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I had a semi-ridiculous conversation back in January while working in a studio in town.  The crux of my interlocutor’s point was “what’s the point of makig functional ware?  Industry does it better, so why try?” She’s a tile artist, and this opinion came out to Tony Clennell on another occasion (according to her).  

His response was “well, clearly you don’t drink enough tea.”  A response I liked.

My answer, then unexpressed, is that I prefer a life of messy stories of provenance, and a thoughtful interaction with objects that maybe don’t quite fit, but have flair in their failings.  It’s why I prefer OHL hockey to NHL.  The showboating for the scouts, sometimes sloppy passes, and skill differences make for a better game. 

“There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion.”

What’s your answer, why do you make functional ware?

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Hand made functional ware has a better ascetic to it than commercial wares-Your fellow who missed this point is not a deep thinker and has no feeling for ascetics.

I started to make it because I like it ,now its more about making a living as others like it.

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I just had this conversation with a customer this weekend. She has one handmade mug, and loves using it daily. Her husband cannot fathom why she spent $38 on a mug. His favorite mugs are the ones he stole from a restaurant, therefore they were free. He sees them a purely utilitarian. I told her that buying handmade pottery is definitely a subculture. Most people don't get it, but some people do. 

So the reason to make it is for the small subculture of people who value this sort of thing.

I'm finding it hard to imagine that anyone involved in art making (eg the tilemaker) can't understand that different people have different values. 

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I didn’t set out to spend a lifetime trying to make functional pots. It was all really quite by accident, started out when I took a pottery class after my youngest was born and I had postpartum depression. I had taken ceramics when I was a kid, enjoyed it and thought it would be good for me to get out of the house. The clay got under my fingernails and it’s been stuck there ever since. Perhaps if that first class had been in sculpture I might have gone that route, don’t know but it was a functional pottery class and I got hooked. I don’t think its coincidental that many potters making functional work really enjoy good food and cooking. That subculture Mea mentioned, some people get it, some don’t.

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The public is hard to deal with at times. Or at least thats my experience. Some do understand some not so  much. Nothing like street fair to expose one to the general cluelessness of society. Its great to have great customers but sometimes you get the fact that we all came from cavemen society.I have more trouble with stupid men than women as a generalization at shows . The stupid man thing gets to me after a few of them say things that they really are not long from the caves mouth.

Edited by Mark C.

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4 minutes ago, Mark C. said:

I have more trouble with stupid men than women as a generalization at shows .

My all time classic favourite is when I got heck from a woman (putting it politely) for selling Lazy Susan's.  Oh goodness, all the women named Susan I've insulted. Or, being asked if you could drink hot chocolate out of one of my coffee mugs. (seriously)

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38 minutes ago, Magnolia Mud Research said:

You missed a sales opportunity.  The answer is: Of course NOT! 
You need this special mug for hot chocolate (holding up a different $38.00 mug).

LOL

thing is I only make right handed coffee mugs and she was looking for a left ;)

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I always keep my left mugs on the left side as well.

The upside down cereal bowls are the hardest to make-you need a wide lip to hold the milk in when its upside down.

Since we are talking about idiots here-I should add that the only two customers I refused service to where both men.

They both got mad when I told them the could not buy any of my pottery (they would never have anyway).

I'll take a few insults from the public but after a while I'll just pull the plug on someone who goes to far-done it twice in 45 years. Felt great about it. My wife did it once as well.

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In a ceramics class not so long ago there was another student who argued she didn't understand why making things out of air-dry clay wasn't just as good as fired pottery, aside from the food safe quality and strength of course. I tried different analogies like printing a photo off a printer vs oil painting, ebooks vs holding a real book. It was all the same to her, or maybe she was just trying to wrap her head around why it shouldn't be. I don't know if it's possible to make that point with a mature adult who hasn't grasped it yet, they either see it one way or the other. 

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There is a principle in many philosophies and faiths of making the moment beautiful. Then functional ware isn't only functional in the narrow sense of function. Functional ware can lift and honor the moment, making the meal or the cup of tea into something more than calories ingested.

I don't see how one can honestly say that industry does it "better. "

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43 minutes ago, yappystudent said:

I tried different analogies like printing a photo off a printer vs oil painting, ebooks vs holding a real book. It was all the same to her, or maybe she was just trying to wrap her head around why it shouldn't be.

Interesting pespectives, skittering around dualism: each of the pairs are the same thing, and; they are not at all the same thing.  Same as an industry-produced mug and a hand built mug---the same, and different.  For myself, I'll go with yes-and, not either-or. 

Edited by LeeU

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11 hours ago, Tyler Miller said:

 

“There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion.”

I am possessed by both an urge to make a wisecrack about my husbands's affections for me being fully explained by this quote and a very deep philosophical agreement with it on a number of different levels.  

I think people who are in need a mug go to a store and buy one. I think people who want a mug, and not just a mug but

*that*

*mug *

*right *

*there*

look for something else.  

I think people are seeking some kind of touch or human connection or story when they're looking at handmade.  We're so removed from the production of almost everything we touch, it's cold and isolating. Some people who also feel this are looking for something just a little bit...more. Not more things, but more connections and stories. Objects begin to hold the weight of their stories over time, and become heirlooms. Think of a quilt someone's grandmother made, or a recipe handed down, or that special dish that was only ever used for cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. Yes, you can build a history on a storebought item just fine. But to start with something that was handmade adds more layers to that story.

I think the tile maker was correct in that industry does make a technically superior mug than I could. But we cannot live from bread alone. 

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9 hours ago, Callie Beller Diesel said:

I think the tile maker was correct in that industry does make a technically superior mug than I could.

I disagree on this one point. Even if we set aside the aesthetic debate, many mid-range and high-fired stoneware and porcelain pots are more durable than mass produced ceramics. Of course every potter’s work falls somewhere different on the durability scale, but many of us are ahead of industry. “Your stuff really lasts. Even my kids can’t break it.” I hear this feedback a lot. 

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9 hours ago, Callie Beller Diesel said:

....and then there's at least one j3rk at every show that has to make a crack about the "bowls with all the holes in them" being not very good for soup. And it's always the husband.  

A good response to this, if you are feeling cheeky enough and if the person is sufficiently deserving: “Haha! That joke is always funny.” This also works when someone makes a crack about the movie Ghost. 

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I made a bunch of mugs for a local Mom & Pop, all different sizes, and all with pulled handles and cone 6 clay and glazes. That was two years ago, and they still have them, one broke, freak accident I believe, but they have gone through about 3 times as many commercial mugs in the time they have had mine. Now there are folks that will not use my mugs for some reason, and there are those that will only use my mugs.. . .go figure!

 

best,

Pres

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36 minutes ago, GEP said:

A good response to this, if you are feeling cheeky enough and if the person is sufficiently deserving: “Haha! That joke is always funny.” This also works when someone makes a crack about the movie Ghost. 

Usually I deadpan "it's for dieters."

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On the visitors with the old jokes, I thought of my father, a charming old-fashioned little man from the old country with a heavy accent and a very unusual elfin sense of humor that was only meant to create a bridge and bring a smile.  

I hope everyone considers the spirit in which such jokes are made. My father's intentions were only good, never at anyone's expense.

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Then there amazing ceramist who "design " vessels which are then made by industry..some of them are mighty fine to use. But too expensive for me..old her german lady comes to mind but not her name.

Now why was the tile maker making tiles??? Perfectly fine range of industrially produced stuff.

I dead pan..sorry I'm a bit deaf would you repeat that...and if they do..I smile upon them.

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There Are left hand mugs. Fir a while folk were making sculpted mugs...on side which normally  ,ha,  written by a leftie, would face away from drinker. Try navigating past a dragon, buffalo on way to placing mouth to mug...

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4 hours ago, Babs said:

old her german lady comes to mind but not her name.

Eva Zeisel

(Hungarian-American, not German)

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The function of ceramic products drew me in immediately.  Not only could I "design" (not much designing in the beginning) the ware, execute the making, take it to completion, I could USE it!!!  

I had friends over for lunch last week.  Salad lunch.  My favorite salad plates are the first ones I made.  They are large, clunky, but almost like a pasta bowl, so they are great for salads. We had cheese, crackers, wine, just a lovely day.  As they were leaving, one friend asked if I would make her more espresso cups, and I asked about what clay, glaze, etc.  She said, "I really don't want things to match.  I like it when everything is different and unique.  I loved the look of your table today with the plates, the different cups for wine, the platter for the cheese and crackers.  That is what I like!"  Yes, she is the subculture that gets it.  She gave me the highest compliment possible. I was humbled.

Roberta

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