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Where Does Clay Stand In Fine Art

disscusion on clay & art

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#41 Wyndham


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Posted 31 July 2014 - 07:24 PM

Yes, anyone can be an artist, potter, writer, etc. That's the beauty of a free society. If I as a Christian, proclaim my faith in a Muslim culture I may be killed for my faith, here in this country, I have the right to enjoy my faith.

The issue is not the label, it's the consequences of that label.in the society we are in..

When pottery was an economic force, those who held the power to grant the status as a "master potter" held the economic viability of that person in their control.

With great freedom comes great responsibility. I call myself an artist as well as a potter. I am responsible to others that I know my craft. As an artist, I am responsible to know and understand my materials and not misled people into thinking I know more than I do. The art police don't check if I am using permanent color fast pigments, it's my personal responsibility to learn this, so to just pick up paints and canvas and create does not(IMO) an artist make.

Worse case, my paints peel from my canvas and the customer feels cheated. As a potter if I don't understand how to choose the proper clay for the temp I fire, the customer gets burned by a microwave issue by an improperly fired mug.

There is a moral responsibility to all of our actions. Our responsibility   rises with the degree of risk we ask others to trust us with.

Just a few thoughts.


#42 Bob Coyle

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Posted 31 July 2014 - 08:39 PM

The original question "Where Does Clay Stand In Fine Art"  If it means now in 2014 it can be answered pretty simply by looking at some of the most popular art mags.  What you will see is an overwhelming emphasis on  wall art over three dimensional art. Then if you look at three dimensional art you will see that metal and glass far outweigh any contribution by ceramics. Other than a few people who made it into the ranks of the "branded artists" few of us"potters"...  even good potters... can hope to even get close to the popularity of say a mediocre encaustic dabbler... encaustic being the current  "in" medium... at least around here.  Even when ceramics make an appearance, they are almost never functional. Much of  what is presented  in the leading edge art mags is in the form of sculpture or "installations" that could just as well be done with other media for the same effect. So what we do is art,  because we say it is, but I'm afraid it is not taken as seriously as a form of  "fine art" now  as is many other media,  and it sure doesn't bring the same price.  



#43 Idaho Potter

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Posted 01 August 2014 - 03:42 PM

I happen to work in the "decorative art" of ceramics, because that's where my heart and background come together.  I would love to be able to make a teapot, casserole, or anything functional with ease that I see (or infer) in works by other potters.  I am in awe of those of you who can sit down and make six bowls that not only  look like a set, but stack one within the other. I make functional work sometimes that I'm willing to sign my name to, but not on a regular basis.


Because my background is primarily in sculpture & painting, I tend to use clay for those purposes--either as a sculpture or as a canvas for painting. I hope that there are potters who, like me, work in a narrow slice of ceramics art and fully admire those whose sense of art has broadened their interest and endeavors. Regardless of whether you consider yourself an artist or artisan I hold you in high regard for the simple fact that once you entered the art arena, you've not backed up one bit.  



#44 Marcia Selsor

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Posted 03 August 2014 - 08:04 AM

The production potters of traditional ware in Spain do not consider themselves to be artists. They consider themselves tradesmen. Studio potters are different and reflect more the mindset of the Arts and Crafts movement as a backlash to the industrial mass produced mundane.

In the Renaissance great artists like Donatello, and others did work in clay. I think it depends on the intent of the person. Some make good work and some do not.

These examples are from the Bargello in Florence. It is the national Museum of Sculpture. The first 2 are by Donatello and the last is by one of the della Robbias.

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Marcia Selsor, Professor Emerita,Montana State University-Billings

#45 Wyndham


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Posted 03 August 2014 - 12:27 PM

Another part of this discussion for me centers around the rapid changes of the past 10 or 15 yrs.

I recently saw that compact cameras, the rage just a few short years ago are being replaced by cell phones with cameras. The cell phone cameras giving the same or better quality than the compact cameras; film cameras=gone.


It almost seems that our comparative clay past is not 100's of years but 10's of years as we try and keep instep with today's society .

Only a half a generation ago, potters in Seagrove sold dinner plates for $1-$4 each, today I'm at $32-$36 and another potter in Asheville is at $125/plate, with the reasoning that it is a reasonable price for his customers.


As in a previous post in this thread, money equals standing equals art, hard to disagree in this context.


#46 JBaymore



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Posted 03 August 2014 - 12:34 PM

Half a generation ago, what was minimum wage and annual median family income?  What is minimum wage and annual median family income now?  Where is that all going (Some say if it were keeping pace.... $15 an hour)?


Around here a unskilled burger flipper at Micky D's is at about $10 an hour.  How that relates to the buying, and hence the pricing of,  pottery..... there has to be SOME connection.


It might be that at an average of $34 per plate... you are having less buying power than a half a generation ago.  Food for thought.






EDIT.... just looked it up for the Fed one .  In 1963  $1.25 / hr.  Now $7.25  So plate back then at $2.50-ish took two hours to buy based on that.  Now, plate at $34-ish takes 4.7 hours to buy.  Pottery sales declining....... buying power is going steadily downhill in looking at that.  Median household income increased in "buying power" by only 20% over that same period.  But the price of that plate increased by about 13 TIMES.  Again..... buying powwer impacts ssales of non-essential items.

John Baymore
Adjunct Professor of Ceramics; New Hampshire Insitute of Art

Former Guest Professor, Wuxi Institute of Arts and Science, Yixing, China

Former President and Past President; Potters Council



#47 Wyndham


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Posted 03 August 2014 - 03:14 PM

Along with that look at the diversity of items that compete for the disposable $$$. Our slice of the pie is almost transparent.


#48 MudBug



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Posted 18 August 2014 - 04:37 PM

My two cents on fine art:


All human activities require Mind to function at some level or the other, including in producing and appreciating artworks.


Debates abound about the purpose of art, if there is actually a purpose, if there is, then what is that purpose, and if utilitarian objects can even be considered art at all (because the very nature of those objects are to serve some sort of purpose toward an eventual goal) etc.


Regardless of the outcome of such debates, art, as opposed to science, recognizes this fact: Mind can only go so far. The farthest Mind can take a human being's sense of appreciation (in an academic sense, the sense of aesthetics) so far. The farthest that Mind can take a human being's appreciation is to the point of Wonderment and no further - in some cases, described as the aha moment.


Somehow, in life, as sentient beings, we all recognize that there is a field just beyond this Point of Wonderment, where our personal egos settle quietly, mind empty of self-arguments, nothing else is left but pure enjoyment describable only as wonderment at best.  This wonderment manifests in various ways depending on the medium, message and the purpose of a piece of work (if there is one) and the level of indulgence from the observer. 


We all know that the mysterious quality of balanced-ridable-mobility is neither present in the bicycles on their own as objects, nor in the riders on their own as users of bicycles. This fully-experienceable balanced-ridable-mobility somehow comes into being through an intimate interaction between the bicycle and its rider to the point of being one and no longer two separate things. This ridable-mobility is a continuous and live experience inseparable from the interaction itself. It exists only as long as that interaction continues. We all experience it. The magic is there. We just don’t call it magic, not after we grow up!


Similarly, the sense of fine art is not a quality of the object and/or a quality of the observer separately. A sense of fine aesthetics is an outcome of the active relationship, a balanced indulgence between the object and the observer at the moment of that experiential contact.


If an object possesses the quality which impartially provides the ground for that Aha experience, and the observer possesses the quality to recognize that possibility in that object, then I can say a Moment of Fine Art has great possibility of coming into being.


Fine art is a living experience, not a quality of any objects or any personages. It is rather a quality of the moment – a certain kind of moment.

Not new to art and design. A complete newbie to Ceramics. Now, in a period of adaptating to the new medium.

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