Jump to content
Judith B

What Is Ceramics, Is It Art?

Recommended Posts

S. Dean    76

Maybe I'm being simplistic, but to me it is much less about the medium/material than the intent of the maker.  I can paint a bedroom wall in my house with the intent of changing the color of the room, or I can paint on canvas with the idea of creating art.  

 

As a material ceramics can encompass a wide range of intent by the maker, including art, craft, commercial functional, industrial and more.  In my mind, if it's intended to be art, then judge it as art and apply all the standards that are used when critiquing art.  Same argument for items intended to be craft - judge it on elements of how well it is made, form/function (including whether it is functional enough with the interplay between form and function), balance, design, decoration, etc.   A commercially produced ceramic mug from a big box store likely gets judged by another standard.  And sometimes a spark plug is just a spark plug (unless it was intended to be art :rolleyes:).

 

I have similar views on photography - I don't critique vacation snapshots with the same standard as I would for works by Robert Mapplethorpe, Ansel Adams, Diane Arbus, Edward Weston, Alfred Stieglitz..........

 

Personally, I consider myself a craftsperson not an artist. 

 

-SD

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Judith B    52

Yes S. Dean, that is a very good point! Does it mean that you should make your intent known, or should it be up to the viewer? 

 

I think with ceramics it can get very tricky to classify (which is why I think the label art/craft is irrelevant anyway) because when people collaborate say, a potter makes a piece and an illustrator paints it. Is it a beautiful functional piece? Or is the whole a unique artwork? Like Picasso did with potters in Vallauris...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
S. Dean    76

Yes S. Dean, that is a very good point! Does it mean that you should make your intent known, or should it be up to the viewer? 

 

I think with ceramics it can get very tricky to classify (which is why I think the label art/craft is irrelevant anyway) because when people collaborate say, a potter makes a piece and an illustrator paints it. Is it a beautiful functional piece? Or is the whole a unique artwork? Like Picasso did with potters in Vallauris...

 

Good questions Judith and thanks for adding nuance/complication to my simplistic view!   :) 

 

If pressed, I think it depends on whether the viewer is able to understand the maker's intent from the nature of the work itself.  The ends of the spectrum are easy - some things are so clearly non-functional/sculptural/insert other characteristic that its evident that the maker was intending to create art. Conversely, near me in Seagrove, NC, there are many potters working within a well defined functional tradition.  This type of work tends to lend itself to an understanding that the maker is a craftsperson.

 

The problem lies in the messy middle where things don't fit nicely into a binary category of art or craft.  Work (and life generally) tends to be more analog.  Studio pottery contains elements of both art and craft  (e.g., design, functionality, decoration, "originality" (pandora's box), execution, surface, construction, etc.). Here, in my mind the maker needs to be clearer of her/his intent.  To the extent that a reviewer agrees or disagrees with the maker, then it is up to them to justify why.

 

Admittedly, I'm not burdened or benefitted with an MFA, design or like eduction.  Hopefully others with continue to chime in and keep the conversation going. 

 

-SD 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
glazenerd    816

Dean: from another perspective perhaps.

 

I view clay formulation as an art: if it is done with the utmost precision and care. I would make the safe assumption, that I am the only one that sees it this way. Educators: please temper the following remark according to intent. If I had attended a college for the arts, and learned the text book definitions for clay formulation: I would be making clay like everyone else.Not having this background, meant that I had no preconceived ideas, opinions, or training that would limit me from exploring clay from every aspect.I did not break any "rules," because I was never taught any rules. I think this freedom extends into the "craft" as well: I can tell when a potter has decided to "break the rules." I am okay with pottery "language," in that it defines various segments of the craft: makes communicating with other potters much easier. I am not okay with definitions, when they are used to suppress freedom of expression.

 

Nerd

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
S. Dean    76

Dean: from another perspective perhaps.

 

I view clay formulation as an art: if it is done with the utmost precision and care. I would make the safe assumption, that I am the only one that sees it this way. Educators: please temper the following remark according to intent. If I had attended a college for the arts, and learned the text book definitions for clay formulation: I would be making clay like everyone else.Not having this background, meant that I had no preconceived ideas, opinions, or training that would limit me from exploring clay from every aspect.I did not break any "rules," because I was never taught any rules. I think this freedom extends into the "craft" as well: I can tell when a potter has decided to "break the rules." I am okay with pottery "language," in that it defines various segments of the craft: makes communicating with other potters much easier. I am not okay with definitions, when they are used to suppress freedom of expression.

 

Nerd

 

Nerd:

 

Thanks for chiming in.  My admittedly simplistic view on this art/craft debate was that we should evaluate the final product by the intent of the person that made it.  I believe you are introducing the concept of working in an artful manner.  This perspective opens up a fascinating new branch to this art/craft conundrum with so many questions and so few answers. Such as,

 

  • If clay formulation is an art, is the final product (the clay body itself) a piece of art?  If yes, what artistic standards, words or expressions (whether existing or new) would you use to describe the resultant clay body as a piece of art? 
  •  
  • Is it possible to go about your work in an artful manner or practice the art of something without the intent to make art?  For instance, I work for a hospital system, and there's an understanding that there is an art to practicing medicine.  The idea being that providers who practice the art and science of medicine are able to achieve a better result/higher level of care than those that only practice the "science" of medicine.  Are providers who practice the art of medicine artists?  Is their diagnosis/care art?
  •  
  • Certainly a scientific exploration of a clay body (or practicing medicine) could be done with "utmost precision and care" while following the textbook rules - does utmost precision and care distinguish practicing the art of something?  Is there something more required like the ability to combine intuition with knowledge and go down a path that isn't necessarily "textbook"?
  •  
  • Do you have to be working outside the rules to be an artist/can art be created by someone working inside the rules? 

Ok, this is making my head hurt.... time to head into the studio and make some pots.  Have to remember that this is the ultimate goal - irrespective of what we call the finished product. 

 

-SD

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
glazenerd    816

"who practice the art and science of medicine are able to achieve a better result/higher level of "

 

I think perhaps you just defined in a nutshell; the ongoing debate about art vs. craft.

 

"who practice the art and science of pottery, are able to achieve a better result/higher level of ......

 

"Intuition". Great choice of words.

 

Edited to make the intent plainer.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Judith B    52

AH thank you so much Sean and Nerd to share such interesting perspectives! 

 

  Studio pottery contains elements of both art and craft  (e.g., design, functionality, decoration, "originality" (pandora's box), execution, surface, construction, etc.). Here, in my mind the maker needs to be clearer of her/his intent.  To the extent that a reviewer agrees or disagrees with the maker, then it is up to them to justify why.

 

I really like your idea of viewing a piece as art or no depending on the maker's intent. I feel like it allows for a lot more diversity and perspectives, it just opens the field to so many things. 

Some people when looking at art argue that the intent or explanation sometimes takes away the first emotional encounter with a piece of art, some argue that without an explanation it is impossible to understand. In any situation, as a maker, being able to say: for me, this piece is art, I can tell you all about what inspired me and what I tried to convey, is so powerful.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Marcia Selsor    1,301

"who practice the art and science of medicine are able to achieve a better result/higher level of "

 

I think perhaps you just defined in a nutshell; the ongoing debate about art vs. craft.

 

"who practice the art and science of pottery, are able to achieve a better result/higher level of ......

 

"Intuition". Great choice of words.

 

Edited to make the intent plainer.

 

I have corrected the title to what I remembered originally: The Medium if the Message. Please read Fred Sweet's comment which reassured me I was right to begin with. after searching to get the correct spelling of McLuhan's name, I came up with the incorrect title to the book! it IS Message not Massage.

 

 

when I was in college (art school) in the 60s I took a course shared with the music academy called the Psychology of Creativity. It was a great course. One of the textbooks was The Medium is the Message. Great discussions with art students, designers, musicians, etc. The focus was about creativity being way beyond the arts. Just as you say intuition playing a large role, but also the elevated levels of consciousness throughout the creative process. It was a fascinating course.

Marcia

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Marcia Selsor    1,301

I thought so too. But when I searched for that title it kept coming up Massage (/) I know it was the 60s but I agree that the title should be medium is the Message. But you do the search. I dare you to find that title  especially under out of date text books. Search Marshall McLuhan. I double checked and attributed it to my age. But I am glad you mentioned it. Here is what I found on 2 websites. Thinking that I must be getting old, I thought I got the message wrong all these 50 years ago. Thanks for agreeing with what I originally thought

 

https://www.amazon.com/Marshall-McLuhan/e/B000AQ24OE/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1

https://www.alibris.com/Medium-is-the-Message-Marshall-McLuhan/book/4277129?matches=19

 

 

Marcia

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Fred Sweet    46

Marcia-

Guess I didn't read deeply enough into my research. I had stopped on McLuhan's oft cited statement, which is as I used in my question to you. Upon your suggestion, I went back and found the following:

 

From the Marshall McLuhan website: https://www.marshallmcluhan.com/common-questions/

 

"COMMONLY ASKED QUESTIONS (AND ANSWERS)

 

Answers by Dr. Eric McLuhan, Marshall’'s eldest son

 

Why is the title of the book “The medium is the massage†and not “The medium is the message�

Actually, the title was a mistake. When the book came back from the typesetter’s, it had on the cover “Massage†as it still does. The title was supposed to have read “The Medium is the Message†but the typesetter had made an error. When Marshall saw the typo he exclaimed, “Leave it alone! It’s great, and right on target!â€

 

Now there are four possible readings for the last word of the title, all of them accurate: “Message†and “Mess Age,†“Massage†and “Mass Age.â€

 

Apologies for reacting without performing my due diligence, and thank you for the correction. I should know not to give "snap" commentary.

 

Thank you for your correction, Marcia.

 

Respectfully and humbled re-submitted,

Fred

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Marcia Selsor    1,301

Fred,

I must have had a first edition because my class was in '68 and the book came out in '67. Maybe the type setting happened on a later edition as the popularity of the book expended. My cover was simple black and white , not the orange and black with the error.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The book is not out of print.  Also the essay is available form:

 

From Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man by Marshall McLuhan ©1964

essay
CHAPTER 1       The Medium is the Message

http://web.mit.edu/allanmc/www/mcluhan.mediummessage.pdf 

 

book:

https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/understanding-media
Paperback | $33.95 Trade | £27.95 | 389 pp. | 6 x 9 in | October 1994 | ISBN: 9780262631594

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
LeeU    330

I always thought it was The Media is the Message! (Still do LOL) 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Mark C.    1,807

Ceramics is a thing like a process-its not art until you use it to make art.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×