You didn't include any pictures on the inside of your shop. I visited your website and I was particularly impressed with the displays inside. You experience in retail really shows in all aspects of your operation.
Now that I think about it, if I were to devise a test (which is a really fun thought exercise) a Master Potter is someone who should be capable of the following:
1. Identifying and making a clay body suitable for functional ware from natural materials - i.e. can find a useful clay without having to buy it.
- They should be able to identify workable plastic clays in the ground. They should know how to test those clays for workability and firing temperature. They should be able to differentiate between an earthenware clay and stoneware clay, and fire clay (for firebricks). They should know what sort of geology to look for in a natural landscape to find a useful clay.
2. Identifying and making a functional glaze from natural materials that makes a pot impervious, and is an extension of a decorative style - i.e. can find, or knows which natural materials for a glaze at the temperature they want to fire at.
- Knows how to process and mix those materials into a glaze.
- They should know how to test a glaze for function and durability.
- They should know how to create color in a glaze or slip
3. Can build a kiln to fire their work, starting from natural materials
- knows how to make bricks, lay out a kiln, and build a useful kiln. This may include an electric kiln (see below)
4. Can fire a kiln to temperature, from natural materials (wood, coal, animal or crude oil).
5. Can form pots at least the size of a decent large cook-pot either handbuilding, wheel, or molded. I think the size question here may be optional, but the forming method must demonstrate the capability of forming useful pots with an even thickness. I believe that the pot should be sellable, not dangerous, and suitable for the use for which it is designed. I.e. teapots need to be able to make tea, mugs hold water without leaking, baking dishes bake, and crocks ferment food.
I am not going to require a master potter to be a blacksmith or a miner, but the master potter needs to know what is needed in terms of metal, minerals, and shaped wood to make a finished pot. Likewise, the master potter can work with electricity, but the master potter should know how to make an electric kiln, if the potter does not know how to make another type of kiln.
So, a master potter needs to be able to teach the next generation of potters what they must know to make pots. A master potter must know: Making clay, making glaze, making pots, making a kiln, firing a kiln. Its cheating to say you have mastery of the craft if you buy your clay from someone else, but can't make it. Or buy you kiln from someone else, but don't know how to make your own. Ideally a master potter should have some ability over all the forming techniques, but I don't think that mastery really requires everyone to throw on a wheel, when I see plenty of handbuilt and coiled pots that are just as good or better than a wheel thrown pot.
An MFA is something else. It's not a master potter - its a master's in the fine art of ceramics. To me, this just isn't the same. That's why history isn't on my list. It's why years of teaching or learning really aren't on the list. It would take years to learn these skills as a practical matter, but its not about how long you've done these things - its about whether you learned them in the first place.
BTW - does anyone on this list have experience with the German potteries? I read an interview where a German potter said that he could not take apprentices in Germany, because he had never served an apprenticeship and been certified as a journeyman or master. The same rules didn't keep him from selling his pots, though, so not the same as the medieval guilds. This article covers some of the structure of the German apprentice system https://en.wikipedia...iceship#Germany The Germans seem to think its possible to narrow the skill set down to a prescribed set of skills.
One way to put it, in old guild terms, is that a master potter is one who has mastered the craft (which is a near synonym of "secret") of pottery. The people who master the secrets of pottery are a master potters. Its not about how good the work is, its about whether you can make what you want to make. The masterwork is proof that you know the secrets of pottery, and can put them into action. Masterworks don't have to look good, they just prove that you know what you're doing.
Its not really a subjective thing at all. You could test it.
I'd like to echo Mea in a way. I am a student of hers, but I also fit the demographic that Mea sells to - craft fair enthusiasts with upper middle income. I happen to go to the types of shows she participates in. I went to many of them before she started doing them, like the Smithsonian show. I've paid up to $60 for a mug. I bought a mug from Sang Joon Park for over $40 at ACC Baltimore, broke it a week later, and bought a second mug from him at the Smithsonian show. The reason I'm estimating his price? I can't remember it. I didn't really care how much it was.
So, were there cheaper mugs at both shows? Yes. Did it matter? No.
I think you do have to find a mug that you can make for a rational price for both you, and your target market. I figure making, glazing and firing a plain mug takes about 12 minutes each mug. Provided that you are a quick thrower, don't trim, and don't do much decoration. A modest decoration, some marketing overhead, and a retail mug at $25 is my guess for a minimum price for a mug if the maker lives in the greater metro area of Washington DC.
Likewise, $35? Totally an affordable price for a handmade mug. In 1980, that was about $12.00, and in 1972, that was $6. Which happens to be right in line with a previous post. Check this out: http://www.bls.gov/d..._calculator.htm, if you want to want to compare a historic price to a current going price.
This does not mean each is a copy. But, let's just say that I spent a few hours last weekend making mugs with teabag themes, and I am not surprised that a quick search of pinterest turned up a similar theme. Even if my specific inspiration was a print. And my decoration doesn't actually look very much like these examples. Or, the original print for that matter.
Brandon Sanderson had a character say something interesting about what talent people value most in one of his books: "Given two works of artistic majesty, otherwise weighted equally, [and created independently] we give greater acclaim to the one who did it first. It doesn't matter that you create. It matters what you create before anyone else." The cynical character goes on to say that novelty is the talent people value the most.
Do we copy? Maybe a better question is: does it matter? What value will our pottery have if it is a copy of someone else? You can't copy novelty.