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Tyler Miller

Why make functional ware?

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It's really hard to be original or stand out in a craft that's as ancient as pottery.  Especially utilitarian kitchen type wares, that have been in continual use for time out of mind.  Ceramics just isn't cutting edge because frankly plastic is better at a lot of the traditional uses and mass produced mugs are ergonomically better than most if not all handmade mugs.  Not really even a debatable subject, since the mass produced item is specifically designed to appeal to the broadest populace.  Besides that number one criteria, price.  

You can do ceramics for yourself to a point, but unless you're trying to fill a ditch with your finished product, it has to be marketed.  New markets pop up all the time.  50 years ago, no one grew the kind of plants for enjoyment I'm making pots for now.  Maybe it will be a big thing in the future and maybe not.  Maybe no one thought bonsai was a thing 500 years ago.  Best to look for a niche where ceramics has an advantage.

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10 minutes ago, CactusPots said:

It's really hard to be original or stand out in a craft that's as ancient as pottery.  Especially utilitarian kitchen type wares, that have been in continual use for time out of mind.  Ceramics just isn't cutting edge because frankly plastic is better at a lot of the traditional uses and mass produced mugs are ergonomically better than most if not all handmade mugs.  Not really even a debatable subject, since the mass produced item is specifically designed to appeal to the broadest populace.  Besides that number one criteria, price.  

You can do ceramics for yourself to a point, but unless you're trying to fill a ditch with your finished product, it has to be marketed.  New markets pop up all the time.  50 years ago, no one grew the kind of plants for enjoyment I'm making pots for now.  Maybe it will be a big thing in the future and maybe not.  Maybe no one thought bonsai was a thing 500 years ago.  Best to look for a niche where ceramics has an advantage.

Ergonomically better eh, I think you mean ergonomically average since there's no way to please everyone with the same size and form.  I think that's probably the one thing handmade ceramics has over mass produced things. And that's variation and the ability for anyone to find the mug perfect for their hand

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I have just completed a few mugs for an order, and not  a single one is like the other when you consider form, surface, handle position, and glazed effect. Each is a labor of love that requires the potter to make judgments every step of the way, each leading to a different form and a different fit to the hand, and hopefully a different owner. Love the work.

 

best,

Pres

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17 hours ago, CactusPots said:

It's really hard to be original or stand out in a craft that's as ancient as pottery.  Especially utilitarian kitchen type wares, that have been in continual use for time out of mind.  Ceramics just isn't cutting edge because frankly plastic is better at a lot of the traditional uses and mass produced mugs are ergonomically better than most if not all handmade mugs.  Not really even a debatable subject, since the mass produced item is specifically designed to appeal to the broadest populace.  Besides that number one criteria, price.  

You can do ceramics for yourself to a point, but unless you're trying to fill a ditch with your finished product, it has to be marketed.  New markets pop up all the time.  50 years ago, no one grew the kind of plants for enjoyment I'm making pots for now.  Maybe it will be a big thing in the future and maybe not.  Maybe no one thought bonsai was a thing 500 years ago.  Best to look for a niche where ceramics has an advantage.

I don't necessarily disagree when it comes to mass consumption - the label says it all. But on the one hand you say "hard to be original or stand out in a craft that's as ancient as pottery" and later you state "50 years ago, no one grew the kind of plants for enjoyment I'm making pots for now." Why not buy a plastic pot at Home Depot - does the job, mass produced, cheap, etc. ? You can be original no matter the age of the form or format. You can even create a need. What you produce with your hands, your eyes, your sense of form, engineering, and color is unique.

The downside is that if you find a growing audience for your pots, you're going to try and produce as many as you can as quickly as you can. Maybe you start an assembly line, producing the same piece over and over again, same style, size, colors, etc. Maybe you hire a couple of people to help you reproduce your designs. Ever see those landscape paintings in the department store? They have somebody on the line who does nothing but paint clouds all day long.  The bottom line is the bottom line.

I'm going to take a SWAG at it - most here are not interested in just making money. I'm not. I'm happy when someone pays me in negotiable currency  for one of my pieces. And it helps me buy some groceries. But providing something unique, even a simple bowl, that I made with my own hands, and watching someone turn it over and around, sensing it's shape with their hands as well as their eyes, is really what gets me going.

My contention is that strictly functional pottery no longer exists. A line has been crossed to take the functional piece to design and art. And that's not recent. Japanese, Chinese, and Korean tea bowls go back to the 13th century - they're strictly functional yet they were revered as part of rituals and ceremony. Interestingly, they raised the level of form and design of the everyday bowl. Why is that?

I don't know if this answers your question. But the potters that I met, who depend on their craft to make an income, both teach and sell their unique wares. And I think they do it because they want to and generally enjoy what they do. Has little to do with what's practical.

As the old joke goes -
This guy goes to a psychiatrist and says, 'Doc, my brother's crazy, he thinks he's a chicken.'
And the doctor says, 'Well why don't you turn him in?'
The guy says, 'I would, but I need the eggs.'

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On 6/11/2019 at 10:17 PM, CactusPots said:

It's really hard to be original or stand out in a craft that's as ancient as pottery.  Especially utilitarian kitchen type wares, that have been in continual use for time out of mind.  Ceramics just isn't cutting edge because frankly plastic is better at a lot of the traditional uses and mass produced mugs are ergonomically better than most if not all handmade mugs.  Not really even a debatable subject, since the mass produced item is specifically designed to appeal to the broadest populace.  Besides that number one criteria, price.  

You can do ceramics for yourself to a point, but unless you're trying to fill a ditch with your finished product, it has to be marketed.  New markets pop up all the time.  50 years ago, no one grew the kind of plants for enjoyment I'm making pots for now.  Maybe it will be a big thing in the future and maybe not.  Maybe no one thought bonsai was a thing 500 years ago.  Best to look for a niche where ceramics has an advantage.

It's a very debatable subject. You've basically just told all of us that we're wasting our time making functional pots. Why is a handmade bonsai pot any better than a cheap mass produced one? For the same reason a handmade mug is better than a cheap mass produced one.

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