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Judith B

What Is Ceramics, Is It Art?

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agree with Mark. I think pottery as an art medium is without question true, too many examples to deny BUT it also is a a craft that has been used for centuries to make items to be used as functional ware. That's were my passion lies and I consider myself an aspiring artisan craftsperson. I love the back story to that and its history going back centuries and proud of the meager accomplishments I've made in that regard. Feel no need to be recognized as an artist as that is not something I am pursuing with my work. Decorative functional items such as vases and such are a fun outlet I want to pursue more of in the future but I think its a slight to those who are seriously pursing pottery and ceramics as artist for me to claim a distinction in my work that is simply not there.  

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On 3/11/2018 at 1:12 AM, Sputty said:

There's a splendid piece of film of Picasso doing his ceramics thing at Vallauris. You'll note the fine tradition of smoking in the workshop, whilst blowing clouds of dust everywhere. Still managed to get to 92, though...

The pottery interest is the first half of the film (although the rest is interesting too, of course).

The duck is great.

The duck is cool, and I like that you can see the potter in the back whipping out beautiful slim bottles to make more with.   I am still trying to be confidently comfortable with altering, but I fight my impulse for perfection to do so.  It makes for some interesting work sessions.  

I am with you on the dust etc.  I do alot of sgraffito, and that plate he's working with it about where I would scrap it because of the dust.   But then I have asthma, so I am pretty conservative with the dust issue.   And did you see the smoke from the studio?  I thought they were electing a pope.  :o

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On 3/15/2018 at 8:13 AM, Stephen said:

agree with Mark. I think pottery as an art medium is without question true, too many examples to deny BUT it also is a a craft that has been used for centuries to make items to be used as functional ware. That's were my passion lies and I consider myself an aspiring artisan craftsperson. I love the back story to that and its history going back centuries and proud of the meager accomplishments I've made in that regard. Feel no need to be recognized as an artist as that is not something I am pursuing with my work. Decorative functional items such as vases and such are a fun outlet I want to pursue more of in the future but I think its a slight to those who are seriously pursing pottery and ceramics as artist for me to claim a distinction in my work that is simply not there.  

Have you considered if stone carving is an art or functional? Stone carvers build houses , bridges, yet Michelangelo carved David. ceramics is a material that is spark plugs, space shuttle tiles, knives, pottery or sculpture. The final product is what it is.

Marcia

 

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Now I agree with with Mark & MarciaB)

Now I do very much believe that a functional potter can certainly be an artist but I just think the intent needs to be there for that distinction in ones work and while any mug may be a work of art every mug is not.  

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Like I haven't put my foot in it enough on this topic, but reading the thread title, I immediately thought: Well, it's just a medium, like crayons or paint. You can mark up the fridge, colorize photos or paint a Vermeer, it's what you do with ceramics that makes it art or craft, and there's no escaping that will always be in the eye of the beholder. 

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A point I've been wanting to make: 

When you're doing real art and interacting with other artists or most viewers (not all) what matters is the art, or more specifically the finished art piece. Your process to get there might be interesting but that's a side issue and recognized as such. "I got sick and had a vision, then painted the vision using crayons and felt tips. I framed it and everyone who sees it says it reminds them of something totally personal, so I don't set them straight, it's more interesting that way." That is art, at least one of my favorites of it's myriad forms. No one gets in your face when you're a painter and gives you **** because you don't use traditional oils on canvas, etc. -even though I do, I can also draw really well, the equivalent of the 2D artist's "wheel" in the artistic social sphere. 

When you're  doing craft, it's the process that counts, almost to the point the end result doesn't matter.  "yes my bowl/mug/plate is gray and brown and boring as hell but I threw it perfectly on a wheel and therefore I'm a master. It's proportions are perfect, it was fired to cone 10. I did everything the way it's always been done. I learned these things by practice and rote.  It makes you think of coffee when you look at it." -That is craft, not art.  There is a culture around wheel pottery that desires to exclude those who don't have the aptitude, or indeed, desire to drill themselves to learn to center (myself). I've got my own conclusions about why this is, and don't wish to fire up too much of a war of words so I'll trail off here. . .

I guess I welcome comments. Not much choice have I. 

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Let me be the first!

10 hours ago, yappystudent said:

I guess I welcome comments.

I think applying good craftmanship (knowing & able to perform the foundational elements, processes, materials, methods etc. of the process) is what undergirds  the making of fine art, including art that appears to negate craft.  I also do not think that craftmanship is necessarily falling way short of being art, just because someone has seen one too many perfect brown bowls LOL.

Many of my pieces are "process pieces", and how I get there is important to the narrative, whether hidden or revealed. That is why I mostly let it all hang out and show some of the---you guessed it---process that went into the art (piece), in the form of visible touch/tool marks, cracks, flaws, etc.. So, not "either-or", rather "yes-and". 

Culture splits & cliques  (craft vs. art; potters vs. clay artists; throwing vs. hand building (and I've seen just as much of the exclusion attitude from clay sculptors toward the wheel throwers, by the way) ; realism vs. abstraction; Phillip Glass vs. Curtis Mayfield etc.) are largly irrelevant nuisances in my book. And I feel free to treat those who push my "otherness" in my face as the irrelevant nuisance I view them to be! 

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When a few years ago I decided to learn to knit, the friend who was teaching me, himself a knitting fanatic, told me there are product knitters and process knitters. The product knitters are the ones who are in it to be able in the end to own the red wool sweater with bell sleeves they have in their heads. The process ones are the ones who do it primarily for the sensual and aesthetic aspect- to work the wool through their hands, to see the cloth rise out of the rhythms of their hands and tools, perhaps envisioning as they do the sheep in the field, the sheering, the spinning, the dying and then the passage through their own hands and needles into a colored and textured cloth.

Knitting is craft and yet in my friend's description includes two different approaches to that craft.

I would think that some potters, in like fashion, are driven by reaching a certain product they ultimately want to hold in their hands but that many too are drawn by the feel of the whole process. When I watch a fluent wheel thrower, I see a ballet.

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I was never attracted to potting as creating function. My incentive to make in clay comes from the feel of the clay in my hands as the clay moves on the wheel with the movement of the clay upward and the challenge to expand that clay to the end of its strength. There is the every day monopoly of making the same form, but then I get to alter each pot within the form itself.

I am so astounded by seeing the forms of some potters of late, where they are doing the same form, yet every one of them is so fantastically different.

 

best,

Pres

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On 9/9/2018 at 8:48 PM, LeeU said:

I think applying good craftmanship (knowing & able to perform the foundational elements, processes, materials, methods etc. of the process) is what undergirds  the making of fine art, including art that appears to negate craft.  I also do not think that craftmanship is necessarily falling way short of being art, just because someone has seen one too many perfect brown bowls LOL

I couldn't disagree more to the first point in this paragraph, unless I misunderstand the use of the word 'undergirds'. All one really needs is a pencil and paper, or a finger in the sand and a camera. The creation of fine art does not rely on foundations, listening to lectures or being told about materials. As I've heard more than one artist say -to the chagrin of the $$universities I'm sure- that you become an artist by doing art, not studying art. (I think the last time I heard this was in the TV series "ART 21" but I'd have to do some research to find quotes) I think art requires mental freedom, and generally unlearning crud you've been taught, which can be quite a struggle. Perhaps that will satisfy the need for some to have struggle and hard work involved. Art is original, otherwise it's just copying, therefore you can't crank out the same thing or almost the same thing again and again and have it be fine art. Maybe some kind of art, but when you start applying a term like art to everything it means nothing. 

Actually I've yet to see a perfect brown bowl, also I admit I just can't swoon over Japanese tea bowls.  I do really like a lot of the primitive type Ikebana vases however, that use the same clays, glazes, etc. Maybe it's the utilitarian aspect that sticks it firmly in the 'craft' section for me. Vases are for displaying flowers, thusly, are art. The flowers themselves are also art, if they were created by a breeder.  Just because something is crafted well does not make it art.   

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15 hours ago, Gabby said:

driven by reaching a certain product they ultimately want to hold in their hands but that many too are drawn by the feel of the whole process

I get the point you and Pres are making but I see this as a side issue. I too find creating utilitarian objects in clay soothing and meditative. Making the same thing over and over would drive me crazy after a few days or less but that's just me, it's neither a drawback or asset.

I'm not trying to dump on wheel potters, but frequently hear folks lament decades of struggling at the wheel, hard work, sweating it out, doing it right. This flames my inner doubts. there are other ways... -if it's tradition you're really after,  coil pottery for example is a lot older than wheel pottery. Why isn't that "the" thing to struggle to get good at? 

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8 hours ago, yappystudent said:

I get the point you and Pres are making but I see this as a side issue. I too find creating utilitarian objects in clay soothing and meditative. Making the same thing over and over would drive me crazy after a few days or less but that's just me, it's neither a drawback or asset.

I'm not trying to dump on wheel potters, but frequently hear folks lament decades of struggling at the wheel, hard work, sweating it out, doing it right. This flames my inner doubts. there are other ways... -if it's tradition you're really after,  coil pottery for example is a lot older than wheel pottery. Why isn't that "the" thing to struggle to get good at? 

I also am not drawn to creating the same thing day after day.  But wheel throwing needn't be that, so I think that is a side issue.

I think some people probably do work hard to get good at coil pottery, particularly where that is the very dominant tradition.  But it is so much more labor intensive than throwing or slab building (a plus to some people though a drawback to others) and also to me lacks the elegance of motion of wheel throwing.

I think it is entirely natural and in fact positive that different people are drawn to different ways of making of objects, or music, or writing, or theatre, or dance. There isn't better or worse in the choices people make of creative avenues.

 

 

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4 hours ago, Gabby said:

I think it is entirely natural and in fact positive that different people are drawn to different ways of making of objects, or music, or writing, or theatre, or dance. There isn't better or worse in the choices people make of creative avenues.

This was my point all along. I feel it necessary to point it out on occasion. 

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18 hours ago, yappystudent said:

couldn't disagree more to the first point in this paragraph, unless I misunderstand the use of the word 'undergirds'. 

By undergird, I meant essentially "provide support or a firm basis for".  I view good craftmanship as being something to draw on, having value as a jumping off point, for artistic/creative  expression.  For example,  if the piece includes a wooden frame, and the joinery is crooked and the glue is sloppily applied and oozing out of the cracks,  the final piece may  be unnecessairily diminished.  Knowing how to construct a frame is foundational...willful ignorance is not serving the artist well.  If I want to build a stunningly original house, that is not going to fall down or leak in the rain, I am better off if I learn/know  something about architecture and construction.  If I want to knit materials to incorporate in a sculpture, it would behoove me to know how to knit, and self-defeating to reject the undergirding of that craft as contributory to the integrity of the expressed piece.  That's why I say "not either/or, rather yes/and". Hope that makes sense!

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On 9/10/2018 at 11:09 PM, yappystudent said:

I get the point you and Pres are making but I see this as a side issue. I too find creating utilitarian objects in clay soothing and meditative. Making the same thing over and over would drive me crazy after a few days or less but that's just me, it's neither a drawback or asset.

I'm not trying to dump on wheel potters, but frequently hear folks lament decades of struggling at the wheel, hard work, sweating it out, doing it right. This flames my inner doubts. there are other ways... -if it's tradition you're really after,  coil pottery for example is a lot older than wheel pottery. Why isn't that "the" thing to struggle to get good at? 

It is the thing to get good at, if that's the choice you want to make as an artist.  I feel like your statement on art is contradictory.  You say that art has to be original and that studying art leads you to copy art.  But at the same time, what is your inspiration for what you feel is an original piece?  Is it the shape of an animal or the color of a landscape at sunset?  Is it a specific tree or feeling you have?  Are those more righteous inspirations than seeing the work of another artist?

 

I'm not talking about copying someone outright, but I feel like taking inspiration from another person is the same as taking inspiration from an object or an animal or a feeling.  You see things that please or inspire you in fine art, or nature, or architecture and they become a part of you.  I don't think you can say that repetitive wheel thrown pottery dilutes the term art, but at the same time say that art requires no foundation.

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13 hours ago, liambesaw said:

Paraphrasing Yappy---art has to be original and that studying art leads you to copy art

Nothing new under the sun-there's a simple concrete difference between plagerism/copying and inspiration/being intentionally derivitive or extending the elements-phyiscal/visual/and/or thought-wise,  in some way.

Craft/art: I made a lidless box today. As craftmanship and proper, sound construction of a box true to the basic craft, it would appear amaturish, sloppy, uninformed, and even just plain bad. Yet I used most of the craft skills of clay/making joins/attributes of boxes to construct the piece, which is part of my Hidden Rituals series (This is "Beaten into Submission" and references thriving beyond surviving, tho the viewer need not know that.) Without the "art of the craft" LOL,  it would not hold together, nor would it become anything that I would perceive as fine art. ("fine" used in the most loosey-goosey sense, but still to distinguish it from Elvis paintings on black velvet--which to some people is indeed art!

I have to say, Yappy, you do pose food for thought! I like the mix of dialogue on the Forum, re: technical info, experience shared, guidance sought, and attention to aesthetics.

20180913_122128.jpg

Edited by LeeU

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17 hours ago, liambesaw said:

It is the thing to get good at, if that's the choice you want to make as an artist.

I was referring specifically to folks lamenting decades of struggling at the wheel without success. Surely there are better things to do when you reach, say the 10 yr mark. I'd like to hear someone who is still 'failing' after 10 years of this describe what it is that makes them keep coming back to the wheel. Let me just say about ten minutes at the wheel is enough to confirm in my mind "Nope." Why would they make the choice you're referring to? Since I don't have an answer I'm going to say it's trying to conform to an unreasonable and limiting social norm.  

 

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17 hours ago, liambesaw said:

You say that art has to be original and that studying art leads you to copy art. 

Actually I didn't say that, I've heard other people say that, but I agree with it to the point that I think art degrees are worthless unless you want to do art like other people, squash your innate talents or become an art teacher. Some who survive art degrees go on to make beautiful art because they're just that good, but someone's going to have to prove it to me that school didn't just get in the way, or do something a hired shop, self-study and practice couldn't do. My statement was basically in response to LeeU's statement about knowing your foundations of craft, but it got me thinking on a larger scale also. Is learning how to glue a frame together and handle your materials really worth college tuition and all the other crap forced upon you to obtain a piece of paper? 

Let me be clear on the studying art as I obviously fudged that one: I study a ton of art, usually on Youtube-  (*boo, ....hiss....*), -books, other artist's websites, online galleries, etsy, etc. Oh dear,  how could anything outside of a major institution possibly be worth studying? I admit I have taken classes at a crappy junior college, for credit, and the other kind of classes, and other than a bit of drawing discipline, two words which should never be linked together IMO, I didn't learn anything except that I was a good artist and institutions are there to get you to conform through use of drills, something that should be the opposite of an artist's goal. 

Edited by yappystudent

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4 hours ago, LeeU said:

I have to say, Yappy, you do pose food for thought! I like the mix of dialogue on the Forum, re: technical info, experience shared, guidance sought, and attention to aesthetics.

Yes I hope differing opinions can be expressed on the forums without flaming, it does bring some life to it from time to time beyond technical exchanges. 

No offense Lee, but I'm not sure why I end up exchanging comments with you all the time when you're another hand builder like me and I'm asking the 'what's so bad about flubbing wheel pottery' question again. 

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4 hours ago, LeeU said:

Nothing new under the sun-there's a simple concrete difference between plagerism/copying and inspiration/being intentionally derivitive or extending the elements-phyiscal/visual/and/or thought-wise,  in some way.

I'm not quite following what you're saying Lee.  What does intentionally derivative mean exactly? It's something I'm having trouble wrapping my head around although I'll guess that it's some version of inspiration? 

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49 minutes ago, yappystudent said:

Actually I didn't say that, I've heard other people say that, but I agree with it to the point that I think art degrees are worthless unless you want to do art like other people, squash your innate talents or become an art teacher. Some who survive art degrees go on to make beautiful art because they're just that good, but someone's going to have to prove it to me that school didn't just get in the way, or do something a hired shop, self-study and practice couldn't do. My statement was basically in response to LeeU's statement about knowing your foundations of craft, but it got me thinking on a larger scale also. Is learning how to glue a frame together and handle your materials really worth college tuition and all the other crap forced upon you to obtain a piece of paper? 

Let me be clear on the studying art as I obviously fudged that one: I study a ton of art, usually on Youtube-  (*boo, ....hiss....*), -books, other artist's websites, online galleries, etsy, etc. Oh dear,  how could anything outside of a major institution possibly be worth studying? I admit I have taken classes at a crappy junior college, for credit, and the other kind of classes, and other than a bit of drawing discipline, two words which should never be linked together IMO, I didn't learn anything except that I was a good artist and institutions are there to get you to conform through use of drills, something that should be the opposite of an artist's goal. 

So just to be clear, as long as you study art outside of a classroom you can be original, but if you pay to study art, you can't.

 

I mean I used to think school was stupid and a waste of money. But I don't even think it's relevant to this discussion.  Just because you self study doesn't make you any more creative.  You're assuming that people attend school to gain creativity and leave as artists.  People are individuals, so someone who is uncreative and goes to school and gets a degree is probably going to be uncreative when they graduate.  The same goes the other way, someone who is creative and passionate enough to persue a degree, will likely be passionate and creative when they leave as well. 

 

I feel like creative individuals will always strain to be creative and original, it's just something that drives them.  Creativity and curiousity go hand in hand, so no, I don't believe that a quick primer on the history and technique of art (which is what formal schooling is) will retarded or deflect any of that innate personality.  We have hundreds of years of formal education and success to point at as proof, so I feel like the burden of proof would fall on people who doubt the value of education.

 

Tl;Dr: creative people are creative, uncreative people arent.  School has little bearing on the originality or creativity of an individual

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