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Now that I've had my slab roller for a little while, I'm dreaming the impossible dream again.  Bonsai pots.  I have a 115 page Japanese bonsai catalog, all Japanese, yen prices.  Big money too, lots of $500 and up pots.  The great majority of them are press mold production.  Which brings me to me issue.  In fine art the terms are "original" and "reproduction".  In crafts, it's "handmade" and whatever the opposite of that is.  Machine made?  If I make a pot from a lump of clay, all the work goes directly into the pot.  In a press mold pot, a lot of work goes into the original and a lot into making the press mold.  The original is probably more "perfect" than my pot, if we were looking at an original of that caliber, I'd be impressed.

Question then is:   Is a mold produced pot handmade?

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I do not consider mold pots(slip ware) to be handmade-more hand finished-but thats say a ram press as well.

now slab work pressed into a mold you made is more on the line of handmade to me as you are making it not a machine the slab rollor is no different than a wheel in that case.

Edited by Mark C.

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4 hours ago, Mark C. said:

pressed into a mold you made

I see it similar to Mark - slip cast ware does not resonate with me as "handmade" ceramics. However, if I am pressing slabs/clay into a mold that I designed and fabricated myself, I would consider my resultant pieces "handmade". A mold is not a machine. "Handcrafted" works as well, and technically provides a bit more wiggle room.  I use that term--if I am using a label at all--for slump/hump molded objects when I did not make the mold.  Handbuilt is a good descriptor as well.  Now-a question for you, Cactus Pots....what attributes make a planter for bonsai worth hundreds of dollars? 

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1 hour ago, Hulk said:

Agreeing with Mark and Lee - slip molded not equal to handmade; while at it, where does jigger/jolly work fit in the handmade <-> machined continuum? 

Jiggering and jollying pots is every bit as soulless as slipcasting, maybe even moreso.

 

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It's funny to me that fine art is concerned with the originality of the creation and seemingly, we are not.  They would put a premium on the original work and much less  value on the duplicate.  What I'm hearing here is that the press mold reproduction of the original carries the same value as the master.  I'm sure not in all cases, but as a generality.  Both carry the same label: handmade.

As for bonsai, my opinion is that it is essentially a closed  aesthetic.  Meaning that a specific style and execution has been decided on as a premium.  Generally it's a fine clay, no glaze, shallow container.  Most frequently rectangle, some kind of feet and a rim.  Instantly recognizable as a bonsai pot.  Pots from Japan carry weight, although I'm told there are maybe a dozen potters in USA that specialize in bonsai.  Why are they big money?  I guess because they can be.  High end bonsai, like any other high end is an expensive game.  Individual trees are expensive, because they take a lot of time and care.   A specific type of pot is most suited for the process of stunting the tree.  It's up to the grower to make it flourish in this condition.

 

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5 hours ago, CactusPots said:

It's funny to me that fine art is concerned with the originality of the creation and seemingly, we are not.  They would put a premium on the original work and much less  value on the duplicate.  What I'm hearing here is that the press mold reproduction of the original carries the same value as the master.  I'm sure not in all cases, but as a generality.  Both carry the same label: handmade.

As for bonsai, my opinion is that it is essentially a closed  aesthetic.  Meaning that a specific style and execution has been decided on as a premium.  Generally it's a fine clay, no glaze, shallow container.  Most frequently rectangle, some kind of feet and a rim.  Instantly recognizable as a bonsai pot.  Pots from Japan carry weight, although I'm told there are maybe a dozen potters in USA that specialize in bonsai.  Why are they big money?  I guess because they can be.  High end bonsai, like any other high end is an expensive game.  Individual trees are expensive, because they take a lot of time and care.   A specific type of pot is most suited for the process of stunting the tree.  It's up to the grower to make it flourish in this condition.

 

Are there unseen reasons for the price as well?  Such as a reputation for a strong well made pot or a difference in material? How about from a Potter who is of master lineage.  I know that in other Japanese industry, the master you study under is a big deal and is kept track of.  So maybe paying for a product that has a thousand years of market testing behind it, that kind of thing?  Or is it really just niche market pricing because everyone is willing to spend a lot.

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I think products made from molds are as unique as the maker cares to make them. A limited edition, even a limited yearly edition of a successful and admired piece could conceivably retain value over the years. 

The Japanese aesthetic can seem baffling to westerners. If you really want to complete with the high-dollar guys, you will need to do more research. What makes one pot appear to sulk on the table, while another offers its tree to the gods? What other qualities, besides function, appeal to bonsai  lovers? How will you know when you've achieved them?

How many tries did it take to achieve an admired piece? A perfectionist might cast 100 and keep 8. How many people are lined up to own one?

Mindless mass production devalues the product, but controlled access increases the value. 

Making lots of stuff for profit does not comport with the aesthetic of patiently pruning a tiny tree for generations. 

Granted, you can "only" be an American bonsai potter, but you can decide how much you want or need to conform to tradition. 

Edited by Rae Reich

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OK--so while we're at it--discussing terminology in reference to certain nomenclature for ceramics (I.e. handmaid, original, etc.)--what do you understand or perceive "sustainable" to mean? I ran across a pottery site online describing the lovely, earthy, functional  wares as "Sustainable and intentional artisan pottery hand crafted...". Obviously I could contact the maker and ask, but I am more curious about the interpretation of others, especially ceramicists.  I suspect this could overlap a bit with "marketing" discussions, but I am more interested in the aesthetics/philosophy  of the term and it's possible influence.

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I think sustainable is a contemporary buzz word that means whatever you want it to mean.  It's inside baseball speak for those in the eco mindset.  If drilling for oil isn't sustainable, then mining clay isn't sustainable either.  Sustainable has to mean you take one out and put one back, but the purpose of  "newspeak",  is that  language is corrupted.

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1 hour ago, CactusPots said:

I think sustainable is a contemporary buzz word that means whatever you want it to mean.  It's inside baseball speak for those in the eco mindset.  If drilling for oil isn't sustainable, then mining clay isn't sustainable either.  Sustainable has to mean you take one out and put one back, but the purpose of  "newspeak",  is that  language is corrupted.

I know what you mean but oil vs clay is a bad comparison, maybe copper vs. clay or something.  Because oil is sequestered carbon that cannot be removed from the ecosystem (at least not for millions of years).  

To me, sustainable is absolutely a buzzword that means nothing. You add it to a sentence to trigger a response from a certain subset of your market.  Ceramics will not return to the earth as bedrock or clay. It has been changed forever by humans and cannot be regenerated.  So there is no such thing as sustainable ceramics.  Everything we use is consumable aside from the water.  There is a limited supply of clay (albeit an extremely large limited supply) and fired clay can't be made back into clay.  

Maybe by sustainable they mean their clay is fired with hydroelectricty or by wind turbine or something... Maybe even carbon offset credits. But really I bet if you asked them, they'd probably not have the great answer you are looking for.

 

 

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1 hour ago, liambesaw said:

Everything we use is consumable aside from the water.  There is a limited supply of clay (albeit an extremely large limited supply) and fired clay can't be made back into clay.  

Agreed, only thing close to water that I can think of is salt because it it 100% recyclable, but that time thing is an issue. I still like the dollar per tree 20 million trees by 2020. Still a great idea especially for wood fire potters.

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My thoughts:

Sustainable = repeatable for ever. 

Drilling for oil is not, as it will be used by man faster than nature is making it.

Taking that to the extreme, not much is truly sustainable.  What can/will be available for ever?

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Handmade = made entirely by hand, no machines.  But, then define a machine.  Is a slab roller a machine?

Handcrafted = mainly made by hand with the help of machines.

Can't imagine the fun the legaleagles would have in a courtroom.  Haven't we had this discussion before?

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Ahhhh the search for originality within the definition of what is craft, what is art, and what is manufactured. This sort of problematic discussion has been going on since the first power wheel, and continues on through the black and white vs color photography to digital vs film photography. To add my two cents to this it like adding one more strand to a gigantic hey mow.

Personally, I believe that the hand process includes the use of equipment whether powered or not. This could be an extrusion, or a slab, a wheel throw piece, or other where the craftsman has taken the raw result of the process to make something unique within their personal statement of what is either functional or decorative. At times there may be a blurring of where the object is created, as in the use of the potters wheel where the potter is in constant contact with the clay to form it with the help of the wheel. What one does during the wheel process or after the process with the glazing may raise the simplest of forms from craft to art. 

I can understand where much of this will go, ram pressing and casting have often been considered more of a manufactured effort. Some will argue that the design is essential, and that no matter what the number of items is it still is made by hand. To me, very little of it, thus not handmade.

We could also argue that Ceramic 3D printing is a viable process, but I still don't have a category for it considering it more of a novelty. In all of this, we have to consider the thought process involved in the design, and the person creating this design as the designer. I would think that in the future much of what we will see in Home Goods, and other stores will be made using these newer techniques in massed produced production as the process becomes more cost effective. Handmade, not one bit!

It will be an interesting future, hopefully there will still be potters, and artists. I have a grand daughter with great promise as an artist and hope that she lives in a future where there is a return to those things made with a little bit of soul where the craftsman or artist creates not just copies.

 

best,

Pres

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The problem is that art and craft appreciation must be taught somehow.  I know handmade objects are still appreciated in some areas of the country, but I can assure you where I live there is no value given to handmade.  Functionality and disposablity are the primary values.   Many people own zero handmade items, much less know who made them.  If you don't think this can happen to were you live, I think that's a naive opinion.  Even in your better craft markets, notice the number of people that walk by a craft booth without so much as a glance.

Some see, some can be taught to see, some will never see.  Which do you think is growing?

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I taught art and craft in a high school. While the kids got into the fun stuff of making, I brought up how to make something well crafted, what to look for when buying a piece of pottery, what the numbering meant on a print, what a well done silver soldered ring joint should look like inside and out, and so many more things about items that they would see, items that they made, and that I made. Maybe they never did more with it than that, but in the end they left classes knowing more about what to look for and feel so that in the end they would be better craft and art consumers.

 

 

best,

Pres

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On 12/16/2019 at 10:23 AM, liambesaw said:

I don't think people need to be taught to like something. If that's the case, you're likely targeting the wrong market.  Even little kids appreciate and want to use handmade things.

What I'm saying is they don't even SEE it.  It doesn't touch their consciousness at all. 

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I've noticed a lot of people who are at an art show or festival or farmers market are there to see a certain thing, not to make impulse buys of pricier things they happened to see.  So at a farmers market, I don't expect to sell a lot of 60 dollar vases, but I do expect to sell a few 5 dollar spoon rests or 20 dollar mugs, small bowls, trinket jars etc.  People are there to buy food and flowers, so pottery is the impulse buy there.

Art and music festival? Forget it, most of the people are there to drink and rock out, and apparently be jerks to everyone trying to sell their art.  So make something a drunk person would love in that case.  

Maybe the problem isnt that they don't see it, they just don't see it in the right context

Edited by liambesaw

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On 12/17/2019 at 6:51 PM, CactusPots said:

What I'm saying is they don't even SEE it.  It doesn't touch their consciousness at all. 

I'll second that observation! I spent ten minutes last night writing out my rant of the day regarding the lack of art education, unwillingness to learn, absence of innate curiosity, lack of critical thinking, lack of motivation towards expressing any individual creativity, lack of appreciation and even disrespect for quality craft, pretending that the emperor is clothed ---I sensibly deleted it all--- but uh oh, I see that the rant is welling up again. I'll just say that the times they are a' changin'...and it ain't good news! 

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I would like to have read that rant. Having taught in higher ed. I had a list posted on "How to get an "A" in the class. Develop critical thinking, and intellectual curiosity were on the list. Students came to class asking " how do I get an "A", That should tell you what challenges are  in teaching. Bottom line is the GPA. Grade Point Average.

I retired almost 20 years ago. I hung that list in my classroom during my last 2 years. I taught in 2 more universities after retiring but GPA was always the goal. Not learning. I love teaching workshops. People come to learn something I am offering. That is much more gratifying than "what do I have to do to get an A." Interesting thread. 

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I agree with you there Marcia, even in the HS I was at the GPA was king. Students would  not take art classes often because it would hurt their GPA. Most parents and students did  not realize how a weighted GPA system would hurt the overall aspects of a well rounded liberal education that included the arts, and other areas. However, when you consider that a weighted system would set up a multiplier of 2 or 3 as opposed to a 1 for arts; it was certainly true that the arts suffered. This was always one of my biggest battles with counselors and administrators that needed to put students someplace where they would be least able to disrupt academic classes. We had administrators that supported the arts because, and I directly quote, "they are our pressure valves"!

 

 

best,

Pres

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I believe it's easy to argue that academia has done a lot of damage to society as a whole, but the real dumbing down is caused by what I call The Age of Entertainment.  Not everyone goes to university, but virtually everyone (me included)  in our culture suffers from lack of attention span because of the proliferation of mindless entertainment.

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