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Why Is Our Work Better Than Imported Work?

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Natania    6

I think it is important to provide people with an alternative to mass produced work. Not everyone will take advantage of the opportunity we offer. Have you ever wondered why the target cup is 2.99 when its been made on the other side of the world? Why is it so cheap for a cup to travel, and so expensive for me to do so (lol)? Because the company who makes the cups has externalized the cost by using underpaid laborers and fossil fuels. Who pays the rest of the price for our 2.99 cup? The person in china who earned less than a penny making it. I heard on the radio that the average fast food worker in China has to work 3 hours to afford one fast food meal, as opposed to one in America who can afford one after one hour of work. If you haven't seen the Story of Stuff (www.storyofstuff.org) then you should, it is amazing. The truth is that cheap target cup is part of an unsustainable system that damages us all, destroys the planet and creates more toxins than one would ever guess. Without makers offering the option of handmade, ethically sourced ware (as much as possible) and other goods, the public has no choice but to continue to support this system. We here in the west have a lot of power with every dollar we spend to help or harm. I think makers of handmade goods should try to educate our buying public as well as sell to them... most of us have no idea where all our stuff comes from (it just appears on our doorstep from Amazon). Isn't it our responsibility as consumers to be aware of how/where our stuff is made, when possible?

 

 

P.S. some states are offering renewable energy options through their electric companies. All my electric will be from renewable sources starting July 1....

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JBaymore    1,432

The truth is that cheap target cup is part of an unsustainable system that damages us all, destroys the planet and creates more toxins than one would ever guess.  

 

 

Oh so very true of so many products taken for granted here in America. 

 

 

Isn't it our responsibility as consumers to be aware of how/where our stuff is made, when possible?

 

Unfortunately Americans generally don't give a crap about that.  The ultimate "goal" in this country is all about money, and cheap is equated with good.  Most people don't brag to their friends about how good for the world the purchse they just made was. ..... they tell everybody how cheap it was to buy.

 

best,

 

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

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Natania    6

That is so very true too, John. I'd like to think that makers can help change the American mind set one person at a time (but there are so many darn people and they are all constantly watching adds for cheap stuff!), but the reality is that if change is going to occur on a scale that could even begin to matter it will probably have to be through legislation. However, "Made in America" seems to be gaining some momentum as a movement in hand-made luxury goods through small independent shops.... but I must admit that I don't have a lot of faith in the American capacity for altruism over greed. Perhaps the key is to combine the two!

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Stephen    139

I think its somewhat a myth that just keeps perpetuating itself that the American public just doesn't give a damn about anything. There are millions and millions of people that care a great deal. They fight big corporations daily on tons of issues ranging from food labels to the way animals are treated. They support thousands of artist by buying art week in and week out, buying expensive alternatives to big box goods. 

 

Everyone in my life space certainly cares and our houses are full of artisan made art and our kitchens are full of hand made pottery.   

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Tyler Miller    331

I feel the need to make the not-so-popular observation that artisanal crafts do nothing for anyone with respect to the environment and the goal of sustainability.  

 

In India there were concerns over the excessive use of disposible tea cups by the railway and their effect on the environment.  It was suggested that the railway adopt the traditional, disposible, "kulhar" cup, made of earthenware.  It was thought to be environmental friendly,  cost effective, and to boost rural employment.  The truth, however, was that in order to meet demand, 100 acres of soil per day per state would have to be consumed (and soil is a non-renewable resource, after all), the increase in pollution from the kilns would be massive, and the increase to rural employment and income marginal.

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Bob Coyle    113

 

I feel the need to make the not-so-popular observation that artisanal crafts do nothing for anyone with respect to the environment and the goal of sustainability.  

 

 

You got it right there Tyler... we are all a part of the problem but I would hope that we could try our best to be as small a part as possible. I think if you look at the overall energy balance, most small artisans might even come out ahead of the game in that the tremendous hit on the environment of packaging, shipping, and distribution of goods, that mostly come from far away, is missing.

 

I fire electric, and here in New Mexico electric is very dirty using mostly low grade coal. The local utility does have an option though called “Blue Sky†which you can sign up for at a little extra money. If you sign up you are supposedly getting 80% of your energy from wind power. They keep upping the cost and don't advertize the option, but it is there. I'm sure other utilities provide similar options, although they only do it because they have to and you might have to search.

 

Even wood fired kilns are at least using energy sources closer to renewable than coal or gas.

 

And probably the worse environmental hit comes from the fact that the West still has an overriding throw away mentality, and the upwardly mobile East is catching on to the disastrous concept of “convenienceâ€. Why wash dishes when you can throw them away? If a plate chips...throw it away. If the colors of things you bought are “out†this year...throw them away and get some new ones.

 

But if you found beauty in a vase or a mug or a piece of non-functional art you might well continue to use it for years to come. Sometimes a well used cup or bowl becomes more beautiful than a new one. This, for sure is one edge we have on K-mart.

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DirtRoads    145

I've found a significant market for "Hand Made Here".  "Here" can be county, state or US.  And "hand made" also commands a premium.   I'm located in the lowest socio economic market in the US.  But even here, there are quite a few customers that really want "Hand Made Here".  Yesterday i had a customer drive 18 miles to buy a hostess gift (36 mile round trip).  They wanted something in the $20-$30 range and said it needed to be "special" so she came to Dirt Roads.    I know exactly where they live and the route they drove.  They rode directly past a gift store (5 miles), a Walmart (7 Miles) , 3 more stores that  have gifts (8 miles).  Now making a short turn they could have also accessed a Dollar General, Fred's Dollar Store and 3 more stores that have gifts.  I'm at least 10 miles further from any of these retailers.

 

About 1/3 of my sales are in county and  drive that exact route.    So they are all driving  on average an extra 20 miles (round trip) to get something "Hand Made Here"  i.e. "special'.      I have plenty of add ons  that usually double a customer's purchase intention.  Yesterday that customer picked up jewelry, a wedding gift, and a few ornaments in addition to the hostess gift,  making total sale about $120.

 

Hand made pottery is something special and there are plenty of customers that recognize that.

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JBaymore    1,432

Hand made pottery is something special and there are plenty of customers that recognize that.

 

Yup..........

 

But at the same time whiile that sale you mention happens, some thousands went to the nearest Walmart.

 

Yes... there certainly are those that appreciate the qualities of the locallly handmade object, but the vast majority of folks in America just want convenience and cheap.

 

While I am certainly for some of the concept of the "Made in the USA" campaigns that some folks use, there is often a "jingoistic" aspect to too much of that stuff in some cases, and in some others it is simply a blatant cynical commercialism approach (just use the phrase to catch some market-segment sales). 

 

The same thing goes for the "green" label that many folks try to use to sell stuff.  Sometimes it is certainly genuine.... but sometimes it is nothing more than a convenient marketing gimmick.

 

best,

 

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

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JBaymore    1,432
Chris Campbell    1,086

The economic effects of the loss of a "middle class" has to be added to the list of reasons why sales are declining. People who in the past might have had $30 to spare for a hand made object once in a while are declining. I think they still like and want the pottery, but cannot afford it.

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Mark C.    1,798

For me the middle class is still buying my pottery-especially mugs-Now more than ever-this has been true in the southwest and pacific northwest as well as Nor-cal

That said many are return customers (40% approx) and I have done the show for at least 20 years.

My outlet galleries also have seen a jump in pottery sales so far this tourist season.

As far as Tylers quote

 

(I feel the need to make the not-so-popular observation that artisanal crafts do nothing for anyone with respect to the environment and the goal of sustainability.)

I agree 100% with this- potters do not have a light footprint-I do feel better (but its self serving I'm sure) that I do save some paper cup and such use with all my funtional wares.

They can last several lifetimes if not dropped.

 

my 2 cents.

Mark

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Benzine    609

John,

 

I remember you posting the waste/ pollution difference between a disposable product and a ceramic product before.  Wasn't the conclusion, that a person has to use the ceramic item at least one hundred times, before it evens out with the disposable item?

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Babs    386

5 cups of tea a day, help that is only a couple of weeks and in that time I would have used how many throw aways? Not feeling logical today so don't use my math.

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TwinRocks    17

Coming from a separate field of handmade (in terms of what I've sold), it is mostly about the personal touch. Factory made goods may be the standard, the circumstances of those products existence tends to be rather depressing (made by people who are struggling with poverty and move away from family for work. Indentured labor, bordering on or crossing into slavery). When someone can meet the hands that made the goods and have a positive look at the background of an item, it makes them feel good about stretching their budget to make that purchase. It doesn't matter if it is better or worse, it is a different experience. A lot of the purchasing people do is based in want and not in need. People want things that make them feel good, so if you make things that you feel good about and you share that with them you've captured their attention in a way big box stores really can't.

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Patsu    17

I agree with the previous poster and would add to that.  People find strength and comfort in their own humanity when their personal surroundings are expressive of distinctive, human character. Human character can be frail, it can be reaching, but that is the essence of the character that many seek in the art objects that they keep, and cherish. Character in the artists, but perhaps more importantly, that speaks to their own character, so much so that they pull it into their very own worlds. Even in functional ware, 'character' in a piece can be very moving to the heart and mind.  I think too many potters work to avoid character.  Why they seek to achieve this, is a rather uninteresting mystery to me.  I make repeat ware, but I do not trouble over whether or not I'm outdoing a 3-D printer or slip cast form. I use calipers and make similar forms, but am not restricted to only that.

 

If you sell with a seconds table, or perhaps reveal a minor flaw in a piece that motivated you to price it at less than a similar piece, upon being asked why that piece costs less, you may be greeted with pleasant disagreement - the customer may say, "but that piece has character because of that." Twice recently I've been paid much more than my asking price for pieces on my seconds table - once double, once nearly so.  Not that this occurred after my having said anything particular about the pieces.  

 

Some good potters' work looks like wal-mart, flawless forms with interesting glazes, but that seem almost devoid of human character.  They seem impersonal, distant. Some people just don't want to open their cupboard and see expensive artisanal pottery, that might as well be slip-cast. They want to see a reflection of their own humanity in there, human essence, and human essence, is not perfection - for even the most professional, skilled potter, has human failings; perhaps they don't surface them in their pottery, either through skill or will.  I'm okay with my humanity surfacing in mine; I worry about quality in terms of functionality, safety, absence of toxicity, strength, solidity, suitability to purpose - stuff like that. That's my center and the focus of my study.  I don't seem to get too caught up in predetermining whether or not I am weakening the field of pottery overall, by selling ware in forms that might not hit the idealized forms of any given type of pot. I am confident in my works even though I have not spent a decade at it.  I have never had a return or complaint. If it happens eventually, I will make it right.

 

Potters are giving away raku and pseudo-nonfunctional ware that does not carry with it a label indicating that it is not food safe; one could argue that doing so, puts non food safe ware into an uncontrolled ownership stream, potentially anonymously so. And has been, for a very long time. One almost has to be knowledgable in pottery in order to recognize the difference and many probably don't really know whether the pots that they were gifted, are safe or not, but they still use them. One could argue that it is better for the ceramics field to have folks work toward the confidence necessary to produce quality, trustable ware as opposed to arbitrarily giving away questionable or irresponsible works.  And sorry if it offends but, generating good pottery doesn't have to take a decade or even a single class to accomplish - welcome to 2014 - and if it is taking a decade, that might be cause for concern.  At least there is some accountability, when a work is sold.  Apologies to raku makers btw; I think raku is great though I don't do it, just trying to draw an analogy. 

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Chris Campbell    1,086

> And sorry if it offends but, generating good pottery doesn't have to take a decade or even a single class to accomplish - welcome to 2014 - and if it is taking a decade, that might be cause for concern. <

 

I am not offended at all, but must respectfully disagree. I think good potters work gets better as time goes on and a decade barely starts the journey.

Also, do not know how anyone could get the knowledge they need without taking instruction. Even watching videos of accomplished artists working is a "class" of some kind. They took the time out of their lives to present information to others therefore that is teaching 2014 style.

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JBaymore    1,432

I'm right there with Chris.

 

A thought....... it was only when I hit 60 years on the planet, and 40 years making pots professionally that I finally felt that I had a bit of a handle on this crazy medium.

 

A lot depends on where your standards are.

 

best,

 

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

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Tyler Miller    331

Yeah, it takes a long time to make good pottery, with classes or without.  

 

"Good" as a goal seems to move further away as I go on.  What I thought was good even six months ago has changed now to "good enough" now.  I learn every time I'm at the wheel, or trimming, or firing.  Especially firing.  I love ceramics, but I'm also a big believer in mathos pathei--learning by suffering.  If it isn't hard or a little painful, you're not learning, just running through the same old circuit.

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Patsu    17

> And sorry if it offends but, generating good pottery doesn't have to take a decade or even a single class to accomplish - welcome to 2014 - and if it is taking a decade, that might be cause for concern. <

 

I am not offended at all, but must respectfully disagree. I think good potters work gets better as time goes on and a decade barely starts the journey.

Also, do not know how anyone could get the knowledge they need without taking instruction. Even watching videos of accomplished artists working is a "class" of some kind. They took the time out of their lives to present information to others therefore that is teaching 2014 style.

Well of course this is the case; there can be no doubt, that work gets better over time, always does.  The point that I am speaking to, is that it does not have to take a decade for one's work to be sellable. Sure it can get better; since the terrain is so expansive, there is always something to get better at, and new types of clay work to learn and get good at.  Refinements can be made to old skills.  That does not imply that one can't be good enough earlier on at a core skill and production set in order to sell that work that is well within their production grasp.  I like to climb big oaks, and I think that I am a good tree climber.  I have never however climbed a redwood. Perhaps then I am a 'less well rounded' tree climber, even though my work in big oaks is safe and good.  A veteran potter might be astounding at gp bowls yet be a novice in paper clay.  That doesn't invalidate the man's competence in the realm of clay with which he is familiar, and he should not be presumed incompetent just because he hasn't worked in paper clay - the same goes for the potter that hasn't expansive experience, but is competent at what they do understand. One shouldn't assume that their work is not good, just because they've not familiarized themselves with every corner of the clay realm. 

 

It is important to keep one's eye on the larger point, which for me is selling safe ware that is within the limit of my arena of competency.  Safe, can get safer, though that doesn't have to redefine earlier works as unsafe.

 

I am off to go try to sell more.

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JBaymore    1,432

"Good" as a goal seems to move further away as I go on.  

 

That pesky "good" is quite a sprinter.......... it outpaces me all the time.

 

best,

 

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

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Chris Campbell    1,086

Well, let's say someone decides they are going to climb an oak tree ... reads a book and watches some videos of others climbing trees ... then does so.

He/she has climbed a tree and can say he/she is a tree climber.

 

Now, you who have climbed many trees can appreciate the joy of the first climb, but you also appreciate the nuances of a better toe hold, a surer way to balance your weight, an easier way to move around the tree, a more graceful way to get down.

 

Doesn't mean the other person's experience is less real, just that with experience a climber finds many trees to climb and several ways to explore and refine the process.

 

So yes, if you are making safe functional wares to the best of your current ability, are happy with your progress and are able to sell it ... so can afford to advance your career ... that is the best news ever.  It means you can look forward to many years, decades even,  of digging into the medium and finding your own way with clay.

 

For myself ... when I look at a pot critically,  I look at the execution, the form, the glaze ... test the weight and the balance. That is what matters, not how long the potter  has been potting.

 

That said, there is nothing as wonderful as the liveliness of a pot created by a sure hand.

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Patsu    17

Well, let's say someone decides they are going to climb an oak tree ... reads a book and watches some videos of others climbing trees ... then does so.

He/she has climbed a tree and can say he/she is a tree climber.

 

Now, you who have climbed many trees can appreciate the joy of the first climb, but you also appreciate the nuances of a better toe hold, a surer way to balance your weight, an easier way to move around the tree, a more graceful way to get down.

 

Doesn't mean the other person's experience is less real, just that with experience a climber finds many trees to climb and several ways to explore and refine the process.

 

So yes, if you are making safe functional wares to the best of your current ability, are happy with your progress and are able to sell it ... so can afford to advance your career ... that is the best news ever.  It means you can look forward to many years, decades even,  of digging into the medium and finding your own way with clay.

 

For myself ... when I look at a pot critically,  I look at the execution, the form, the glaze ... test the weight and the balance. That is what matters, not how long the potter  has been potting.

 

That said, there is nothing as wonderful as the liveliness of a pot created by a sure hand.

 

...

Thanks for the positive thoughts Chris.  Do you get the same sense of liveliness from a perfect machine mass produced slip-cast pot, that is of exactly the same shape as the pot created by the sure hand?  

 

I've never watched video to climb a tree, I started bending birches before I first read Frost which was way early on... Tree climbing is about me & tree escaping earth to be in sky together for awhile, it is not about other tree climbers or how many trees they have climbed, but sure there's a learning process.  And I've still not climbed a redwood though I'm competent in oaks.  I doubt I will ever make a raku pot, unless raku pots can somehow be proven food safe. Others are not there to be judged, they are there so that you can find an angle from which to love and forgive them.  Whatever I might have to prove, is somewhere between myself and my paying customer. Potting is an artistic outlet that happens to generate a small,  self-fulfilling revenue stream.  I do not pot for other potters' sake, for potters, can make their own. 

 

When I look at a pot critically, I wonder whether it is likely to hurt someone in future, or not as likely to. Whether heavy, clunky, sloppy or ugly glazed, crudely pinch-formed or well-executed from a production potter standpoint, it is not my place to make calls on those aspects, it is personal preference what they do.  If the handle is likely to come off, that's an issue;  if it is going to crumble, that's an issue.  It it's a stupid-looking, meaninglessly malformed, functionally useless toxic blob of crap, I am not going to think much of the pot in all honesty, but then, to each his own. I do not judge the potter personally for it, though obviously others prefer prejudgement constructs.  I do not like things that may represent an unanticipated danger to others in future.  If the walls are as uniform as a wal-mart machine generated bowl, the bowl becomes invisible to me.  It is absent any sign of human character - I appreciate its' functionality though not its' likely lead content.  If I feel unevenness to the wall, yet the interior is functional, I feel the journey with my fingers and generally like the pot.  But then, I am not exactly caught up in teaching how to make wal-mart pots or any such... I don't have to be - teaching how to make wal-mart pots is not a part of my art or revenue stream. I'll leave getting worked up over all that, to those for whom it is important. 

 

WHY IS OUR WORK BETTER THAN IMPORTED WORK. - - - I would call it, "machine mass produced work" - since, as a set of net-potters, we are from different countries.  Speaking for my customers, it is because our work has "character".  

 

Today was my best sales day so far.  Vastly better than yesterday's sales, and yesterday was a good day.  Sold to a long-time pottery collector, who only buys pottery made of hand dug clay and dirt.  He said that the pot he bought from me was the thinnest for its' large size that he had seen in a hand thrown vessel.  That was quite a complement - and on top of that, he paid me 1/3 more than my asking price.  Said he watched a lot of American Pickers, and that they pay fair prices, as does he.  They must be cool. So now it's 3 times I've been overpaid.  & on top of that, I'm the first piece in his collection that is made from certified non-toxic clay rather than hand dug clay and dirt.  Another complement.  I may be pricing my stuff a bit low.  Sold one of my original figurine pieces to a state representative, she understood it, wanted to own it, owns it. This has been the single most successful day of my artistic life.  I feel powerful and strong about it.  I may be a hot mess of a human being from time to time, but I sold a lot of good pottery today.  May be hit by a bus tomorrow but today, I lived. Yes!

 

 

 

 

 

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Min    778

 

 

 

 

This has been the single most successful day of my artistic life.  I feel powerful and strong about it.  I may be a hot mess of a human being from time to time, but I sold a lot of good pottery today.  May be hit by a bus tomorrow but today, I lived. Yes!

 

 

Oh if only we could bottle that euphoric positive energy and keep it in a locket close to our hearts when we have one of those Christmas Shows filled with the ticky tacky kitsch that prevails at that time of year. Sounds like you had a wonderful day, here’s to staying off the bus route tomorrow  :)

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Chris Campbell    1,086

>made from certified non-toxic clay rather than hand dug clay and dirt.

 

What on earth is non toxic clay??

My state, North Carolina, is about 98% clay but I have never heard this term.

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Patsu    17

I was not clear.  The collector only buys works that the potter has himself prepared the clay for, a.k.a. found earth clay rather than clay purchased from a clay vendor.  Like, a potter that points and says I dug this clay there from where that hole is now. He went into lengthy detail as to his trippy aesthetic.  He is an engineer and says that he sees the advent of ceramics as the #1 factor in man's transition from stationary cooking to more mobile cooking hence development of mobile societies. That was his implication.  I am not an historian and cannot validate his statements or even argue them.  He says that humankind (I dislike the term 'man' to describe our species when men's work is not particularly long or involved in the overall process of procreation) was stuck in one place due to the necessity of cooking with heated rocks put in baskets sealed to hold water, that it was a time consuming process to cook birds taking all day and it was not a mobile process.  Then ceramic was figured out and it was learned that heat could carefully (and problematically) be applied to a ceramic vessel thereby creating a much faster way of cooking birds than making a big fire to heat the rocks underneath it, then getting the rocks into the basket with the birds and water etc. (I am paraphrasing). So, cooking became a much less time-consuming task therefore folks could cook then jet off to somewhere else, then cook some more over there with another fire etc.  He also went into how ceramic was not used in primitive weaponry due to its' fragility, which I thought was cool since it sorta got ceramics off of the hook of human-on-human violence, then he went into metals... It was interesting to me, not knowing the history that many of you who have studied long and hard, probably already know.  I don't know, he seemed to be on to something but was definitely a collector, not sure if his was a pet theory, or history... You tell me!  

 

The pic attached is some of what I am calling "certified non-toxic clay".

 

post-18942-0-86107000-1407116393_thumb.jpg

 

>made from certified non-toxic clay rather than hand dug clay and dirt.

What on earth is non toxic clay??
My state, North Carolina, is about 98% clay but I have never heard this term.

 

post-18942-0-86107000-1407116393_thumb.jpg

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