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Rebekah Krieger

The Need For It To Be Understood

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I have noticed that many threads here tend to move in the direction of the public having no idea what they are looking at, the work involved, the time dedicated, etc. 

 

Many talk about trying to explain the process.

Many talk about trying to explain the 35 years it took to create this pot. 

I have read comments about people saying "I could never do what you do" and getting annoyed at them for not understanding how hard your struggle was to do what you do.

I have read about how annoying it is when a person at an art show asks "do you make this in blue?", etc.  

The comments about new potters with little talent and experience trying to compete with more experienced ones at the craft shows.

Consumers not understanding the difference between a $5 target cup, and a $25 handmade piece. 

The battle between art and craft etc.  

 

 

 

 

My uncle is an artist, and when he saw a piece of mine he said "I wonder what was going through your thoughts when you made that"  "When an artist makes a piece, our thoughts and feelings go into it". I have thought out how I would respond if someone asks me the difference between my bowl and a $5 target bowl, and I considered replying that nobody's soul is in the target bowl.   When I work on the wheel, I hold my breath with each pull, I have memories and emotions play through my mind when I create it. When finished, I step back from each piece (even though they still suck) and feel overwhelming emotion. As if something deep within me that I never looked at, came out.  And there it is in front of me on this wheel head.  When something flops, It's like a physical let down as if I was not able to complete the task of facing the emotions that were attempting to come through.  

 

Each piece contains a deep part of me.  (even when they have s cracks and uneven lips) I promise that even though my piece does not show physical control yet, it certainly has the same amount of soul poured into it.  

 

I have said to someone "I could never be as good as you"... because It isn't fathomable at this point.  Someday I hope to be wrong.  But when I made that comment to an artist, I meant it as a compliment, as a way of expressing how difficult I acknowledge it to be. 

 

It got me thinking about computer repairmen, and how cocky they can be about those who know nothing about computers. I thought about wine connoisseurs and how some of them are known to be snobbish at those who drink lambrusco or merlot.  All we want from the computer repairman is to fix out damn computer. And all we want from the wine connoisseur is to pair our meal with something that would be enjoyable. We don't want to know how the circuit board works, and how rainy the season was in napa.   

 

My question is, Could we be doing that to people who inquire about our work?  

Why is it that we need them to know? Or do they need to know?

How do we show them all of this?

Is it the lack of respect by the consumer that causes us to get defensive or is it our need for recognition? Or both?

How far do we need to take our explanations? (I am interested to see the varied opinions on this)

 

I am excited to see the responses and discussion that comes from these questions. 

 

 

 

 

 

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I get a ton of questions, it seems, at each fair about how I make the stretched slip vases, bottles, etc.  Most are intrigued by the surface.  And, if I had a nickel for every time I explained the process, I could retire.  But, a good number of folks buy those same wares after hearing how they are made.  And, if someone is buying the item as a gift, they want to be able to relate that same narrative.  I can also tell when the person really has no intent to buy, but is just curious.  They still get the explanation -- consider it an investment in the future for when they are ready/able to buy.  When explaining, you can make the pot as ordinary as one on the shelf at a giant retailer; or you can make it as special and unique as it is to yourself.  I've found customers really relate to the latter. 

 

Another question I get is, "What did you intend for this item to be used for?" -- (generally ignoring the small card/sign next to the piece that says how it can be used for a number of purposes).  And, whatever my response is, the person most often replies, "Yes, that is what I had in mind -- I just wanted to make sure."  (Inside, you really want to say, "If you buy the bowl/vase/platter, I really don't care how you use it -- you paid for it, do what you want.  But those are thoughts best kept to yourself.)

 

When some people buy handmade, they are looking to buy not only the item but also a part of the artist/craftman/potter.  They want to hear about a piece because they want some connection to it . . .  the proverbial story behind the pot.  I know when I buy another potter's wares, I often ask about the process, the piece, etc. 

 

I've met pretentious potters; and go on to another booth.  Don't need the superiority complex and I won't reinforce it with my purchases. 

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pazu, thank you for the post.  i will read it again when time permits.  one thing i appreciated is the careful crafting of the words and the way you put it together.  sometimes it is hard to understand posts because the writer does not bother to proofread what has come out on the screen.  sometimes i want to say PLEASE RESPECT THE READER ENOUGH TO WRITE LEGIBLY!  i know i would be criticized for saying that and the previous wounds have not yet healed. 

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Yea, sort of what Pazu said, i think, maybe, at lest some of it.

 

Years ago I was in an art class at a college in Calif. I was angry because the person teaching was teaching on such a basic level I felt cheated. So I devised a project to test the teachers boundaries, to offend her if possible, which I did. I wanted an F and got what i wanted, but she did not understand what I wanted her to understand that she fail to "Teach".

 

Years later, I understood that it was I, who failed to understand and that she indeed was teaching art but in my arrogance's and youth I could not accept it.

 

Art can be a fickle lover that we expect more than we can deal with.

Today is the only relevant day, let tomorrow take care of it self.

Wyndham

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Pazu,

 

The reason, that your posts may tend to end threads, is probably because people just haven't finished reading your post, and haven't had time to respond.......

 

Very nice read.  I like the story about the "Know it all" party guest.  I would like to think, that I would have called him out on the fact, that he was rude, and that there was no harm in what you had said, despite the fact it was incorrect.  It was a common mistake, and unless you were claiming to be an expert on all things in the world of art history, it really doesn't matter.

I would like to think that's what I would have said in that situation.  But I probably would have be just as taken aback as you were, and just stood there, like you did.

 

 

Do ceramicists and artists in general talk down to others?  Probably.  Humans like to be right, and we like to show how much smarter and "better" we are than others.  I've been on the dealing and receiving end of such conversations.  I like to think that I've received more than I've dealt, mainly because that means, I'm not that much of a ########. 

Regardless, I do try and get better, about how I explain things.

 

And as others have said Pazu, best to you and your family.

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When some people buy handmade, they are looking to buy not only the item but also a part of the artist/craftman/potter.  They want to hear about a piece because they want some connection to it . . .  the proverbial story behind the pot.  I know when I buy another potter's wares, I often ask about the process, the piece, etc. 

 

I'd go beyond the "some" there... and say "very many".  This is why the "backstory" is of import.  This is why we tell those pieces of information to people.

 

What is the one profound thing that differentiates the Target mug from the studio artist's mug?  The human being that handled the materials in the making process.   The human BEHIND the mug.  That Target mug almost for 100% certain NEVER had human hands near it from the time the raw materials werte dug from the ground (by machine) until it reached the shipping department at the ceramics factory and someone had to pick up the machine wrapped shrinkwrap package of multiple mugs and move the box to the shipping truck (maybe not even then).

 

Does that matter?  To some people it does.  To others it does not.

 

best,

 

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

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 I learned then that some fine artists, students, had a capacity for heartlessness, not worthy of my admiration, they seemed to hold no message of worth to humanity, they existed within boxes, they sought to destroy good rather than create it. they did not attempt a relationship with truth, their truths were expressed through so many tiers of b.s. selfism and privilege as to become moins value as far as I was concerned. 

 

True in every part of life... not just art and ceramics.

 

best,

 

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

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I have had colleagues that were both sides of your coin Pazu, some give you the shirt off their back, others would strip your shirt and stab you there. All walks of life deal with it, the petty jealousies, self protection schemes, ideological extremes, all come to play when dealing with people.

 

I have always tried to approach criticism with a tact, and empathy for the individual. Often realizing that the person asking is really at a high because they are asking. Clarification-they ask because they often think something is good, and want confirmation. When they don't get it, they are hurt and reasonably so. In the end, it takes-as John might say-a dance. Weaving through the pluses and minuses of something explaining at the same time that content is opinion, craftsmanship is concrete, and the need for both is opinion. Am I making sense. It is difficult, especially with HS students as they are birds in the nest, wanting to fly, but when you tear away their self confidence, they won't . . . ever. 

 

In my own pieces that would need understanding-sculptural, or named pots, the name gives some form of explanation. Let them read into the name whatever they want, it is their opinion. Sometimes it is best to leave a little mystery in life even in pottery.

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Pazu, circumstances and priorities dictate our responses. If I may an extreme example: middle of winter, snow blocked roads, no heat but a fireplace. No wood but several people in this place are suffering from the cold to the extreme. You start with the chairs, make a fire but as the firewood runs out, the next there is some rare antique furniture....

Sometimes we have to get through and survive by understanding those petty people value their arrogant Chippendale chair over the warmth of compassion .

I've had many times that people insult my work and don't even know what they did, or have done it on purpose just to make their petty lives more tolerable.

 

One bit of advice I was given by an old time potter when I started out. "It's only mud, God made far more that we will ever use, so get after it"

Simple as it is, it has helped at times when hair pulling seems the only thing short of screaming. "You @%@!# fool, yes I made it & no I won't take a $1.00 for it"

 

Well I'm heading to the shop and see if I flopped some dinnerware I'm supposed to deliver yesterday.

Wyndham

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When some people buy handmade, they are looking to buy not only the item but also a part of the artist/craftman/potter.  They want to hear about a piece because they want some connection to it . . .  the proverbial story behind the pot.  I know when I buy another potter's wares, I often ask about the process, the piece, etc. 

 

I'd go beyond the "some" there... and say "very many".  This is why the "backstory" is of import.  This is why we tell those pieces of information to people.

 

What is the one profound thing that differentiates the Target mug from the studio artist's mug?  The human being that handled the materials in the making process.   The human BEHIND the mug.  That Target mug almost for 100% certain NEVER had human hands near it from the time the raw materials werte dug from the ground (by machine) until it reached the shipping department at the ceramics factory and someone had to pick up the machine wrapped shrinkwrap package of multiple mugs and move the box to the shipping truck (maybe not even then).

 

Does that matter?  To some people it does.  To others it does not.

 

best,

 

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

 

 

 

 

You put into words what I wish to say. Great response! 

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You two are kind to afford my rant any credence at all, thank you. There were a few comprehensible points, in all of that crazy.

 

Fact is, my father is in the hospital, after visiting I was pretty jumbled up;  it was a darned heavy day for me yesterday & the pressure had sort of 'wrung me out.'  I feel better, having expressed.  It was cathartic though perhaps not particularly relevant to the questions, ha ha :)

 

"...we expect more than we can deal with."  So well put, Wyndham.  

 

Sending light and Love to your family. 

Patsu likes this

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Yea, sort of what Pazu said, i think, maybe, at lest some of it.

 

Years ago I was in an art class at a college in Calif. I was angry because the person teaching was teaching on such a basic level I felt cheated. So I devised a project to test the teachers boundaries, to offend her if possible, which I did. I wanted an F and got what i wanted, but she did not understand what I wanted her to understand that she fail to "Teach".

 

Years later, I understood that it was I, who failed to understand and that she indeed was teaching art but in my arrogance's and youth I could not accept it.

 

Art can be a fickle lover that we expect more than we can deal with.

Today is the only relevant day, let tomorrow take care of it self.

Wyndham

 

 

It's a hard lesson to learn, that we can/should learn from everyone and every situation we encounter.  I think of how often I see people write off things that children say. We can learn a lot from our "customers" (not that I sell anything yet) And I think we can feel from each situation how much they are willing or open to learning/hearing. 

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I am very critical of the notion that art needs to be explained or "understood".

 

No-one needs to explain a Van Gogh painting to me, or a beautiful piece of music.

 

Yes, of course we want to know more about Van Gogh and his technique when we like his work, but his paintings, like any great piece of art, speak for themselves.

 

Also I think there is a difference between art and craft here. Craft is a technical skill that we can appreciate when we understand what is involved.

However I do not need to know anything about Lucian Freud's painting technique or the man himself in order to appreciate his paintings as works of art.

Art is not about skill, skill is only part of it. (And sometimes very little skill is required).

 

However, if explaining a piece of pottery at a market makes it sell better, or make people appreciate it more, for whatever reason, I am all for it.

 

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"Each piece contains a deep part of me.  (even when they have s cracks and uneven lips) I promise that even though my piece does not show physical control yet, it certainly has the same amount of soul poured into it".

 

Yes, it is like that, people pour a lot of themselves into their work.

However if we cannot convey those emotions through our work, then unfortunately it is meaningless.

When our artwork is in a gallery where strangers see it and it does not evoke anything in them,

then the process of pouring our souls to produce it was meaningless to them.

(but hopefully there are some other people to whom our works speak).

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"Each piece contains a deep part of me.  (even when they have s cracks and uneven lips) I promise that even though my piece does not show physical control yet, it certainly has the same amount of soul poured into it".

 

Yes, it is like that, people pour a lot of themselves into their work.

However if we cannot convey those emotions through our work, then unfortunately it is meaningless.

When our artwork is in a gallery where strangers see it and it does not evoke anything in them,

then the process of pouring our souls to produce it was meaningless to them.

(but hopefully there are some other people to whom our works speak).

I know I put a piece of myself, in all of my work. Technically speaking, they are considered "Horcruxes", but we're not going to get into that.......

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How can you put a price tag on anything that goes on in the creation of a piece of art or craft. At the same time, the literal meaning of a piece maybe could be explained, but what making it meant to you. . . Uh. . . 

Years ago, my wife had a pile of problems with neck injury while skiing. This lasted for a few years of dr visits, therapies, all sorts of tests and other inconveniences. I was doing a series of teapots at the time and wanted to make one for her primary care dr. The whole series ended up with skeletal parts for the handles and feet. Kind of bizarre at the time, but catharsis for me at the time. The Dr did like the one he got, and the others were sold. No one would understand what I went through piecing together the handles, and my strain of thought, and I would not want them to. 

How can one price the pain of frustration you go through to learn to center, throw and complete a piece on the wheel. At the same time how to price the joy of achievement when you get that piece(even if it has and S crack).

 

There is an old story of and old First Nation potter selling along the road in the 50's. A guy buys a pot off of him for $10. The guy goes back to NY city, and shows the great deal he got to his friends. So he take orders. Goes back in the next summer, finds the potter in the same place selling for same prices. Tells him I want 20 of these just like the one you sold me last year. Potter thinks for a minute and says $100 dollars each. Man says WHAT HIGH WAY ROBBERY! Potter says quietly, cannot put price on joy of making each pot individually so I sell for what I need.  To make 20 exactly alike, you must pay for the pain of repeating that which I do not do.

 

Oh well, Great day folks

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Isn't it amazing that one simple medium, clay can act as such a "healer"?  It takes away my frustrations of life. It clears my mind.  it renews my spirit.  John put so many hours of work into the pots he made when his wife was injuried and in the recovery process. The pots gave him back balance and stress relief.  I wonder if we instill into our clay the energies that are released from our fingers.  I was talking to a potter who has made many ceramic flutes over the years.  He told me the secret to make a flute sing is to instill into the clay good energy that makes you sing.

 

Clay therapy....sometimes better than Ativan, Zoloft, Lithium, Lortab, etc.  Although I probably need to remove Lithium from the list since it is in  clay naturally too.

 

Jed

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at the fair last weekend i found a lady looking at the pot i almost did not bring.

 

she had been examining it carefully and finally asked how it was made.  when i explained that i cut the "leaves" from a piece of plastic floor mat and put them in the position she was admiring because i thought that was the way nature would have done it with real leaves, she asked "but what about the berries?".  

 

we then had a talk about the inspiration of the natural world and the fact that leaves are not always available to use "live".   my fake ones were good since they made her think about the real branches of a blueberry bush and brought good memories of a happy day with her family.  as she clutched the tray to her breast and searched among the other pots on display, i realized that the pot she had was one i had thought great when i made it several years ago, but was not my latest style so i had not intended to bring it out to the fair.  it wasn't "good enough" anymore.  

 

silly me.  now she will have two good memories, the day she picked blueberries and the sunny day she talked to a potter at a fair.  

 

just a lump of clay?  no way.

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John,

That is the whole point. Good job pointing that out. As for the party, people can be cruel. That epi-point in your life was bad.Academics especially like to play one-up-manship and can be very petty and mean. I like the ceramics community because there is much less of that.As Patti Warashina said "clay is a humbling medium". We all have failures but hopefully gain from the experience.SO persevere with your chosen direction and enjoy life.

Marcia

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This is a great thread, and I want to sit back and read through it all when I have the time later today.

 

My MIL (mother-in-law) is a quilter. She is a fantastic quilter, I would say she is among the very best. A true artist. When asked why she doesn't sell her quilts, she simply says "I wont give them to just anyone! I only give them to those who will truly appreciate the heart and soul that I put into it. People who will care for them and appreciate them. People just wont pay what they are truly worth, they don't understand, and I'm not selling them for less than their worth. So I will continue to make them with love, and give them with love."  I've always told my children that when they sleep with Nana's quilt over them, or sit on the couch with it, it's like Nana is right there hugging them :)

 

Handmade pottery is an interesting thing in my life. Ever since I was a little girl it got into my soul, and I didn't know any potters and never tried it myself until later in life! I was just a girl, and I'd walk through potter's booths and my heart would tighten. Like I belonged there. I wanted to fill my home with pottery. I imagined the hands and hearts that made it all, yes, even when I was very young. I had a confidence issue, though, and didn't think "I" would ever be able to do that. I also didn't know how to go about doing it. Even in college I had no idea that people could take classes there, much less major in ceramics! I guess I just didn't live in or hang around an artist community.  It wasn't until I was 35yrs old, had been married for 15yrs and had 2 kids ages 9 and 13 that my brain let down it's defenses and I made a comment to my parents about always wanting to learn how to make pottery. A few months later, it was my Christmas gift from them! So I had no choice but to get over my fear and self doubt and take the class. Here I am 3 years later and I haven't missed a class since, lol. No kidding.  It's in my blood, my heart and my soul. Imagine if I had to explain this to everyone ;o)  I still consider myself a "baby potter" with only 3 years of experience, and I so look forward to (God willing) 30-40 years down the line and seeing what I'm making by then. Like everyone else has said, you just can't put a price on any of this.

 

I wish I could tell them the feelings I had when I was 14yrs old and visiting an old pottery in England. Good friends of ours owned a zoo there, and we were visiting their zoo. They had many wonderful crafts people who worked and sold within their zoo. You can imagine this quaint little zoo, and quaint shops in ENGLAND!!!! The feelings inside of me right now are welling up just thinking about it. If I could have stayed in that pottery the entire 3 week trip, I would have been the happiest 14yr old girl ever. Um...how many 14yr old girls would ever say that? ;o) I feel it to myfinger tips. So hard to explain.

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