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Evelyne Schoenmann

Qotw: What Makes Something Qualify As Hand Made?

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Today I have a guest! Our forum member Terry, aka Pugaboo, (yes, exactly, that's the one with the Pug named Pandora!) sent me a p.m. with a QOTW-suggestion. I think it's a good topic and so Terry is my guest today. Here is what she wrote about the theme:

 

 

Reading through some of the etsy topic got me to thinking what is really truly handmade when it comes to pottery. Are we allowed to use any tools at all? Is a Slabroller considered a mechanical advantage? What about a wheel? Take it even further to using an extruder: does using these tools make your work no longer qualify for hand made?

Thinking on this it came to me that pinch pots and coils are probably the only pottery methods that would be handmade if you took it to the extreme.

From my point of view I think technology is wonderful to incorporate into your art forms as long as you incorporate it and not use the technology to solely create the work. A 3-D printer is OUT but a slab roller is in.

Not sure if it would get any interest but having been a photographer, graphic artist, painter, muralist, and now potter it has me thinking where is the line drawn and who does the drawing?

 

 

Come on people, let's show Pugaboo that this question really is of interest to us potters! What do you think: what makes something qualify as (truly) hand made?

 

Evelyne and Pugaboo

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Guest JBaymore

Oh man........ "can o' worms".  Can't wait to see how this develops.

 

best,

 

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

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To my mind, if you've laid your hands on it, and it wouldn't come into being without your hands, that qualifies as "handmade".

 

My other passion in creativity is sewing. Yes, I use a machine. My eyes and hands being what they are, I couldn't do what I do without a machine. There are those in the quilting world who look down their noses at a quilt that wasn't hand stitched to the batting and the backing. To that I say, pfffft! If the only way you're going to bring that vision in your head to fruition, is through the use of a machine, better that you do that, than to never bring it into existence at all.

 

Yes, there is a line somewhere, that divides the handmade from the not handmade. Where it is, I think is very arbitrary, and open to interpretation of the artist. For me, as I said in the beginning of this post, it's putting your hands on the medium. Be it clay, fabric, glass, or whatever. The involvement of the hands in concert with the brain is what makes it handmade!

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John: we already opened Pandora's box with a smile on our face. We definitely open a can of worms too! :lol:

 

Amy: those are some very interesting thoughts of yours. Your example of the quilt: I wonder if there is some Guild that says what is original (what is allowed and what not)?

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All a 3D printer does is manipulate the materials the way a slab roller does. A person has to design the piece and direct the machine. There may come a day when you can choose from a menu of "mug" with options for body size and shape, handle type, etc., but we aren't there yet. That design work isn't easy.

Also, the wheel doesn't create the piece, it just allows the potter to do certain things with the clay. Otherwise why would we work so hard to get good at it?

I think that the amount of personal expertise required to get an excellent result is important, but that would exclude kids making candy dishes. In casting you have to create the mold-is Degas not hand making his sculptures or a jeweler using lost wax techniques?

You could add in each piece being unique, but that excludes sets of dinnerware.

I like the question though. A bread machine versus a baker-with or without a stand mixer. There the machine receives the ingredients and puts out the finished product. All the machine needs is an operator. The recipe for the machine requires skill to create, just like the design for a 3D printer.

So you can use a 3D printer to create art-but the art is in a different part of the process. And your piece is far more replicable than work that does not need a formula of some sort to work.

Just sort of rambling here-

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My definition of handmade is pretty simple: Can the next object made match the previous object made 100% of the time in weight, size and characteristics, if so then I don't qualify it as handmade. Because it is impossible to replicate something exactly that is made by hand, and then made by hand again. 

 

Just my opinion. You can get really really close to making something look the same as the previous piece, but it will never be exactly the same unless its machine made.

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Interesting topic. Not sure I have an answer but it seems like handmade is really human made and not machine manufactured. 

 

We have addressed a similar issue in our art gallery recently. One artist generates her original images on a computer (not photographs) and then prints them using some fancy pigment.  We have had a lot of discussion on how to characterize these as prints or otherwise. Other artists do original prints in the numbered series of printmaking tradition.   We are endeavoring to give a clear picture of how this work is done so the purchaser understands what it is.  Perhaps a less thorny issue in ceramics but with 3 d printing that day may come.  rakuku

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So down the rabbit hole we go...

I don't think you can really objectively define it. You can draw lines in the sand, but there will be an exception to every rule.

If you use the rule of "no machines", then yes only pinch/coil pots would qualify, but hey wait, what if they aren't using hand dug/processed clay? Would only wood firing qualify. or only if you cut your own wood? Do you need to build your own kiln too? Dig your own glaze materials? I don't think I know of anyone's work that would qualify.

Mostly made by hand....I think the exceptions fall in the other direction then. I visited a pottery factory in Vietnam a couple years ago. They were producing by hand to a great degree. The people doing the brush decoration were absolutely staggering in the speed and skill. However, talking (as much as I could) to the people that worked there, I got the impression that they would rather be working at the Nokia plant if they could get in. They didn't really like what they were doing, let alone love it. There work was nice uniform (with slight piece to piece variation) work, but I would definitely class it as factory produced even though it was produced by truly "unknown potters".

Personally, I think wheel thrown is fine, but extruded handles are crass commercialism.I believe if it doesn't have translucence, it's not porcelain, it's white stoneware. I believe if it's not cone 10 it's not really stoneware. Sorry, I probably insulted everyone a t least once there. Not my intent, just pointing out how they are all just lines in the sand.

 

I believe it's hard to define because "hand-made" is used as a euphemism to mean something more than just the means of it's production. Sadly we don't really have a word for it though (that I know of. Some use the word "art", but we're far enough down the rabbit hole already). I think often what we mean when we say "hand made" is that it is made with love, commitment, dedication, a higher purpose/intent than just to make money (insert why you make pots here). etc

When we see "crap" marketed as hand made it rankles because we know (or suspect) the intent was not of the "higher" variety.

So I think what we mean when we say "hand made" is very subjective and mostly has to do with intent. 

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I have been to this place so many times before:

 

1987-designing a course to teach computer animation and computer music with a music ed. colleague. Others in the art department argued that it should not be in the department, it was not art, and animation was not either. Even digital paintings were not. . . art. Fade to 1995 and you get the same argument, that high resolution digital paintings were not art, and therefore should not be accepted as such in the local juried show. Step forward to 2010, and 3D printed work was not acceptable.

 

Personally, I look at the computer as a way of creating by hand, even though multiples of the same item can be printed, but 3D is crossing into industrial product/design. A digital painting is very often with a multitude of strokes, brushes, colors with extreme value manipulation. Layers of underpainting can go into the production of the work until completely finished. The digital tools allow for easier visualization that meets the artist's expectations. Like a traditional painter though, it is the knowledge and the skill of manipulating the tools that allows the work to happen. Problematic is that all too often a digital camera image is used as a starting point and manipulated with the tools to a final image. Is the one completed as a painting stroke by stroke, less or more than the camera image manipulate in the photoshop type program? Didn't we have this argument at the turn of the 20th century?

 

So here we are today, where yarn is most time purchased already spun, clay already mixed, paints already prepped, glazes already mixed, jewelry bits to choose from and so much else available. Does the definition of handmade mean that the item starts from raw to finished, only the purest of the purists would say so. Does it start with a base material of some refinement and go to a finished piece? Most would agree it does. However, does that same footing yield commercial cast products, hand painted and fired as being the same? Most of us would think not, I believe.

 

I think in the long run, when the essence of the creation is hand created by the craftsperson/artist, then the piece is hand made. When either the form and the surface is created already, one cannot consider the piece. . . man-made.

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I like Marcia's definition.

 

Pres, no doubt the debate, about even what processes are "Art" are still ongoing.  I have students, and parents, that are surprised that I teach Photography.  Why?  Because they don't see it as an art necessarily.  Technology has a lot to do with that.  Taking photos is so simple, they don't see how there is any art in it...  And then I give them the 35mm and teach them darkroom processing...  And usually, that ends up being their preferred process.

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something designed and executed by hand with great skill and forethought.Marcia

Basic Handmade: something executed by hand

 

(Fine) Art Handmade: something designed and executed by hand with great skill and forethought

 

I really don't want to leave out those beginners whose trials and happy accidents are just enough inspiration to keep them going, so I think they belong with those more skilled, as long as the hands are involved.

 

3-D printers/Full Automation: Once there is the capacity to make Exact multiples, it becomes more like Limited Edition Collectibles, not even printmakings' rules can apply, or even sculptures', whose screens/colors and original molds will change over the course of the run. I suppose 3-D work could be Limited and include programmed changes, but editions made without the artists' supervision would have to be classed the same as bronzes made from Degas' molds posthumously - worth considerably less.

 

If I were Queen.

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Does it always have to be with forethought? Occasionally I just go with the flow of where the clay and wheel will take me.

Paul

Ha ha ha ha .... From the stream of consciousness debacle lady!

http://community.ceramicartsdaily.org/topic/8398-stream-of-consciousness-back-fires/?hl=%2Bstream+%2Bconsciousness

 

I will be posting tomorrow with images of how this small detour is overtaking my whole studio ....

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I'd love to see the following labels:

 

1. This clay is made by hand. No machines were used in its manufacture.

 

2. This glaze is handmade. No commercial ingredients were used in its production. All ingredients were ground by hand.

 

3. This sculpture was assembled by hand using premanufactured clay.

 

4. This mug was assembled using extruded handles and jollied parts.

 

5. This pot was grown organically.

 

6. This pot was fired using all natural sustainable fuel.

 

 

A label does not always describe its content. I thought most artists thought outside of the box and didn't conform to such labels.

 

Jed

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What is Hand Made?

 

Since I helped open this can of worms (boy are you going to be wishing we were still on Pandoras box) this is where I come from...

Oh and this is going to get LONG, what is actually considered "handmade" and or "art" is a button pusher for me.

 

To me Handmade is created by the hands of the artist selling it. Not outsourced. If someone buys something and adds to it then it should be labeled "embellished". Use of technology and machinery to create a handmade item is okay as well as long as it takes creative input and the product put out is not 100% identical time after time. (This is tricky when it comes to photography and print making) and I'm not talking about using jewelery findings or adding purchased wooden spoons and like items to your pieces these are fine since they only enhance the product and are not THE product.

 

History:

As a photographer other artists hated me because I wasn't doing "real" art. Snap a picture how hard is that it's not creative at all. I shot b&w infra-red and high speed 3200 films, I loved doing double exposures and such, I used a manual Nikon camera, had my own darkroom, developed my own film, wet printed my own photos, matted and framed my own work, wrote a poem to go with each piece, etc. But I still did nothing but click a button to most people, I didnt "hand make" anything.

 

Then as a commercial graphic artist I was frowned on upon by other "true artists" how dare I sully the world with art for monetary gain. A true artist doesn't create what sells they follow their muse. If said muse says stick garbage in a shopping cart well it still qualifies as handmade ART while for some of my art, which I sketched, then scanned, manipulated in the computer and printed using a special pigment printer, then manipulated some more after it was printed by painting, cutting, stacking, etc was crass garbage. Even now when someone asks why do you make this and not that, I say I make this because it sells, if I make that I end up dusting it for the next 10 years they look insulted that I consider its saleablilty before making it. sigh Still not hand making anything.

 

I understand the question of the artist rakuku in your gallery and because of this issue I tend not to show my printed art very many places. I sell it on my website and such instead and I state how I do it. But I don't number, more on this issue next. Doing festivals I would come across people that only offered "numbered prints" impressive right? Well I bought the last of an edition by an artist and a year later saw them again offering the same image. When asked about it was told, well the size was changed by half an inch so I can now offer it as a new series. Seriously? So to me a numbered print is a joke UNLESS they state on the piece that it is number ___ in the series inclusive of all sizes printed. "Print" Pet peeve addressed SORRY

 

Present Day:

I now use pottery to combine my photography, sketching and painting. Somethings I hand paint free hand style right in the piece, very labor intensive very expensive price tag. Other items I use handmade transfers of various types created from my own designs, some copyright free patterns, vintage wallpaper, etc, not so expensive though still labor intensive. My final level are items with mostly my own designs and artwork along with some copyright free border type designs put on the piece using laser transfers that I make myself, much cheaper and not so labor intensive. Want to guess which level I sell the most of? The one most people are fascinated by? The laser transfers! I personally would rather hand paint everything but it can take a year to sell something with this high of a price tag and I kind of like eating and paying my bills.

 

One of the things I do to keep the costs and labor expense down is to use machinery and technology. I have a Slabroller, a wheel, an extruder, an electric kiln, digital scale, a computer (which by the way I designed and built from the circuit boards out but I'm not a geek honestly), a scanner, 4 different printers, digital cameras, and access to the Internet. Can I do what I do without all of that? Sure but it's going to take way longer and be priced way higher and I'll propably have to get a day job to pay the bills while I wait and hope some high end buyer comes along to buy a piece. Every piece I sell is created by me with my own 2 hands, no helpers, no outsourcing, so is what I do considered handmade? Probably not to some.

 

T

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I would like to ask , why are we defining. Handmade? I certainly know handmade when I see it it. Some things are handmade in other countries , as Patat was saying, they are very good at it, they are very fast at it , but it doesn't come from the heart. Imagine 100-200 years ago, people would have been asking, yes , but is it really factory made? Lol Perspectives change.

Everything up until relatively recently was handmade, but that in and of itself is not what gives an object value. Some people are just better at things than others, and that is what we cherish- finding the gem , the unique item .

I do not value" hand made" just because some one made it, it has to call to me. So if it calls to me with add ons that were made by machine,or extruded handles, or press molded bits, or store bought clay, I will still consider it hand made.

Materials are becoming pricier, scarcer, less variety. But people being creative will find a way to express themselves. That messing about, those pieces cobbled together, that to me is essence of human, I find it appealing. And the gilding of the lily, I like that sometimes too, even if done w a sprayer.

I like to see the process, I like that it will change into something else. That is why I don't like the hand made that is sweatshop hand made, because it doesn't change into anything else : it is formula. And I usually don't have emotions that run deep for factory made , because agin it is made to catch my eye, to sell. It has no next stage. But real handmade does, the creator will get bored and start changing things, and that evolution is what I yearn for.only humans do it, and we have been doing it for thousands of years.we will do it with modern materials, but I prefer the less plastic because I like the serendipity of interplay between intention and unpredictability of the natural material. And how the creator will use the unpredictability to their advantage . I like the errors, the imperfections. I don't like poor craftsmanship, I see a lot of that. I don't like mismatched finishes, or the harsh plastic finishes applied to a natural surface.

Ceramics appeal to me because they can't be faked, the piece either holds up or it doesn't . So it has to be real, and there are perhaps a few shortcuts, but no glicees here, making many copies of an item, is probably almost the same amount of work as making each one individually, what w creating the mold, testing the slip, testing the glaze , making more molds, drying, really doesn't seem worth it.

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My brain is telling my hands what to do, my eyes are making sure my hands are doing what the brain wants.  So using tools are just a way for our brain to get what it wants even cavemen had some crude tools.  There is something special about pots that are made with no tools.  Since I blew my knee out I have been making coil and pinch pots,  there is a inner connection to them when you hold and touch them.  Denice

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something designed and executed by hand with great skill and forethought.Marcia

Basic Handmade: something executed by hand

 

(Fine) Art Handmade: something designed and executed by hand with great skill and forethought

 

I really don't want to leave out those beginners whose trials and happy accidents are just enough inspiration to keep them going, so I think they belong with those more skilled, as long as the hands are involved.

 

3-D printers/Full Automation: Once there is the capacity to make Exact multiples, it becomes more like Limited Edition Collectibles, not even printmakings' rules can apply, or even sculptures', whose screens/colors and original molds will change over the course of the run. I suppose 3-D work could be Limited and include programmed changes, but editions made without the artists' supervision would have to be classed the same as bronzes made from Degas' molds posthumously - worth considerably less.

 

If I were Queen.

 

I bought a great sculpture from two brothers/potters in Uzbekistan. It is a stag of some sort and I loved it. They were really shocked. I bought a plate from them so I didn't offend them.

It turned out their little sister created this piece. I will add a picture tomorrow. I drove to San Antonio and back in 10 hours today to pick up clay and art work from a show. I am exhausted.

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something designed and executed by hand with great skill and forethought.Marcia

Basic Handmade: something executed by hand

 

(Fine) Art Handmade: something designed and executed by hand with great skill and forethought

 

I really don't want to leave out those beginners whose trials and happy accidents are just enough inspiration to keep them going, so I think they belong with those more skilled, as long as the hands are involved.

 

3-D printers/Full Automation: Once there is the capacity to make Exact multiples, it becomes more like Limited Edition Collectibles, not even printmakings' rules can apply, or even sculptures', whose screens/colors and original molds will change over the course of the run. I suppose 3-D work could be Limited and include programmed changes, but editions made without the artists' supervision would have to be classed the same as bronzes made from Degas' molds posthumously - worth considerably less.

 

If I were Queen.

 

I bought a great sculpture from two brothers/potters in Uzbekistan. It is a stag of some sort and I loved it. They were really shocked. I bought a plate from them so I didn't offend them.

It turned out their little sister created this piece. I will add a picture tomorrow. I drove to San Antonio and back in 10 hours today to pick up clay and art work from a show. I am exhausted.

 

post-1954-0-23267900-1438280288_thumb.jpg

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