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Mark C.

Are Functional Potters going the way of the dodo?

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Mark C.    1,807

Out here on the west coast art fair scene (Wa-Ut-Az-Ca-Nv) we old time full time functional potters have noticed we are not being replaced with younger folks doing what we do-The question is this only out west or everywhere?

 

I do know that collage ceramic programs in general havemostly sifted to art not functional programs thru the 80s and 90s. This has been a fact even with Alfred’s (at one time one of the ground zero spots for functionalpottery) so my Alfred’s alumni friends tell me. We do see a few folks in their 40s but we are all mostly in our 50’s and 60’s and rarely see at shows anyonein their 20’s or 30’s selling pottery.

 

We know its big hard work starting out-all the learning ofthrowing glaze making kilns firing etc .For many of us its our calling and we relish the work

 

Is it a lack of functional clay education in the system or something else?

 

This trend has been discussed by many of us for years-Its not a perception but a fact-

 

Yes there are hobby potters occasionally at shows but we are talking about salt of the earth full time folks who make the items you use everyday in the kitchen bath and in the home-not ceramic art but functional items

 

What are your thoughts on this?

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I'm not sure I have all the information needed to construct an informed answer, but I believe a few things are at play when one contemplates the situation.

 

Automated production of ceramics, and near-slave labor wages paid in foreign countries, has dropped the price of functional ware to such a minimum that the average person in the United States finds such pieces to be almost disposable and inconsequential. You can get a place setting of usable earthenware at Walmart for less than ten dollars. Now I'd prefer something with more of a soul myself, and I believe that most folk of substance would agree with me in that, but these days it seems most people don't really think much about the things they buy or own.

 

I have also noticed a kind of art ware snobbery in many pottery circles, and even vendors. 'Oh, you just want to make functional ware' is a phrase I've heard a few times when I've asked this or that vendor for some glaze or clay specifically for functional ware use. In a broad context, it feels like many folks suppose any of my pieces must be less worthy because I make them to satisfy some practical purpose. I can't really explain it, other than the usual human divide and differentiate agenda. Maybe there's more profit in art ware for the average vendor or studio?

 

Every class I've ever taken in pottery, aside from those I've taken at The Craft Alliance (a wonderful organization, full of wonderful people), has pretty much focused on artistic aspects of ceramics and nothing else. Most Universities and Community Colleges classify pottery and ceramics as a fine art, not as a practical or industrial art, and from what I've seen of the display pieces in their departments, the classes appear to be biased toward generating art more so than usable items.

 

Last, the economy is so horrid right now it's difficult to make it as a tradesman or artist of any stripe, especially with the competition from foreign markets and the rising domestic prices of pretty much everything under the sun. I think most young adults are more interested in trades and skills that pay maximum dollar, especially since a college education has become outrageously expensive, and often requires itself to be financed by expensive loans that many young adults can't pay back until their mid fifties ... if indeed they ever can. I know a handful of teachers and social workers that live in low income housing and eat crappy low cost food (which is sending them to an early grave) and they still can't pay back their college debts on time. Life is much rougher still, at least in the financial sense, for those that get a degree in the arts.

 

I for one don't really make that many pieces that have no practical purpose. I tend to make lots of incense burners, mugs, plates and the occasional bathroom specialty item like a tooth brush wrack or soap dish. I'd like to get better at making jars and narrow neck bottles, especially for bottling my home brews. I'm not, however, a full time maker of any one thing in particular … I have to resort to web design and other odd artistic and/or technical jobs for my daily bread.

 

That's just my two cents, for what they're worth.

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DaddyT    0

I'm in North Carolina about 75 miles from Functional Pottery USA...Seagrove/Jugtown. I also teach an adult enrichment pottery class at the local community college one night a week. I am a 68 year old Pharmacist who has been potting for 40years now and am still making and teaching the basic utilitarian forms in class. But I also share the new thing everyone wants, ART.

I am so disgusted with Ceramics Monthly and their current push for all the ART they present vs. the traditional POTTERY that brought us all to where we are now that I would like to stop the subscription. I hesitate though for fear I will loose connection with the pottery world and suppliers if I do.

 

I agree the market is down to the lowest it has been since I have been making pots. I continue to make and teach the functional, but find I do sell more of the One of a Kind piece for that special gift someone is searching to find. No matter, though we still have to continue to teach this generation functionality in clay for them to master the art they seek. The basic skills are required to reach their desired end.

 

I do find great satisfaction in attempting new options in pottery too. I have been searching Naked Raku for the last three years. I have attended some workshops and even with the skills I have as a potter, have found it impossible to master this daemon. I have planned a workshop here in the Lumberton area for March 23-25 with Walley Asselberghs and Sue Morse to absorb more knowledge. Even the pieces I will use in this class will come from the basics I have learned over the years. I have added that artistic touch to some of them, but the basics are still required.

 

Some of my students have become proficient enough that they are selling at shows in the local area. They do extremely well with their functional pieces. Is this because they are students and their work is of that quality? I am not sure. Some of them, I will put up against potters from Seagrove any day.

 

To end this, I guess the summation is location, location, location. We are in the area that still requires potters to be potters and not artists. Function is what it is about. Mama wants this cake plate to take her home made pound cake to church on Sunday, so she buys the functional plate and it serves the purpose.

 

(PS...if you want to join us for the Wally workshop, contact me....)

 

 

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Frederik-W    23

I think the reason is that everyday-use functional pottery can be bought very cheaply.

(E.g. dinnerware, cups, mugs, bowls etc. Glazed garden pots are imported from China at rock-bottom prices)

 

Only reason to make functional ware is if it has unique or uncommon functional characteristics.

 

If you make commonly available functional ware you have to add an artistic element,

else people will think - I can buy that everywhere cheaply.

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Mark C.    1,807

A few added points for discussion:

 

My functional Pottery is selling at near all-time levels atabout 1/3 of the shows, 1/3 it's about the same, and 1/3 it's down slightly, so the demand for well-made well-priced hand-made items for me is still strong. The cost of import ceramics has not slowed my own customers' demand for hand-made. This is at least my 4th economic downturn and long ago I realized if I made small items, I would do well. So at the first hint of slowdown I stopped with the big pots and made double the small stuff. People still know the difference about hand-made items - but the price does matter.

 

 

 

My point is that for over the past 20 plus years, we are no tseeing folks step into this profession - long before this current funk we arein. They just are not there. The consensus for us potters seems tobe education shifted to ceramic ART back in the day. It's impossible to sell many ceramic shoes or ceramic books- yes they look cool but at the end of the day it's bric-brac.

 

 

 

DaddyT

 

I have subscribed to CM since 1974 so I know that score well- Studio Potter since the 4th issue.

 

The MFA factor, for many of us means Moving FurtherAway from the essence of what clay has been for humanity.

 

 

 

This trend has bothered me and my fellow brethren (functional potters), and I'm glad to seesome good discussion on it. We would like to see some new blood in this field. OUR local story here mirrors many colleges across the nation. We once had an incredible ceramicsdepartment at Humboldt State University. It started with a long-deceased mentor of mine, Reese Bullen,who co-founded the art department in the late 40s. This man was ahead of the curve and had guys like Hamada visit the school for a workshop in the 60's. He hired some hot shot grads fresh out of Alfred's and soonthis county had incredible potters with a to-die-for ceramics department thatturned out potters and artists teachers and painters. I feel honored to have been there in the hay-day and learned from teachers who were excited about functional ceramics as well as all aspects of ceramics. Now that all those involved are long dead or retired and ceramic art is what's being taught, the art department is exciting as milk toast and has a zero reputation for ceramics. Students who want to learn ceramics now go to our junior college, asit still has a very active functional program, with young teachers who areexcited about teaching functional ceramics. Our area no longer has any new potters to speak of - this has spread throughout the country like a virus, I feel.

 

What are you thoughts?

 

Mark

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Frederik-W    23

Here is a good example of a very functional/utilitarian vessel.

This type of ancient greek vessel, used for wine, can be very decorated/ornate. This one is not.

It has no decoration, no "art", no pretence of being anything but functional. Yet it is elegant and beauitiful.

It is as practical today as it was then, e.g. as a wine carafe.

Not to be found in every shop however.

 

Greek 500 BC - 200 BC, Oinochoe

"Unlike the ornate examples made for the wealthy, this is a utilitarian vessel used by average, working-class Greek citizens"

(The photo & text is kindly quoted from Ancient Artifax, http://ancientartifax.com/classic.htm, they sell authentic art and artifacts)

 

The point I am trying to make is that functional potters can make such things that are beautiful purely in form/function,

but they cannot compete with things that are commonly available and mass-produced.

post-8775-13283580579_thumb.jpg

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Denice    243

I use to produce functional work and some sculptural pieces slowly the sculptural pieces took over. The functional work required a more consistent schedule than I had with a job and family and I was also worried about food safe glazes. This was back in the days that they seem to be finding another chemical you shouldn't use to make it food safe I didn't want to take any chances. I am currently making some functional work that has been requested by old customers. I think your right about colleges not teaching function, it was moving away from that when I went to college in the 70's, they at least taught you how to make and design good looking work that was functional. I see pictures posted on forums the pieces have not been footed or lipped and no balance or design, they seem to throw a shape cut it off the wheel and throw a glaze on it and call it art. Denice

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teardrop    2

I don't have the history in this that you guys do, Mark/DaddyT.

 

Comin in fresh....what I notice about the "Art" side of ceramics is that there are huge trends......and while many folks talk about their originality, they still follow said trends. As an example....a change like Stephen hill's switch from Cone 10/gas reduction to firing to cone 6 in an electric kiln caused a swing in the output in a big way that cannot be ignored. Even the way he >programs< his firings are emulated and fawned upon. It's the "OOHHHH.....AHHHHHHH" factor magnified by 10.

 

Now if SH were to make a mug or a butter dish..... uhhhum..... you see where I'm going?

 

I'm hoping that we're moving back to an era where folks start to realize that there is value in quality/handmade/functional objects. I like your approach of making smaller things that will sell and moving with the needs of the marketplace/customer. At the Art Fairs here in ResortLand...folks come from all over and bring their Art...marking it up to incredible levels.....levels beyond my (workin stiff) comfort zone. What is MISSING at these fairs are what you speak to...smaller items that you can purchase for less than...say...$100 and actually leave the Fair with >something/anything<. When i go to the "Art" fair (vs. a "Craft Fair'...which is Art to me..sorry) I pretty much know it's gonna be a walk-through and nothing more. I...like many others....just don't have the expendable cash for a $600 vase or a $3000 painting. However, I will buy something I can USE...if that is....it is offered. Many times though...I think you see that attitude seen her on CAD by some that says "why make 10 things and sell them for $100 each when I can make ONE peice of "Art" and sell it for $1000."

 

I'm gonna bank on the $100 items myself. Functional vs. Foo Foo.

 

Thanks for breaking trail, guys!! (I'm the guy in the back who falls down a lot)

 

all the best!

 

teardrop

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Denice    243

I don't have the history in this that you guys do, Mark/DaddyT.

 

Comin in fresh....what I notice about the "Art" side of ceramics is that there are huge trends......and while many folks talk about their originality, they still follow said trends. As an example....a change like Stephen hill's switch from Cone 10/gas reduction to firing to cone 6 in an electric kiln caused a swing in the output in a big way that cannot be ignored. Even the way he >programs< his firings are emulated and fawned upon. It's the "OOHHHH.....AHHHHHHH" factor magnified by 10.

 

Now if SH were to make a mug or a butter dish..... uhhhum..... you see where I'm going?

 

I'm hoping that we're moving back to an era where folks start to realize that there is value in quality/handmade/functional objects. I like your approach of making smaller things that will sell and moving with the needs of the marketplace/customer. At the Art Fairs here in ResortLand...folks come from all over and bring their Art...marking it up to incredible levels.....levels beyond my (workin stiff) comfort zone. What is MISSING at these fairs are what you speak to...smaller items that you can purchase for less than...say...$100 and actually leave the Fair with >something/anything<. When i go to the "Art" fair (vs. a "Craft Fair'...which is Art to me..sorry) I pretty much know it's gonna be a walk-through and nothing more. I...like many others....just don't have the expendable cash for a $600 vase or a $3000 painting. However, I will buy something I can USE...if that is....it is offered. Many times though...I think you see that attitude seen her on CAD by some that says "why make 10 things and sell them for $100 each when I can make ONE peice of "Art" and sell it for $1000." I"m not sure about your Steven Hill reference I visited with him at the Kansas City Art Fair last summer he had plenty of small functional items for sale their were about 30 cups for 50 dollars each and a bunch of small bowls for 80 dollars. Denice

 

I'm gonna bank on the $100 items myself. Functional vs. Foo Foo.

 

Thanks for breaking trail, guys!! (I'm the guy in the back who falls down a lot)

 

all the best!

 

teardrop

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GEP    863

We had a related discussion about this last fall:

 

http://ceramicartsdaily.org/community/topic/1368-the-business-of-art-pottery/

 

 

My observations, here on the east coast, is that affordable functional work has a big advantage over fine art and fine craft these days. My recent experiences at upscale art festivals where there is mostly fine art/craft and some functional craft, the functional makers are selling like crazy, some of the fine artists are doing great, but most of the fine artists are looking sad. And as another person noted in the above thread, for fine artists the bright light of success only shines for a short time. Whereas if you can produce a professional quality line of functional work, you can sustain a business like that for a long time.

 

At festivals, there is a tendency for all artists to have "grass is greener" thoughts. The fine artists think "it must be so much easier to sell mugs. People can actually use them!" and the functional folks think "it must be so much easier to sell paintings. They make $1000 at a time!" At different points in time, probably both of these things are true. But at least for right now, the functional work has the advantage, because it is more affordable, and buyers are less likely to spend indulgently on luxury items.

 

I am 41. Not young anymore, but years away from retiring. I agree that most working functional potters I meet are older than me. But I do meet plenty of 30-somethings doing really nice work. I don't think I've ever met a full-time working potter in their 20s, but I don't think that means young people arent interested. I think its just because at that age you cant make pots that are good enough to sell! It takes a lot more time and experience. Even for those who have a college degree in functional work, it takes years of real world life experiences before you can take advantage of your technical know-how, and start to make interesting work. And this is why we don't see very young functional potters. They either give up before they make it, or they are still working on it!

 

As for the theory that functional pottery suffers because of inexpensive commercially made ceramics, that has nothing to do with it. Handmade pottery has very small production capabilities, compared to commercial operations. We couldn't make enough mugs for the people who only want to pay $5 even if we wanted to! Those people don't matter, it is not our market. There are plenty of folks who can appreciate a handmade $35 mug, you just need to know where to find them. No doubt it's a small subculture, but it's big enough to keep us busy. 

 

Now recent years have been rough for the entire arts industry. The number of working potters has shrunk by a lot, but that's true for all art mediums. And this has affected artists of all ages. Not just the young or the old. And again, from what I've observed, this is hurting fine artists more than functional makers.

 

Mea

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Mark C.    1,807

Mea,

 

You make some great points. All my high-end artist friendshave been hit hard with this downturn-even before that happened thephotographers got slammed with the onset of digital photo newbies selling forless. I know hand-thrownreasonably priced wares will always sell well from my 38 years of doingit. One can make a good living ifwork does not bother one. For meit’s not work it’s who I am and what I do. I agree that it takes time to get to the skill level but youin your 40's are an exception-I can count on one hand full-time potters in my 4western state show schedule that fit that age group. I feel most do not know that there is another way or analternative. Most of mycollege-age assistants learned straight away that this lifestyle was more workthan they were up for and thought one-of-a-kind pots was the way -- only todiscover it was a false dream. Igave up hiring them after about 8 of them over the years, which were sent to mefrom our local college-sent as the best they had.

 

End of an era may be true also –Matt –

 

Teardrop -- 98% ofall my functional stuff is under $100. Average sale at most shows is $24. I sell lots of pots – it’s a volume deal. I did a show in Colorado for 5 straight years in Denver-itwas just too far away for me-2 1/2-day drive one way. Ceramics has been very good to me. It has kept me healthy and paid myway. Keeps me motivated. It infected me in HS and does to thisday.

 

Good to see an honest discussion on the functional aspects. This has been our history with clay - The Chinese did not make ceramicshoes, they made pots – that’s what we and they used every day.

 

What are your thoughts?

 

Mark

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phill    17

it is the economy. the US debt is not getting any smaller, the unemployed seem to still be unemployed; everyone is looking for nice things but on the cheap. they browse expensive stores and then find cheaper knock-offs at another store.

also, i believe that with technology people are changing the way they shop. i think that art fairs are nice to go to, but i have a much larger selection on the internet at etsy for example, and i dont have to abide by anyones hours, drive there, or deal with weather.

convenience + bad economy. amazon has changed my world, anyone else?

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Mark C.    1,807

it is the economy. the US debt is not getting any smaller, the unemployed seem to still be unemployed; everyone is looking for nice things but on the cheap. they browse expensive stores and then find cheaper knock-offs at another store.

 

also, i believe that with technology people are changing the way they shop. i think that art fairs are nice to go to, but i have a much larger selection on the internet at etsy for example, and i dont have to abide by anyones hours, drive there, or deal with weather

convenience + bad economy. amazon has changed my world, anyone else?

 

I do feel shopping trends are changing and amazon is part of my life-I even once bought an old friend pot via e-bay long ago

But you as a budding ceramists must know that most of pottery is tactile and must be felt-seen.Handles to see what fits your hand.How will the mug feel in your hand?

 

 

How the pot looks and feels-that what sells pots

Its not an push the button concept

When cheap dollar import slip mugs swept thru the USA years back-folks snapped them up then. Not long they really wanted hand made ones again-I see these cycles come and go but handmade pots made well and are well priced always have strong markets

Etsy is fine for selling a little work but making a good living say 100k in sales per year before expenses -on etsy is not going to happen soon for most-to much shipping and boxing

Street fairs -wholesale -gallery sales-studio sales these all sell way more than push button sales

I make pots to sell for people to use everyday-Its worked well for 4 decades and will keep working

It can work for you if you like the work-it is work-people still after all these years pay me to make my pots in my studio when I want-seems like a dream

I never had a chance with clay it seduced me when I was in late high school-bought my wheel from Robert Brent himself one of his first ones-gave up my pilot lessons after soloing for clay lessons

 

 

Maybe its not just the schools dropping the functional ball back in the 70s-

Its the shift from a work ethic of folks coming up the line-these two could be a really powerful combo

Any way I see it as we diehards pass away in the next 20 years there will be a large hole/demand for functional pots

What's your thoughts?

Mark

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teardrop    2

I'm thinking that a reason there aren't any potter's coming up in their 20's is because there aren't any iphone apps for pottery ... sad.gif

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GEP    863

it is the economy. the US debt is not getting any smaller, the unemployed seem to still be unemployed; everyone is looking for nice things but on the cheap. they browse expensive stores and then find cheaper knock-offs at another store.

 

also, i believe that with technology people are changing the way they shop. i think that art fairs are nice to go to, but i have a much larger selection on the internet at etsy for example, and i dont have to abide by anyones hours, drive there, or deal with weather

convenience + bad economy. amazon has changed my world, anyone else?

 

I do feel shopping trends are changing and amazon is part of my life-I even once bought an old friend pot via e-bay long ago

But you as a budding ceramists must know that most of pottery is tactile and must be felt-seen.Handles to see what fits your hand.How will the mug feel in your hand?

 

 

How the pot looks and feels-that what sells pots

Its not an push the button concept

When cheap dollar import slip mugs swept thru the USA years back-folks snapped them up then. Not long they really wanted hand made ones again-I see these cycles come and go but handmade pots made well and are well priced always have strong markets

Etsy is fine for selling a little work but making a good living say 100k in sales per year before expenses -on etsy is not going to happen soon for most-to much shipping and boxing

Street fairs -wholesale -gallery sales-studio sales these all sell way more than push button sales

I make pots to sell for people to use everyday-Its worked well for 4 decades and will keep working

It can work for you if you like the work-it is work-people still after all these years pay me to make my pots in my studio when I want-seems like a dream

I never had a chance with clay it seduced me when I was in late high school-bought my wheel from Robert Brent himself one of his first ones-gave up my pilot lessons after soloing for clay lessons

 

 

Maybe its not just the schools dropping the functional ball back in the 70s-

Its the shift from a work ethic of folks coming up the line-these two could be a really powerful combo

Any way I see it as we diehards pass away in the next 20 years there will be a large hole/demand for functional pots

What's your thoughts?

Mark

 

 

 

 

 

I am very new to online selling, but being the numbers geek that I am, I spent a lot of time looking at others' Etsy stores and punching a calculator. I agree with John that you can't sell enough pots online to add up to a livable income. Online selling does not match the volume of festival sales, wholesale, home sales. There is a handful of potters who are selling tons of pottery on Etsy. They are social-media superstars, equally as talented at blogging and facebook as they are with pottery, and they have thoroughly conquered the online world. However, as best as I can calculate from their sales numbers and price points, the best Etsy pottery sellers are grossing between $20 - $30k per year before expenses. And again, this is a tiny number of potters doing this well online. Most of the potters who I would also call "Etsy success stories" are grossing less than $5000 per year. Not anywhere close to a total business plan. And no where close to the sales you can achieve in venues where customers can see and touch your work. It really makes a difference when you a bowl in someone's hand then they start imagining themselves using it. I should know, I'm a pottery fan and I love to buy pottery. I want to see it first! I have only bought one pot online, it was a gift for someone that a group of us were buying. It was easier for us to shop together in Etsy and communicate about it via email, than for us all to go shopping together.

 

 

Regarding Mark's comment about shifting work ethics in young people, I think there's some truth there. Maybe not so much that young people are lazy, but that young people, especially college-bound, define work as sitting at a desk wearing nice shoes. Rather than picturing themselves with dirty fingernails.

 

And as for the upcoming hole in the supply chain, as aging potters retire and fewer young potters emerge, this might sound a little evil, but since I plan to be doing this for another 20 years or so, I see that hole coming and I plan to take advantage of it!

 

Mea

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Well it is indeed the case that pottery lacks instant access appeal that something like, say, phuttsing around with photography might. Someone interested in photography likely already has a camera on their cellular phone, the software to edit and manipulate images is free, and everyone and their brother likes to write about photography and how it's done on the Internet. What I noticed about throwing, right off the bat (so to speak) is that it was really expensive to start learning. A passable wheel is several hundred dollars, and a kiln is much more, to say nothing of glazes, grinders, brushes, etc...

 

Even classes seem expensive to beginners in my neck of the woods, which cuts down on the number of those that would consider a formal education. It's quite sad classes can appear so expensive at first, as I find the classes available around here to be quite reasonable. $9.50/hr. to be at a wheel, with clay, community kiln access, and all the glaze you can eat is an amazing deal. Still, to a twenty year old who can't necessarily pay for gasoline, $200.00 seems like a lot of money; even that very reasonable figure is enough to scare away those casually interested. We are discussing those who have more than a casual interest in ceramics in this thread, but I'd be willing to bet that lots of people take up their professions because of something they tried once just to experiment, and subsequently decided they wanted to go significantly further.

 

I don't believe, however, that it's the work ethic of young folks. I know several who work almost constantly. Some of the skills I have pay me pretty well, but I can't remember all the people I meet who are just out of college and desperately seeking work, usually just able to pay the bills by laboring at McDonalds or minimum wage retail jobs. Besides, the argument that the young generation is spoiled and lazy is pretty old and tired; each generation levies the same argument against the next generation to follow it.

 

Nor do I believe that the young lack interest in ceramics. I'm pretty young, mid thirties at the moment, and I'll be the first to admit I'm fairly green ... but I can say the interest of young people is defiantly there. Each class I go to is packed with 20 somethings; they are easily the largest age group ... college age people, usually female. Heck, I felt like an old man in my classes, and I was only 32 years old at that time. In retrospect, it's a pity I didn't develop an interest in throwing classes a little bit earlier; they would have been a most excellent venue to ask young women out for a date.

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teardrop    2

Actually, there is an App for that, Let's create! Pottery tongue.gif

 

Ay yi yi yi yi, Matt! I stand corrected and yes, obviously WAYYYY over to the side and out of the way of such things!

 

Idea to draw in the younger set: Rename Beginning Pottery 101 as Bongmaking 420 and ...um.....standback. >snicker<wink.gif

 

FWIW/on a more serious note, my youngest son attends Fort Lewis College in Durango, CO and said there is a substantial waiting list to get into the Ceramics classes there.

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Not to high-jack the tread, but ...

how much of the work out there classified by the makers are really ART?

(I saw the same in the glass beadmaking world - 'I am an artist.' And I think to myself, 'Really?'

 

I slipcast. But please, do not stone me for admitting that. I believe & maintain that I have every right to call my work handmade. These 2 hands sent hours on a potter's wheel creating a plaster master, and then make the molds. I mix and pour my slip myself. I decast & fettle myself. I glaze myself. does it take less time than throwing on the wheel? No, no and no.

 

Ceramics in my country is also going the same route as in the USA. Art seem to be the thing. Sculpting, etc over functionality. and yet, the buyers here prefer spending their money on functional handmade stuff (even though it is sometimes slipcasted :-)

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Pres    896

Out here on the west coast art fair scene (Wa-Ut-Az-Ca-Nv)we old time full time functional potters have noticed we are not being replacedwith younger folks doing what we do-The question is this only out west oreverywhere?

 

I do know that collage ceramic programs in general havemostly sifted to art not functional programs thru the 80s and 90s. This hasbeen a fact even with Alfred’s (at one time one of the ground zero spots for functionalpottery) so my Alfred’s alumni friends tell me. We do see a few folks in their40s but we are all mostly in our 50’s and 60’s and rarely see at shows anyonein their 20’s or 30’s selling pottery.

 

We know its big hard work starting out-all the learning ofthrowing glaze making kilns firing etc .For many of us its our calling and werelish the work

 

Is it a lack of functional clay education in the system or something else?

 

This trend has been discussed by many of us for years-Its not a perception but a fact-

 

Yes there are hobby potters occasionally at shows but we aretalking about salt of the earth full time folks who make the items you useeveryday in the kitchen bath and in the home-not ceramic art but functionalitems

 

What are your thoughts on this?

 

 

I have always considered myself a functional potter. I like to think of how something works, why it works, what it is used for and how to improve it. I have played at this by changing the shape of handles, changing accent lines, basic forms, lips of forms, and so many other things that have always been traditional. Sometimes I return to the classic as they finally make sense, sometimes I prove to myself that my way was acceptable-maybe not better, but equal. I also find that I do forms that are larger, and yet functional. A lamp can be very sculptural, yet is funtional, some would call it decorative, as is water fountains, bird baths, bird houses, umbrella stands, planters, and so many other things. The studio potter can create these decorative items uniquely, each making their own statement, each approaching art, but maybe not accepted as such. At the same time potters can adjust to trends and interests faster than the industry out there, and so often they are the leaders of the new trend then industry comes in and mass produces what the potters started.

 

I think in the end, there will always be people out there that will want well made, decorative functional art to enhance their lifestyle. They may only be in the 1% maybe more, but they will be there. So I believe that there will also be potters out there that will fill that need.

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yedrow    8

I'm somewhat new to pottery, though I'm not young. I've been doing production/functional work for several years and have been trained in a professional pottery that does almost exclusively functional work. By this I mean matched glazes, sets, attachments that are intended to be used comfortably, etc. My perception is that the pottery industry is over populated with 'crafters' who really don't amount to much more than pot painters. What are college kids supposed to think when they see so many unskilled potters making a living (so to speak) with point-of-sale clunkery, and are being trained by those very same people? I suspect the profession of pottery has allowed itself to indulge over much in the fair/craft show end where long term customer satisfaction means little or nothing.

 

Personally, I make a pot with years down the road in mind. I believe my customers will discover new things about a piece they buy from me for years to come. If a potter's goal is to quick sale his/her pottery then the overseas industrial potteries will end up doing the same thing much better in all ways.

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teardrop    2

My perception is that the pottery industry is over populated with 'crafters' who really don't amount to much more than pot painters. What are college kids supposed to think when they see so many unskilled potters making a living (so to speak) with point-of-sale clunkery, and are being trained by those very same people? I suspect the profession of pottery has allowed itself to indulge over much in the fair/craft show end where long term customer satisfaction means little or nothing.

 

I would love to see examples of what you call "clunkery" as well as an example of what you believe is enticing/lasting/ever-inspiring about the functional bowls/peices you make.

 

Just checkin' to be sure I'm doin the clunkery thing "right"!

 

Jus' sayin'....

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OffCenter    82

My perception is that the pottery industry is over populated with 'crafters' who really don't amount to much more than pot painters. What are college kids supposed to think when they see so many unskilled potters making a living (so to speak) with point-of-sale clunkery, and are being trained by those very same people? I suspect the profession of pottery has allowed itself to indulge over much in the fair/craft show end where long term customer satisfaction means little or nothing.

 

I would love to see examples of what you call "clunkery" as well as an example of what you believe is enticing/lasting/ever-inspiring about the functional bowls/peices you make.

 

Just checkin' to be sure I'm doin the clunkery thing "right"!

 

Jus' sayin'....

 

 

Teardrop, Yedow may be right, but until he/she puts some pictures in the "gallery" section of his/her profile he/she is just someone who is all talk with nothing to back it up.

 

Jim

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Mark C.    1,807

Jim's comment made me realize my gallery was empty so I spent some time uploading some photos-I guess now I can walk the talk.

Mark

 

 

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