Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
Chris Campbell

When can you call yourself a potter?| Dec 26, 2011

Recommended Posts

Chris Campbell    1,088

Hope you all are had a wonderful Christmas Day and are enjoying every moment of these Holidays.:D

 

Here is a great question sent in by a forum Member ...

 

When do you get to call yourself a potter?

When are you entitled to say ... " I am a Potter"

... do you have to be able to throw to be a potter?

Do you wait until someone else calls you one, or from the minute you touch clay or when you finally feel like you are good enough?

What does it mean to you to be able to say you are a potter?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Denice    243

The last few years I have started referring to my self as a potter before I just said I was an artist. At some point I decided that I could do just about anything I wanted with clay, I've sold work at galleries, donated work to charity auctions and taught a little. So I decided that it was time I told people who I really was, unfortunately the most common response is that they know someone with 1000 molds for sale. I think your a potter from the moment you realize that your hook on clay I have wandered down many other artistic trails and always found myself heading back to clay like the cows walking back to the barn at night, it's where I belong. Denice

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Pres    896

I started calling myself a potter when I felt it-really felt it. Up until that time I would say I putter in clay! Now I forget all of the other things and just call myself a potter in most cases. Sometimes I say I'm a retired art teacher who taught pottery. In the later 15 years with students I told them I was a potter that sold as I could on the side, made pots at home, had a potters wheel and kilns and sent work all over the US.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
clay lover    133

I didn't feel I was entitled to say 'I am a potter." untill I realized that I spent most of my waking hours in the studio, , in clay, whether it was what I wanted to do at that exact time or not. In other words, when i knew the clay drove me, not me driving the clay, when it's ready, I'm there ,whether I have something else I might just as soon be doing at that moment.

Not to say that I don't enjoy most every minute of it, but that I have a disciplined approach to the time I spend in the studio, I'm not simple making what suits me on any given day, making what I want when I want to, but developing the body of work and following plans I've laid out for future work.

 

If I'm not in the studio, I'm on this forum, on you Tube looking at pottery videos or reading one of the clay magazines. Thinking and planning more pots. Can you say, Obsessed?rolleyes.gif

 

In my book, someone can have a fabulous studio and every tool and material and book and workshop ever made, but still not be a potter, but a hobbiest who gets their entertainment or group fun through clay. There is a difference in my mind, just hard to explain.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
buckeye    1

I absolutely love this question even though I dont have an anwser. I am really looking forward to seeing the anwsers from the potters who have years of experience.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Lucille Oka    16

You have learned to center clay on the potter's wheel and have thrown over 1,000+ pots, and you know how to wedge clay. You fire pots in your much beloved kiln, you decorate pots, load them in the kiln again. After that firing you put them on a shelf, and have to figure out a way to clear the shelves and decide to sell the pots and you buy more shelves for more pots. You are buying more clay and plaster for making molds and lumber for cottle boxes. You buy more wood modeling tools because you can never have enough of those. You think silk sponges are beautiful. You have recently purchased supplies for more clay work instead of some much needed personal items. You see regular household purchases in terms of how much clay you can get instead. You are fascinated by Home Depot, Lowes and hardware stores. You are obsessed with brushes and will spend $50.36 for one camel hair mop for applying glaze (which is very beautiful by the way) but complain about the price of bread.

You are called a potter.

Share this post


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

Michael Cardew said after seven years you should be able to throw exactly what you intend to throw.

I did notice I was more confident after seven years of throwing. Apprenticeships use to last that long.

Marcia

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
ayjay    119

Isn't just about everyone a potter?

 

If you can make a pinch pot you are a potter.

 

Some potters will make more aesthetically pleasing pots, some potters will make more commercially successful pots, (sometimes even mine turn out OK) but a pot is a pot.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Pres    896

Michael Cardew said after seven years you should be able to throw exactly what you intend to throw.

I did notice I was more confident after seven years of throwing. Apprenticeships use to last that long.

Marcia

 

 

I've been at the point that I can throw what I envision(within limits of course). but can't decide on what to throw all too often! :rolleyes:

Share this post


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

Isn't just about everyone a potter?

 

If you can make a pinch pot you are a potter.

 

Some potters will make more aesthetically pleasing pots, some potters will make more commercially successful pots, (sometimes even mine turn out OK) but a pot is a pot.

 

a pot may be a pot, but that does not make the maker a potter. I think a potter needs a certain level of technical competence and proficiency. I have seen apprentices in training in potteries in Spain where they must attempt to reproduce a form. The master potter would cut the forms in half and critique them. then back to the wheel for the apprentice.

Bernard Leach wrote "Towards a Standard" printed in Studio Potter about 1980. It is a treatise of the profession of the craft of pottery. I recommend it as a good read to anyone interested.

Marcia

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hope you all are had a wonderful Christmas Day and are enjoying every moment of these Holidays.biggrin.gif

 

Here is a great question sent in by a forum Member ...

 

When do you get to call yourself a potter?

When are you entitled to say ... " I am a Potter"

... do you have to be able to throw to be a potter?

Do you wait until someone else calls you one, or from the minute you touch clay or when you finally feel like you are good enough?

What does it mean to you to be able to say you are a potter?

 

Bernard Leach claimed you could call yourself a potter after you had worked in the workshop throwing almost constantly after seven years. This was mainly in the apprentice position. It took me a long time to call myself a potter. I felt I had to be skilled enough to make almost anything and had to be selling on a professional level meeting my costs with a small profit. To me that is a potter.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
bciskepottery    925

I've been working with clay for a bit over five years, first through classes at the rec center, now at home in my garage "studio". I consider myself a serious hobbyist; I teach handbuilding at a local studio and I sell at craft fairs (mostly) and a couple of gift stores. I don't call or refer to myself as a potter. If asked, I simply tell people I make pottery. If they want to refer to me as a potter, that is their choice.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
teardrop    2

I think the invisible "heirarchy" in all of this is a bit sad.

 

Look in the dictionary. Most will define a "potter" as "someone who makes pots". This may not be a lofty enough description for some...but in the end it is what it is and the definition is accepted by most people out there...who aren't potters....of course. LOL

 

IMO, the more important tag is "artist". Anyone can learn to throw a pot on a wheel (OK, most people..LOL) and that is indeed an important skill to hone...but again..in my unexperienced eye...tossing a pot doesn't automatically make you an artist. However, tossing a pot makes you a "potter"....at least by the generally accepted definition of the word.

 

My interest lies more in the ego factor. Is it time spent..or general ego that causes someone to call themself a potter and then place standards on others..such as having to throw for 7 years (why not 6..or 10? and who makes THAT decision?) or some other imaginary parameter?

 

FWIW, I don't consider myself a potter or an artist...I'm just someone trying to find pleasure/learning/understanding in something I've always been interested in but never took the time to do until now.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Chris Campbell    1,088

I don't believe that wanting a degree of proficiency before you claim the title of potter is sad.

Wanting respect attached to the profession is not about ego ... it's caring about the Craft..

 

A potter to me is someone who can execute the form he/she wants, with skill, in a timely manner.

They understand glaze chemistry and can fire in multiple ways.

None of the above is easy or fast or fun. It takes a long time to become a potter.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
teardrop    2

I have to disagree that it is not "fun". I'm having a blast and never want to take this to a place where I lose that feeling!

 

If/when I do, it's time to move on.

 

be well, all

 

teardrop

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Chris Campbell    1,088

You are right ... I should have said that it is not always fun.

Doing all this work when you would rather be doing something else is a big part of achieving your goals.

Share this post


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

I think it is still fun and I have been working in clay for over 45 years. During that time I have also been involved in several professional organizations like the National Council for Ceramic Arts serving on the Board in 1990 and Potters Council serving on that Board for several years. The first organization use to focus on Academic educators but has since opened up to professional potters and hobbyists as well. The conferences have gotten overwhelmingly huge with as many as 200 ceramics exhibitions some years. The presentations, discussions, demonstrations, lectures are great opportunities for furthering one's education.

The Potters Council is opened to anyone involved in ceramics but offers many members benefits to professionals like freight shipping discounts and FEDEX discounts. Their local regional conferences are intended to stay small scale and provide a good venue for learning specific topics.

As for the 7 year number, perhaps that comes from the old Guild style apprenticeship. That system taught the professional level of a craft, not just ceramics. I recently met a dentist who proclaimed himself a potter because he had been to several prestigious workshops and had a studio although still a full time dental practitioner. To say one makes a pot so one is a potter, could be applied to children who make pots in a class...as early as kindergarden. I have subscribed to CM and Studio Potter and numerous other professional journals and I can not agree with one who makes one pot.

It is a a person who makes pottery. Definition of pottery:

pots, dishes, and other articles made of earthenware or baked clay. Pottery can be broadly divided into earthenware, porcelain, and stoneware.• the craft or profession of making such ware

I have to go with this definition: the craft or profession of making such ware

To be a potter is to be a professional maker of pottery.

Further, many extremely well known people who work in clay know that clay is a most humbling media. I do not think ego is a big influence in any of this discussion. Few potters I have known have been egotists. I have known Rudy Autio, Gerry Williams, Dave Shaner, Josh DeWeese, Clary Illian, Kurt Weiser to name a few. I find them very approachable, helpful etc. Patty Warashina says we all must be crazy to work in clay..... She means it is a challenging heavy material, requires lots of equipment, can be extremely frustrating, but we all love the "christmas" feeling of opening the kiln.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
GEP    863

This is my own personal definition, for me it's not so much about skill level or accomplishments, it's about a genuine appreciation for working with clay. This absolutely must include a healthy amount of respect for the sheer size of the subject matter.

 

Someone who wanders into a clay studio and makes a pinch pot is really not a potter. But somebody who has been at it for maybe a year, head over heels in love, poised and hungry to devour every bit of knowledge and practice they can get their hands on for the rest of their lives, is. I've worked with many students and I've seen this happen. On the other hand, I have met plenty of people who have been making pots for a very long time, very productively perhaps, who still don't seem to "get it" in my opinion.

 

I started in community center classes, I'd say I was obsessed with throwing from day one, but it was a few years before I really appreciated how difficult it was, how much more there was beyond throwing, and how much learning I had ahead of me.

 

So I guess, for me, it's not about ego, it's about humility and respect, and a long-term commitment.

 

 

Mea

Share this post


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

Mea,

 

 

That is a very well thought out definition. I have taught for years as well and have seen people go head over heels for clay. For myself, when I started throwing, I worked in the college studio until 10 pm every night I could. My arms eventually developed a forearm muscle where my skinny straight arms had previously been. I felt like Popeye. We were eager to get permission to fire the salt kiln because we could stay all night and work. We had to salt before dawn in center city Philadelphia. Cardew said there are Mud Potters and Fire Potters and I tended towards the fire part at times. Going to NCECA was so much fun to find others to talk to about kiln designs, firing, etc.

Now we have the internet, forums etc. It is now easier to seek out discussions on these topics.

 

Marcia

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Denice    243

Mea,

 

 

That is a very well thought out definition. I have taught for years as well and have seen people go head over heels for clay. For myself, when I started throwing, I worked in the college studio until 10 pm every night I could. My arms eventually developed a forearm muscle where my skinny straight arms had previously been. I felt like Popeye. We were eager to get permission to fire the salt kiln because we could stay all night and work. We had to salt before dawn in center city Philadelphia. Cardew said there are Mud Potters and Fire Potters and I tended towards the fire part at times. Going to NCECA was so much fun to find others to talk to about kiln designs, firing, etc.

Now we have the internet, forums etc. It is now easier to seek out discussions on these topics.

 

Marcia

 

The first NCECA I attended I wandered around and could hear tidbits of conversations about problems with Gerstley Borate or a Soda Firing and I realized that they were speaking my language. What a wonderful feeling it was, I felt like I was home the internet, forums and ect. keep me connected in the same way. Denice

Share this post


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

Mea,

 

 

That is a very well thought out definition. I have taught for years as well and have seen people go head over heels for clay. For myself, when I started throwing, I worked in the college studio until 10 pm every night I could. My arms eventually developed a forearm muscle where my skinny straight arms had previously been. I felt like Popeye. We were eager to get permission to fire the salt kiln because we could stay all night and work. We had to salt before dawn in center city Philadelphia. Cardew said there are Mud Potters and Fire Potters and I tended towards the fire part at times. Going to NCECA was so much fun to find others to talk to about kiln designs, firing, etc.

Now we have the internet, forums etc. It is now easier to seek out discussions on these topics.

 

Marcia

 

The first NCECA I attended I wandered around and could hear tidbits of conversations about problems with Gerstley Borate or a Soda Firing and I realized that they were speaking my language. What a wonderful feeling it was, I felt like I was home the internet, forums and ect. keep me connected in the same way. Denice

 

Denice, was that the NCECA in Wichita? Michael Cardewwas there and so was juan and Nicholas Quezada. they were amazing.

Marcia

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
trina    20

I don't believe that wanting a degree of proficiency before you claim the title of potter is sad.

Wanting respect attached to the profession is not about ego ... it's caring about the Craft..

 

A potter to me is someone who can execute the form he/she wants, with skill, in a timely manner.

They understand glaze chemistry and can fire in multiple ways.

None of the above is easy or fast or fun. It takes a long time to become a potter.

 

 

 

I agree with you totally, I can do all the things required to be a potter. But it takes a lifetime to be a great potter, if one ever gets there. I am constantly blown away with the work of other contempary potter artists that it's not even funny. Will I get there... don't know but gonna die try'n ;) Trina

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Denice    243

Mea,

 

 

That is a very well thought out definition. I have taught for years as well and have seen people go head over heels for clay. For myself, when I started throwing, I worked in the college studio until 10 pm every night I could. My arms eventually developed a forearm muscle where my skinny straight arms had previously been. I felt like Popeye. We were eager to get permission to fire the salt kiln because we could stay all night and work. We had to salt before dawn in center city Philadelphia. Cardew said there are Mud Potters and Fire Potters and I tended towards the fire part at times. Going to NCECA was so much fun to find others to talk to about kiln designs, firing, etc.

Now we have the internet, forums etc. It is now easier to seek out discussions on these topics.

 

Marcia

 

The first NCECA I attended I wandered around and could hear tidbits of conversations about problems with Gerstley Borate or a Soda Firing and I realized that they were speaking my language. What a wonderful feeling it was, I felt like I was home the internet, forums and ect. keep me connected in the same way. Denice

 

Denice, was that the NCECA in Wichita? Michael Cardewwas there and so was juan and Nicholas Quezada. they were amazing.

Marcia

Yes that was my first NCECA I remember Michael Cardew speaking and I met Nicholas Quezada, I had just had my son 3 months before that and was suffering from separation anxiety and don't remember much else. I would like them to have another one in this area, I really liked the one in Fort Worth, Kansas City, Tulsa or St. Louis would also be good. Denice

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think the invisible "heirarchy" in all of this is a bit sad.

 

Look in the dictionary. Most will define a "potter" as "someone who makes pots". This may not be a lofty enough description for some...but in the end it is what it is and the definition is accepted by most people out there...who aren't potters....of course. LOL

 

IMO, the more important tag is "artist". Anyone can learn to throw a pot on a wheel (OK, most people..LOL) and that is indeed an important skill to hone...but again..in my unexperienced eye...tossing a pot doesn't automatically make you an artist. However, tossing a pot makes you a "potter"....at least by the generally accepted definition of the word.

 

My interest lies more in the ego factor. Is it time spent..or general ego that causes someone to call themself a potter and then place standards on others..such as having to throw for 7 years (why not 6..or 10? and who makes THAT decision?) or some other imaginary parameter?

 

FWIW, I don't consider myself a potter or an artist...I'm just someone trying to find pleasure/learning/understanding in something I've always been interested in but never took the time to do until now.

 

 

 

I like what you say here. Mostly, I think it is up to the individual as to whether they feel they comfortable calling themselves a potter; depending on how they perceive the meaning! In addition, I think being an artist is important, therefore calling yourself "just an artist" as someone previously did, seems a bit self deprecating...:)

 

 

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
teardrop    2

Wow..someone liked what i said here! LOL.

 

I also liked this take very much from bciskepottery "I don't call or refer to myself as a potter. If asked, I simply tell people I make pottery. If they want to refer to me as a potter, that is their choice."

 

Bottom line...there are some very talented people out there who create who don't bother with tags at all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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
Sign in to follow this  

×