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Are we living in the past


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#1 Anne Castano

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Posted 05 March 2012 - 05:22 AM

Hi

My name is Anne Castano I am new to Ceramic Arts Daily and though I would share a link to my blog where I am kicking up a stink and trying to generate debate about contemporary ceramics. My latest post raises some points regarding the role of the ceramic artist/ceramist/potter/maker in contemporary society from a British view point. I know that the American market is different and would be interested to hear any views on the influence Leach has hade on ceramics both in the UK and abroad.

Thank you for taking the time to read my post.

Anne

#2 TJR

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Posted 05 March 2012 - 11:18 AM

Hi

My name is Anne Castano I am new to Ceramic Arts Daily and though I would share a link to my blog where I am kicking up a stink and trying to generate debate about contemporary ceramics. My latest post raises some points regarding the role of the ceramic artist/ceramist/potter/maker in contemporary society from a British view point. I know that the American market is different and would be interested to hear any views on the influence Leach has hade on ceramics both in the UK and abroad.

Thank you for taking the time to read my post.

Anne



Anne;
I was not able to open your blog,possibly because I am in a school. I would like to participate in your discussion though. I am Canadian, I apprenticed in England and went to grad school in the states. I make traditional functional pottery.
TJR.

#3 Chris Campbell

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Posted 05 March 2012 - 03:25 PM

Interesting you should raise this topic as it was the subject of a lively conversation I had this weekend with some pottery folks ....

First off ... your competition is NOT IKEA. If you try to compete on that level you will very quickly go broke. You cannot match the costs/production of a factory.
Your competition is higher end stores like Williams Sonoma that charge hand made prices for wares that I will not qualify with an adjective ( Could lead to Rant #7 ) and the "hand made" wares that are marketed with a "made in a wonderful foreign commune by noble work persons" tag ... ( Rant #8 ).

The first of these steals the people who would spend good money for a good pot and the second steals the young people who would pay average money for an average pot.

The best thing that could happen right now is for potters to hitch their wagons to the "Buy Local" movement. If we could get into that frame of reference marketing we would be golden. You want to buy local food, well how about serving it in local wares.

The second opinion was that as people lose their connectedness they will turn 180 to find handmade objects again. Some are predicting a boom in handmade/human made pots.

My opinion goes with both ... we have to get positioned in the buy local wave then we will see that 180 shift to human made pots.

Chris Campbell
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#4 Idaho Potter

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Posted 05 March 2012 - 09:01 PM

Which Leach? Simon Leach's YouTube videos are referred to when how-to videos are listed. Bernard Leach and Shojii Hamada are legends for Western pottery, and are still considered two of the most influential potters in "modern pottery". Are they more than a historical reference? Has their work passed from "today" to "yesterday"? It seemed for awhile that their work was considered the epitome of pottery everywhere. But there have been many innovative potters since, and even the medium has changed (paper clay, cone 6 porcelain, etc.) so pottery keeps evolving.

My view--from this side of the pond--is that each year contemporary ceramics is just that--contemporary. The public, for the most part, is not as aware of the changes in the field of ceramics as the potters are. Look at the photos that appear in our magazines and compare them to what is displayed at a local gallery. Unless the gallery is in an urban setting, there is a world of difference. Fashion in clothes is covered daily on TV. Cars make a big splash at least once a year. The latest electronic gizmo makes headlines every week. Ceramics, no so much. Is it that pottery--as an art form--needs better merchandising or a public relations firm?

Have we surrendered to the starving artist's mantra and believe that, because we produce handmade items, we cannot demand respect or decent prices for our work? Respect comes when we have pride in what we do and what we produce. If we denigrate our efforts why would others give us higher accolades than what we seek?

Oh, yes. Too many times potters hear the words, "That's really expensive, I can get a (bowl, cup, plate, casserole, etc.) at (Ikea, Walmart, Pier One, etc) for a lot less." There's no arguing with these folks, because the bottom line is the deciding factor. And the people out there who pride themselves on purchasing "hand made" pottery, but don't look for the signed bottom or ask where the potter lives (Chris's rant #8). What it comes down to is that it is our responsibility--personally and communally--to educate the public to the differences that mean so much to us. It's time to make people aware of the deep historical foundations as well as the contemporary changes that are taking place on a daily basis.
Do you have ideas on how this can happen and will you share?

#5 scoobydoozie

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Posted 06 March 2012 - 09:48 AM

Idaho Potter, I think you are on to something regarding "Is it that pottery--as an art form--needs better merchandising or a public relations firm?"

As an example, I started and still participate in hobby cast ceramics. That industry has taken a tremendous hit and downsizing. However, what I notice is that there is no advertising outside of the industry itself. If you don't participate in the hobby, then you don't see any advertising. So how are they reaching new customers to stop the downward slide? Duncan ceramics has partially made an effort by creating a unified website (which is a pain to navigate) at ilovetocreate.com that features all their craft products including ceramic products. At least they have made an effort, I suppose, but it is still not large enough in scope.

The same is true of pottery. There are no "California Raisins", "Wisconsin Cheese", or "Behold the power of Milk" commericals for pottery or cast ceramics. If these main stream well known industries found it necessary to have generic commercials that represent an industry/council, then maybe that is what the fired arts need also to help raise awareness. Now who exactly would sponsor and pay for such representation is a different beast that will be elusive and hard to capture.....

#6 JBaymore

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Posted 06 March 2012 - 10:48 AM

There are no "California Raisins", "Wisconsin Cheese", or "Behold the power of Milk" commericals for pottery or cast ceramics. If these main stream well known industries found it necessary to have generic commercials that represent an industry/council, then maybe that is what the fired arts need also to help raise awareness. Now who exactly would sponsor and pay for such representation is a different beast that will be elusive and hard to capture.....


What we need is a slogan like the milk folks have......... hey.......... "Got Pot?" Nah.... that likely would backfire on us. Posted Image

Seriously........

The "sponsor" here needs to be us. What is that saying, "I've seen the enemey and he is us.". We are our own worst enemy in promoting the field and in appropriately educating the public. There is ALSO that saying , "It takes money to make money." WE need to invest in this field. And "invest" means that eventually we will hope to see a return on that investment. If we do it well.... we will.

I absolutely deplore all of the the "I play with clay" and "Ceramics... the worlds most fascinating hobby" type stuff that we spread all over the place. I don't know about how other pros feel.... but I WORK at ceramics. I work very hard at what I do. It is a very enjoyable JOB.... but it is a profession. As long as we do not promote it as such.... we really hurt ourselves. If we do not take ourselves seriously...... why should others? We don't see doctors promoting that, "I play with pennicillin". Or "Nuclear physics... the worlds most fascinating hobby."

Add to that stuff the internal "art versus craft" debate that occupies so much verbiage amongst the practitioners in our field. Unlike the Japanese who simply embrace ceramics (and other "craft" media) as an art form ... we come across as trying to "justify" these objects made out of clay as having "higher value". And can't agree on that even to ourselves. The fact that we can't agree on the status of what it is that we do is not lost on the public.

Then there is the (politically incorrect thing to say) unfortunate lack of self-imposed "standards". Too many people who are not really all that skilled yet, not having the self-critical and humble understanding that it is not yet time for them to venture into "the marketplace". So a lot of not-such-good claywork at very low price points floods the market and negatively affects the consumer's developing understanding of what truly good clay work is,...... and what kind of prices that good work needs to command to sustain the profession.

Mix into all this the fact that hand-made, studio artist ceramic vessels are currently a LUXURY in the world in general, with plastic and glass replacing any functional necessity..... and you have the mixture for some serious issues. We need to take a serious look at overall "market positioning" for what it is that we do.

And we DO really need an overarching promotion campaign for hand-crafted studio ceramics. But such a campaign will require really big, BIG money. Likely (almost for sure) we simply can't afford such an effort. Are YOU (the generic "you" here) going to contribute to such a broad generic branding effort? What is that effort going to be worth to you personally? $50 a year? $100 a year? $1000 a year? $10,0000 a year?

Is this something the Potters Council should be taking on? If so, how would we actually fund it? Voluntary contributions? High dues bills? Tiered membership levels with higher dues for professional level membership? And what is the realistic total budget we could possibly raise from such an effort? Even a total of $50,000? I doubt it. If we were able to accomplish that for one year.... would we hit that every year for a sust ained period? Likely not. And that kind of money is really "chump change" in such efforts. It would have little real effect at a national level.

We really have to do this individually and at the local level with guilds and craft centers. And with our own businesses. With our own money spent on this effort. As long as we do not take the art as seriously as we should as an overall group.... the public won't either. Most of us are not all that affluent... but we do need to invest in this. For everyone's good. If we truly love this medium and want to see it flourish...... we owe it to the field. We are in this togeher.....bound by our common love of clay and ceramic process.

Thankfully there is still a small percentage of the general population that is affluent enough and understands the import of having "high touch" objects in their day-to-day life. That small segment is basically what supports us. We need to grow this relatively tiny market segment. This subject is important to discuss. And to take action upon.


best,

.................john
John Baymore
Immediate Past President; Potters Council
Professor of Ceramics; New Hampshire Insitute of Art

http://www.JohnBaymore.com

#7 Chris Campbell

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Posted 06 March 2012 - 11:01 AM

Love your post John, but disagree about the need for $$$$$$$ money. This could be a simpler grass roots effort.

I think we should hitch on to the "Buy Local" trend right now while it is growing in the public mind. Locally produced, human made pots are a perfect fit for it.
Serve that locally grown food on a locally made plate.
The people who can afford to buy fresh, local produce are the same economic group who can afford to buy a real pot.

I'm thinking large and small package stickers, bumper stickers, t-shirts with a unified slogan ... It can be as simple as BUY LOCAL POTTERY.

Yes, it is something ACerS & Potters Council might be able to do but I would like to hear from our Members ... would you buy and use these stickers and tees?

Chris Campbell
Contemporary Fine Colored Porcelain
www.ccpottery.com

TRY ...   FAIL ...  LEARN ...  REPEAT


#8 scoobydoozie

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Posted 06 March 2012 - 11:18 AM

Yes! Great ideas, Chris! CafePress.com is a great place to start all those products and have the Potter's Guild endorse it and advertise them on their web site. By using CafePress.com, it allows more people outside of pottery to view them and the slogan. Build it and I'll buy it, wear it and stick it on my car, Chris. Posted Image

I realize a lareg tv ad/slogan campaign is more a pipe dream and starting small grass roots is immediately doable. Posted Image

#9 scoobydoozie

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Posted 06 March 2012 - 11:31 AM

Hey, John. There is definitely confusion on the different segments of fired clay (lol... notice I avoided ceramics and pottery there). Pottery is ceramics but ceramics is not necessarily pottery? Posted Image It's confusing and since I participate in both, that's why I use the term hobby ceramics for paint your own bisque studios and cast ceramic earthenware from mass production molds (ew.. that was tough just trying to explain that sentence) and I use the term Pottery for hand thrown and hand built items. I'm not sure there's an industry standard on this lingo, but it would be nice to be able to differentiate and be able to differentiate consistently and correctly as an industry. Posted Image I think the Duncan's old slogan, "Ceramics... the worlds most fascinating hobby" was great, but I think it applied more to commercial mold cast ceramics and not to "pottery".

Feel free to expound on the correct terms and distinction as this has always confused me and I'm more confused just writing this.......Posted Image

#10 JBaymore

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Posted 06 March 2012 - 12:36 PM

Hum.........

All work made out of clay that is fired is technically ceramic. Some work made out of clay is pottery. Some work made out of clay is sculpture. Some pottery is fully hand-made. Some pottery is not fully hand-made.

We could go on forever. Posted Image

So there is no easy "catch all" that gives everything in one shot really, I guess.

Ceramics also extends to other things which we might not think immediately about. The technical definition of ceramis is "a technology based on the oxides of metals and metallic earths". So stuff like glass is ceramics. So are a lot of semiconductors (silicon based). SOme medical devices. Some car engines. And so on.

And if YOU are confused .... as a ceramist.... imagine the public's understanding and differentiations. So that old Duncan slogan did not stop at slip-cast mold-made types of works in their mind.

best,

................john
John Baymore
Immediate Past President; Potters Council
Professor of Ceramics; New Hampshire Insitute of Art

http://www.JohnBaymore.com

#11 Prokopp

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Posted 06 March 2012 - 12:37 PM

I think that the fact that there is only one reply to the post about the death of Ken Price gives us the answer to the OP's question.
The answer is: "Yes, most assuredly so."

#12 JBaymore

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Posted 06 March 2012 - 12:41 PM

I think that the fact that there is only one reply to the post about the death of Ken Price gives us the answer to the OP's question.
The answer is: "Yes, most assuredly so."


Outside the actual ceramics community and a small cadre of collectors, and a FEW museum curators, that name and his significance probably does not even bring a hint of past awareness.

Unfortunately.

best,

..................john
John Baymore
Immediate Past President; Potters Council
Professor of Ceramics; New Hampshire Insitute of Art

http://www.JohnBaymore.com

#13 TJR

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Posted 06 March 2012 - 12:57 PM

I am responding to Ann's, Chris's and Johns posts about standards. If I missed anyone out I aplogize. I am a potter making functional pottery. I came out of the Leach[Bernard] ,Cardew tradition, although I watch Simon Leach's video and learn much. I think ,John, the payment here is to maintain high standards. Smash your seconds. Don't sell work before you are ready to get out there. We have all seen mediocre pottery, and many people think that this is the standard we go by. We have all been to craft fairs where the hobbyist has their wares. There is a standard, but it is cloudy. Do we know what makes a good pot? Some galleries do, some don't. Do we make it blue so that it will sell faster? What is the cost to all of us if we are willing to sell work that is not our best?
As Simon Leach would say, "Keep practicing!"
TJR.

#14 Dinah

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Posted 06 March 2012 - 09:00 PM

I use the phrase <Slow Manufacturing> taking a cue from the Slow Food Movement. I also stress <Buy Local> on my little stand up 8 x 11 menu holder of info/prices on my tables at the local Mount Vernon Saturday Farmer's Market. I live in Skagit County, Washington State, and sit on the board of Salish Sea Chapter of Slow Food. FYI, I've also been co-opted onto the board of the Potters Council after someone resigned, but you know all about that. Thank you for your vote. Hope to meet you at NCECA I will be in the Potters Council booth in the mornings -- come chat with me.

Back to business, I was taken aback one day when a lady asked me where my factory was located. I explained that -- as the crow flies -- I was up The Hill -- an old residential area in Mount Vernon, behind us no more than 1/4 mile, and she was welcomed to come see my workshop. So, Local and Slow took on a new meaning for her; dear reader she became a customer. I also know that folks are using the term Urban Crafter too. There are many ways of defining what one does. We all have a deep interest in appealing and selling to a very tricksy demographic these days. Just be true to yourself, and what you do. But for heaven's sake, be an intelligent maker to the best of your abilities. I've never had anyone say to my face: I'll get it cheaper at W******, or wherever. My best advice would be to smile and say: "I hear you. But here's my card in case you want to buy something really special for a special occasion from a local person." There's plenty of ways of saying it to meet the moment. This is what I say to the group I'll label "Old Dears" who've down-sized from 3000 square feet to something the size of a bed-sit, and we all have had them browsing around, and say to me as they look over the ware: "I don't want anymore knick-knacks, I've given them all away." LOL. We'll all be there eventually. So be gentle.

If you haven't had the pleasure of fronting your work in a genuinely public venue solo, then you haven't lived. Some of you've had the filter of a gallery/rep forever, your Statement on a bit of paper, etc. Some of us have both options. Meeting the public regularly keeps things very, very fresh.
Dinah
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#15 Anne Castano

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Posted 07 March 2012 - 07:42 AM

Wow, I am blown away by all the responses here. The debate is well and truly alive. I was wondering if I would be able to use excerpts of some of the replies in my blog? I will credit every one and provide links to their websites and post a link back here so you can rant at me if you don't approve and I will immediately change it. Cross my heart.

The traffic to my blog has rocketed over the past few days and when I look at the stats it appears that most of it is from the US. I just wish I could get more of the stiff upper lip English types ranting and making a fuss and kicking up a stink, drawing attention to ourselves at this moment would not be such a bad idea.

The main points raised here so far seem to surround how we define ourselves, maker/designer/potter/ceramicist/ceramist/artist and so on. I am equally confused about my identity it is maker/artis/designer at the moment but these could change order at any time. This struggle with a definition of ourselves is definitely projected out there. I wonder if we appear as a bunch of confused, bearded, not to technological people who like a bit of country air. And is that a bad thing or not?

The other point that jumped out at me was 'going local'. I need to spend a morning thinking this one through. BUT I am going to risk putting an un-fully formed view out there. Isn't that just going back to the B. Leach way of doing things? You know, the potter in his country studio providing for his local community. In this post I look at some of the ways our industry has changed over the years, that may raise some thoughts. And in this post I have a bit of a rant about Leach. Could it be that we need to diversify further? Is it enough just to educate people with some clever marketing so that they realise my perceived value of ceramics. I mean people pay extortionate prices for all kinds of ridiculous things that cost nothing to manufacture, and are to be frank crappy.

I think I will have to give up the day job, I am spending so much time on blogging and this debate. I have to go and do some marking! I will be back with further rants and more questions. (I seem to have many questions, but no answers)

#16 JBaymore

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Posted 07 March 2012 - 07:56 AM

I was wondering if I would be able to use excerpts of some of the replies in my blog? I will credit every one and provide links to their websites and post a link back here so you can rant at me if you don't approve and I will immediately change it.


Fine from me.

best,

............john
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Immediate Past President; Potters Council
Professor of Ceramics; New Hampshire Insitute of Art

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#17 Idaho Potter

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Posted 07 March 2012 - 04:35 PM

If I wrote anything worth repeating--have at it. Permission granted.

Shirley A. Potter (aka Idaho Potter)

As an aside, I agree with Chris about LOCAL. Idaho has a "Buy Idaho" program set up (I'll find out by who) and stores, artists, and other local manufacturers and business people promote the idea by placards and signs inside the businesses, and stickers on the product sold. I don't know how much it costs or how to qualify, but I WILL find out and get back to this thread.

Anybody else know if their states are doing something similar? Check around, it could be that if several states are doing this, it might become a ground swell for the State's Tourist Board (Dept. of Commerce?) in any state and we--as motivated artists--could ride the wave.

#18 Pres

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Posted 07 March 2012 - 08:01 PM

Love your post John, but disagree about the need for $$$$ money. This could be a simpler grass roots effort.

I think we should hitch on to the "Buy Local" trend right now while it is growing in the public mind. Locally produced, human made pots are a perfect fit for it.
Serve that locally grown food on a locally made plate.
The people who can afford to buy fresh, local produce are the same economic group who can afford to buy a real pot.

I'm thinking large and small package stickers, bumper stickers, t-shirts with a unified slogan ... It can be as simple as BUY LOCAL POTTERY.

Yes, it is something ACerS & Potters Council might be able to do but I would like to hear from our Members ... would you buy and use these stickers and tees?


An interesting thought-buy local pottery! Hmmm, some facets of that argument might be learned from the following: Several years ago a large nationally known show in our area made changes to their jury process. They set aside a certain percentage of spaces for local artists. Even though they would have around 300-350 artists, locals rarely got in due to the great numbers of people applying to the show. This was welcomed by the local artisans, and several, including myself entered the show. However, when setting up the spaces all of the local artists were put in one area. The traffic was less in that area than in the rest of the show. For some reason people perceived that the local artists were of lesser quality than the others. After a few years of this they spread the locals through out the show. We could draw several conclusions from this, and have a great deal of discussion about the practice itself. In the end I believed it was fair, because many of the local artists were doing the work to bring about the show.

Simply retired teacher, not dead, living the dream. on and on and. . . . on. . . .                                                                                 http://picworkspottery.blogspot.com/


#19 teardrop

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 12:42 AM

Then there is the (politically incorrect thing to say) unfortunate lack of self-imposed "standards". Too many people who are not really all that skilled yet, not having the self-critical and humble understanding that it is not yet time for them to venture into "the marketplace". So a lot of not-such-good claywork at very low price points floods the market and negatively affects the consumer's developing understanding of what truly good clay work is,...... and what kind of prices that good work needs to command to sustain the profession.


As a complete noob who is well-described in the above condescention;) ...I just wanted to say that it truly only matters to me that people enjoy what I do enough to buy it and take it home. If that person is you...great. If not....move along quietly, please :lol:

So rather than having us "people who are not really all that skilled yet" at the Market....would the majority of you rather there be no one selling clay work or representing "Pottery" whatsoever at the Market?
Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind. Dr. Seuss US author & illustrator (1904 - 1991)

#20 JessicaInnonGarobito

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 03:09 AM

That seems to be a choice between the lesser of two evils, isn't it?
'Condescention' or truth?




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