked for it, you got it,    . . . my humble opinion

 

best,

Pres

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