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Chris Campbell

Why Pottery? | March 5, 2012

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Chris Campbell    1,088

I have just returned from a fabulous weekend at the 25th North Carolina Potters Conference.

Over 150 potters young and old assembled once again to share our love of clay. One of the questions we stopped to examine was the relevance of clay and the human made object today. Some fear the handmade pot is doomed by easy access to the cheap and disposable while others predict a renaissance of interest due to the 'buy local' movement. They strongly advocate we hitch our carts to it.

So what do you all think? What is the future of handmade pottery? Do people still really need the connection?

 

Why pottery?

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Ivar    1

Dear Chris,

 

I live in Zagreb, Croatia, and pottery here is in such low level you couldn't imagine. When I read your posts from US and see how many exibitions, fairs, forums etc you have I wish to pack my bags and move to US. But I do not give up, and hope that people will come to their sense, and move from this consumer/cheap/mass production/eastern/low quality pottery to a unique, hand made with love, and artistic pottery...

 

There is issue of money. Here people work for ca 1000 USD per month, and they usually can't afford vase or bowl for 100-200 USD or so. They like it, they would love to have it, but it is too expensive for them. However I do not think it will ever extinct because we need to create things, and everybody wants to have something individual, unique.. It is in our nature.

 

 

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Frederik-W    23

Its doomed my friend. Sorry to say.:(

Kids want to fondle their iPhones and iPads and other gadgets,

sit behind their computers,

not play with mud.

 

It would not die out, it will be practiced mainly by a small group of people who see it as art. Yes, there will be young people, but very few. Don't get your hopes up. Sad but true.

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Denice    243

Oh my what doom and gloom, art will come back when the world economy does, art has always suffered in poor economics through out history. I know it seems like all young people are glued to their phones and computers but there are many budding young artist out there. When they are at my house the first place they go to is my studio and then they are drawn to my work from the 70's like magnets. It will take a while but we will see a resurgence of ceramics. Denice

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Chris Campbell    1,088

Yes, I don't agree with that pessimism either as I was just around a large group of pottery students who love clay and wonder how they can spend their lives making pots. They might be constantly tweeting and texting but they are also addicted to clay.

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Guest Big Electric Cat   
Guest Big Electric Cat

I think handmade everything will have a future as long as someone wants to do it.

We now have mp3s yet vinyl lives on, there is digital photography, yet many still use and prefer film, etc. A couple of decades ago, blacksmithing was pronounced all but dead, and now is very vital, having become an art form even more so than it already was. In the 1980's, the art world all but declared painting, as a viable artistic expression, dead. We know that painting is still popular, even in the face of all kinds of new ways to express one's self.

I sometimes wish I could stop thinking and talking about ceramics, and MAKE more ceramics, that will certainly help keep it going, if I try to do something, instead of assuming others are going to do it.

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Pres    896

I have just returned from a fabulous weekend at the 25th North Carolina Potters Conference.

Over 150 potters young and old assembled once again to share our love of clay. One of the questions we stopped to examine was the relevance of clay and the human made object today. Some fear the handmade pot is doomed by easy access to the cheap and disposable while others predict a renaissance of interest due to the 'buy local' movement. They strongly advocate we hitch our carts to it.

So what do you all think? What is the future of handmade pottery? Do people still really need the connection?

 

Why pottery?

 

 

So how can anyone be asking this question or being negative about the future of ceramics when seeing the likes of the younger established potters that were at NC. The three of them were real treats to listen to, and their life styles were obviously not about tweeting, or texting, but about clay. I included a few composites I made up that will help me remember their names and the weekend.

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Dinah    6

The USA is historically so very fortunate to have a EEE :D educational footprint which aides and encourages arts and crafts. There is a vast network of superb teaching, learning, support, and aesthetics tradition feeding innovation and excellence in ceramics. We have much to celebrate. Thank you, John and Chris, for reminding us.

 

I do empathize with Ivar -- sharing with all of us -- from Croatia his deep concerns about an historical (not cultural) disparity, -- or a disconnect in today's techie speak -- and lack of support and for practitioners in the arts at the current time. It is a very frustrating and compelling problem. It would be wonderful to discover mutual solutions.

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Nelly    16

I have just returned from a fabulous weekend at the 25th North Carolina Potters Conference.

Over 150 potters young and old assembled once again to share our love of clay. One of the questions we stopped to examine was the relevance of clay and the human made object today. Some fear the handmade pot is doomed by easy access to the cheap and disposable while others predict a renaissance of interest due to the 'buy local' movement. They strongly advocate we hitch our carts to it.

So what do you all think? What is the future of handmade pottery? Do people still really need the connection?

 

Why pottery?

 

 

So how can anyone be asking this question or being negative about the future of ceramics when seeing the likes of the younger established potters that were at NC. The three of them were real treats to listen to, and their life styles were obviously not about tweeting, or texting, but about clay. I included a few composites I made up that will help me remember their names and the weekend.

 

 

 

Dear All,

 

I have to tell you that I do find this conversation interesting. This past Spring when I asked my contractor to help me put an extension onto my garage he too said "but that is an old fashioned art...no one does that anymore...you aren't going to make any money you know." I countered with "it is my hobby and whether or not I make money at it is not really something I care about. It just brings me pleasure."

 

Having said that, I do like the idea of hopping onto the green movement and that our products are indestructible. They will be here long after we live. Having said this, we all have a shard pile that unless carefully monitored will lead to more landfill.

 

My promise to myself is to only fire those things I really, really think will make it and amount to something I will keep, give away or sell.

 

But as for it being "old fashioned" I do agree our time back "in vogue" will be realized once again. I just wish here in Canada that we had more active pottery classes for those in secondary schools to experience the sheer pleasure of clay.

 

Great discussion.

 

Nelly

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TJR    359

I have just returned from a fabulous weekend at the 25th North Carolina Potters Conference.

Over 150 potters young and old assembled once again to share our love of clay. One of the questions we stopped to examine was the relevance of clay and the human made object today. Some fear the handmade pot is doomed by easy access to the cheap and disposable while others predict a renaissance of interest due to the 'buy local' movement. They strongly advocate we hitch our carts to it.

So what do you all think? What is the future of handmade pottery? Do people still really need the connection?

 

Why pottery?

 

 

So how can anyone be asking this question or being negative about the future of ceramics when seeing the likes of the younger established potters that were at NC. The three of them were real treats to listen to, and their life styles were obviously not about tweeting, or texting, but about clay. I included a few composites I made up that will help me remember their names and the weekend.

 

 

 

Dear All,

 

I have to tell you that I do find this conversation interesting. This past Spring when I asked my contractor to help me put an extension onto my garage he too said "but that is an old fashioned art...no one does that anymore...you aren't going to make any money you know." I countered with "it is my hobby and whether or not I make money at it is not really something I care about. It just brings me pleasure."

 

Having said that, I do like the idea of hopping onto the green movement and that our products are indestructible. They will be here long after we live. Having said this, we all have a shard pile that unless carefully monitored will lead to more landfill.

 

My promise to myself is to only fire those things I really, really think will make it and amount to something I will keep, give away or sell.

 

But as for it being "old fashioned" I do agree our time back "in vogue" will be realized once again. I just wish here in Canada that we had more active pottery classes for those in secondary schools to experience the sheer pleasure of clay.

 

Great discussion.

 

Nelly

 

 

 

Nellie;

I had to smile when you talked about your contractor telling you that your craft is "old fashioned."I also built a studio. My contractor did not have an opinion. He gladly took my money .I am also in Canada.

TJR.

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TJR    359

Frederick-w;

I have been wanting to respond to your gloomy vision of the future. Congratulations for voicing such a strong opinion. I have to disagree with you, however. I teach highschool art. I see over 120 students in art everyday. My classes are packed. I have two Grade 9 classes of 29, and 30. I have two Grade 11 classes of 31 each. All of these students have chosen to be here. Last semester I taught a Grade 9 class, a Gr. 12 and a grade 10. There are two full time art teachers and both of us are packed to the rafters. Cell phones and computer devices are not allowed. Students work on art for 75 minutes everyday. Students must select art as their first choice or they won't get into the class. This is just how popular it is. I built the program from 1.5 art teachers. We could hire another half time art teacher.

One section is ceramics. I used to use coloured slips and a clear glaze, but have now switched to commercial glaze. This aspect of the course is hugely popular. Kids who can't think 2 dimentionally love this unit. My huge Olympic kiln fires daily until all work is finished. Evening art classes in pottery are always packed. I taught adult pottery for eight years before becoming a school teacher. I think people will always be interested in working with their hands. Just my opinion.

TJR.

 

 

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Idaho Potter    62

I envy you TJR. Idaho's first cutback in school funding is always art. Second to go is music. So far, the bands are still playing, but budget cuts have reduced the number of art classes in all areas--painting, drawing, ceramics have all suffered. The school board wants the kids to concentrate on science and math because they say we are sadly far behind other US schoolls and the world.Science and math are also creative and without art to stir creativity, is it any wonder that we are falling behind in lots of areas of endeavor.

 

The young people I know want some outlet that lets them express feelings and responses that they can't put into words--not even texting. I just hope--when the economy turns around--that our young people haven't turned in automatons who can no longer reach beyond what they know. I think they will seek out ways to create art whether it is computer animation, paint and canvas, or a pottery wheel regardless of budget cuts.

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Pres    896

I envy you TJR. Idaho's first cutback in school funding is always art. Second to go is music. So far, the bands are still playing, but budget cuts have reduced the number of art classes in all areas--painting, drawing, ceramics have all suffered. The school board wants the kids to concentrate on science and math because they say we are sadly far behind other US schoolls and the world.Science and math are also creative and without art to stir creativity, is it any wonder that we are falling behind in lots of areas of endeavor.

 

The young people I know want some outlet that lets them express feelings and responses that they can't put into words--not even texting. I just hope--when the economy turns around--that our young people haven't turned in automatons who can no longer reach beyond what they know. I think they will seek out ways to create art whether it is computer animation, paint and canvas, or a pottery wheel regardless of budget cuts.

 

 

There is a great amount of armor out there to help with the bullets that the Science/Math advocates shoot at the Arts. There is a great amount of evidence that involvement in the arts will raise scores on performance tests many percentage points. Other research reveals that students involved in the arts have greater degrees of 3D perception and creative problems solving skills than students that are not involved. These things need to be stressed when dealing with school boards and parent committees. Strangely enough, the enrichment courses chosen by affluent parents for their children are usually in the arts. What do they know that the school administrators don't know?

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Frederik-W    23

I think some of you miss the main point I wanted to make - that it will be practiced by a small group of people as ART.

I should have explained myself better, because all the mention of art actually confirms my argument.

 

Let's face the facts:

In earlier centuries when steel and plastic vessels were not available, pottery played a huge part in everyday life and it was widely practiced as an art and an essential craft.

Potters played a vital role in society. Those days are gone !!

Pottery still play an essential part in some underdeveloped parts of the world e.g. Africa,

but when cooking and drinking vessels are replaced by large-scale commercial production items,

pottery dies out to a large extend and the meaning or role of ceramics changes.

It is then relegated to something that only a few practice as a hobby and as art.

Much of ceramics in the West today are machine made, the rest is not utilitarian, practiced by those who have leisure time and access to equipment, etc.

The items demand high prices and are often made for galleries or exhibits in middle-class homes as art. (I generalize, I know there are some exceptions).

 

It is very nice to know of enthusiastic kids taking up pottery etc,

but we should not fool ourselves by ignoring the diminishing role of ceramics in a historical, social and cultural context,

and we should not fool ourselves by ignoring the fact that it was far more than art in the past, far more than it is today.

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Pres    896

I think some of you miss the main point I wanted to make - that it will be practiced by a small group of people as ART.

I should have explained myself better, because all the mention of art actually confirms my argument.

 

Let's face the facts:

In earlier centuries when steel and plastic vessels were not available, pottery played a huge part in everyday life and it was widely practiced as an art and an essential craft.

Potters played a vital role in society. Those days are gone !!

Pottery still play an essential part in some underdeveloped parts of the world e.g. Africa,

but when cooking and drinking vessels are replaced by large-scale commercial production items,

pottery dies out to a large extend and the meaning or role of ceramics changes.

It is then relegated to something that only a few practice as a hobby and as art.

Much of ceramics in the West today are machine made, the rest is not utilitarian, practiced by those who have leisure time and access to equipment, etc.

The items demand high prices and are often made for galleries or exhibits in middle-class homes as art. (I generalize, I know there are some exceptions).

 

It is very nice to know of enthusiastic kids taking up pottery etc,

but we should not fool ourselves by ignoring the diminishing role of ceramics in a historical, social and cultural context,

and we should not fool ourselves by ignoring the fact that it was far more than art in the past, far more than it is today.

 

 

Yes we have moved on from the use of handmade utilitarian ware that is wood or ceramic. However, there are still a number of people out there that still appreciate the attributes of a handmade bowl, or mug. These people wouldn't even think of drinking out of a massed produced mug. This mug may not be art, but it transcends the mass produced ware that is so prevalent today, or maybe it is art. At any rate many potters still create for household use the functional pottery of a quality and excellence of function that cannot be had even in well designed factory ware. We also see much of the functional ware that is collectable, and revered lifting above craft to art. I understand your argument, but also know that there are still people out there willing to pay more to get more.

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JBaymore    1,432
Much of ceramics in the West today are machine made, the rest is not utilitarian, practiced by those who have leisure time and access to equipment, etc.

 

"The rest is not utilitarian"? So it is "machine-made" or "not utilitarian"? I simply do not get this statement. Can you explain how you arrived at this conclusion?

 

"....have leisure time"? Again... I don't get it. Personally when I am in the studio I am working. Ceramics is my job. Can you again explain how you arrived at this conclusion?

 

 

 

best,

 

.......................john

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Chris Campbell    1,088

Are potters necessary? I would say the answer is yes .... to those who care. I would say that if every potter worked all day making pots we still would not fill the needs of that percentage .... any % is a whole lot of people.

Another thing to remember is that manufactured pieces are often invented and designed by potters with excellent skills.

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GEP    863

I really don't care whether the world needs me to make pots. I do it because I need to make pots.

 

I tell my students this ... there is only one good reason to make pottery by hand these days ... to please yourself. This is a 100% complete and valid reason and does not require further justification.

 

There is a proverb, I don't remember where I heard it "Don't ask what the world needs from you. Ask yourself what would make you sing with joy. Because what the world needs are more people who sing with joy."

 

Right now, enough people want to buy my pots so I can do it full-time. I consider this a blessing, not an entitlement. And I think it's up to me to find customers for my pots, rather than waiting for the world to change its values.

 

 

 

Mea

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JBaymore    1,432

I really don't care whether the world needs me to make pots. I do it because I need to make pots.

 

I tell my students this ... there is only one good reason to make pottery by hand these days ... to please yourself. This is a 100% complete and valid reason and does not require further justification.

 

There is a proverb, I don't remember where I heard it "Don't ask what the world needs from you. Ask yourself what would make you sing with joy. Because what the world needs are more people who sing with joy."

 

Right now, enough people want to buy my pots so I can do it full-time. I consider this a blessing, not an entitlement. And I think it's up to me to find customers for my pots, rather than waiting for the world to change its values.

 

 

 

Mea

 

 

What she said! wink.gif

 

best,

 

...........................john

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Frederik-W    23
Much of ceramics in the West today are machine made, the rest is not utilitarian, practiced by those who have leisure time and access to equipment, etc.

 

"The rest is not utilitarian"? So it is "machine-made" or "not utilitarian"? I simply do not get this statement. Can you explain how you arrived at this conclusion?

 

"....have leisure time"? Again... I don't get it. Personally when I am in the studio I am working. Ceramics is my job. Can you again explain how you arrived at this conclusion?

 

 

 

best,

 

.......................john

 

 

OK, allow me to explain myself better:

What I am trying to point out is the diminishing role of hand-made ceramics in society, in a historical context.

Most utilitarian ceramics today are factory/machine made (Cups, plates, cooking ware).

The rest (hand made ceramics) is a small segment, mostly being done by people as a hobby or as art.

I did say that I am generalising: Of course there are professional people who do this.

But hand-made utilitarian ceramics by professionals is a niche market.

Most people who work with clay today do NOT make a living out of it.

If there was a bigger demand then there certainly would be more professional potters.

 

The majority of people who dirty their hands with clay today do it as a hobby - they do not do it for a living,

it is not their job and they do it in their leisure time (or as kids at school etc).

They also have to have access to rather expensive equipment.

 

The fact that there are young people interested in pottery, that there are people who appreciate hand-made stuff,

that there are professional artists and potters who make a living out of pottery is all very nice,

I am not diminishing this, I am pointing out the historical trend.

 

If we go to remote parts of the world, we can still see the role that pottery plays.

They use hand made pots for everything, and it plays a big part in their lives in many ways.

As these people Westernise and modernise, utilitarian vessels made out of clay is replaced by steel, glass & plastic.

Skills in pottery become rare. (Texting skills on mobile phones become more common:)).

Eventually hand made pottery diminishes and becomes what it has become in the West,

something done MOSTLY as a hobby and as art, in contrast to the role and scope it had before.

I hope my point is now as clear as mud.

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teardrop    2

I believe all things run in cycles. In the late 40's-50's-early 60's....when all the men came home from WWII and the baby boomers were created, mass production was king. Just think of the kitchen tables and chairs as one bit of proof. No wood. Mostly curvy metal and formicas. That "diner" look.

Then came the 60's and the revolt by the young against "all things parent"...including the kitschy decor in their homes. The result....hand-made goods en masse. Beads, macreme', clay, fabrics... all of that trippy 70's stuff you may (or may not..LOL) remember

 

I think we're poised at this place again. At some point, technology will overload many folks and they will scamper back to more "grounded" items. The overabundance of Wal-Mart crap...the preponderance of plastic...the constant bombardment of technology....all of this will again, IMO, wear on folks to the point that they again gravitate back to items that are natural/come from the land/etc.

I could be wrong...but the "kids" are sure livin the 70's again though wardrobe, a resurgance in Classic Rock and yes...some good old fashioned drugging as well.... :rolleyes: so I do have a bit of hope that we will see a swing back to handmade items soon.

 

either way....I'm gonna be playin' in da clay.

 

be well, all

 

teardrop

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Matt Oz    67

I've participated in a large all clay show for 20 years or so, and sales have stayed pretty consistent, with lots of younger people buying and selling in the show.

 

If Etsy is any indication, pottery seems popular with a younger crowd.

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Idaho Potter    62

In a book purchased from a 2nd hand bookstore was a cardboard bookmark. The quote on it was by Stanley Tucci (actor), but I think it goes for anyone who wants to create anything:

 

"If you find that thing you love, it doesn't necessarily matter whether you do it well or not--you just need to do it"

 

 

I think that ties in with what Mea wrote, and as with most things, the more you do something the better you get. How sweet is that? If it makes you happy, that will spill over into the lives of everyone around you and spread like ripples on a pond. Sort of like hugs--you gotta share 'em. So get busy and make pots.

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