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Please excuse my ignorance - I'm someone who is three sessions into an introductory pottery course and I have no previous exposure to Art other than as a tourist visiting Art galleries. I am now very keen to do more pottery and find out in general about ceramics. However there are questions I have about the produce of people who define themselves as ceramic artists or artistic potters. I've watched videos and looked at lots of photographs of ceramic art... It's apparent that there are some very talented people with good craft skills, what is difficult for me to understand is why some ceramic artists are considered outstanding. Who determines whether someone's work is so exceptional it might lead to them being exhibited and in demand by people who can buy their work? Is recognition achieved by continued exposure and the approval of other ceramic artists? Or, does recognition depend on the opinion of art critics who might 'discover' someone's work? Are there recognised attributes that make ceramic art particularly good? Are young people (prodigies) ever recognised as exceptional ceramic artists and if so could any one name one so I can look at their work? Thanks.



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Welcome to the forum, Hopscotch...I think you will enjoy your journey. It has been said before that beauty is in the eye of the beholder...I guess you can say that of art in any form. There is a story of a world famous  violinist who was playing well known violin classics on a million dollar Stradivarius in a busy NY subway station as a study to see how commuters would react to his "art". Well, many people stopped to listen but the majority looked at his as just another street artist playing for donations...The conclusion was that many NY folks just don't appreciate the "level" of the "art" they were being exposed to. As part of the Ceramics 1, 2 and Raku coursed that I took at a local community college, we had to visit the world renown Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, CA which is near where I live, and after the tour of the museum, which has an excellent display of ceramics, we had to write a report on our experience. in my report I wrote that a lot of what I had seen in the various sections of the museum, although famous works of art. I wouldn't even consider hanging in my living room because it did not appeal to me. I would just display what I found appealing to me and not because someone else had decided that it was "art".  I would have been one of those folks who walked past the violinist because I don't find violin music particularly appealing. The professor commented that I had a very limited view of what "art" is...but gave me an "A" on the paper. With that in mind, much of what I see displayed as "art" in the ceramic world has gotten there because someone else has decided it was art but is not what I would display on my shelves...Soooo. I really don't have an answer for you as to what is outstanding. You have to decide that for yourself...

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Good Questions!


Is there a continuum - or spectrum, a wide variety - between big/main art venues (moma, amoca?, any road, both "pure" art and high zoot retail) and a table in the driveway garage sale?

Perhaps there's also a continuum of deciders as well who may exert influence, however large, from turning a turnstile to top art critic and museum curator? There's more o' the former than the latter.

I'm glad you brought up looking at other's work, need to get out and do some looking again; imo, seeing work in person is just different. There's no sub for reading and looking at flat pictures, however (imo). Near there, being around others while they're working with clay, and seeing in-progress work, also no substitute for that, which is what I wanted to offer on the subject; if/when you've a chance to be in studio with other potters, take it - bonus when there are others who have developed skill (even if it's just one skill).

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welcome to the forum!

your observations are on target.   the discussion of ceramic work as "art"  or "craft"  has been going on for years.   i am happy to be called a potter.  especially by people who pay me for my work.

the terms are almost automatically heard as "art = valuable" and "just a craft"  which is a shame.   when you figure out how it all works, please let me know.


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8 hours ago, Hopscotch said:

Are young people (prodigies) ever recognised as exceptional ceramic artists

Yes, several ceramics entities will recognize "emerging artists," such as Ceramics Monthly magazine, and some of the high-end craft shows. However, this does not catapult anyone to success. It's just a boost up. There's still a lot work and years ahead for a talented emerging artist to build a sustainable practice. There's no such thing as an overnight success in ceramics. There's too much skill involved, you cannot get around the number of years it takes to acquire the skill. 

Edited by GEP
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Thank you all for the warm welcome and informative responses. 

JohnnyK: Indeed. I had a chuckle after seeing a video of an amazing potter throw a  vessel which was spot on technically, he then purposely placed wobbles in it until it looked almost as good as my first effort. The camera then panned in to a whole shelf full of what looked like 'near misses' - very similar to the output of my classmates. There was no explanation as to why this guy's pots were so highly prized!;) 

Hulk: As soon as I get the chance I shall get out to exhibitions and demonstrations. I have been advised to enrol in a masterclass in order to meet local people who identify as ceramic artists and potters. I am keen to see the full range of ceramic materials that are used and also learn more about working with clay. I should imagine that if one can support oneself and finance the cost of the materials processes, then working with ceramics would be its own reward. 

I think  GEP has understood that I was more interested in identifying the arbiters who decide the standards of excellence in ceramic art/pottery. I'll look out for Ceramics Monthly, thanks for the tip! (Ah, I see it is a North American based publication - I doubt they'll feature African and S. American artists in the next edition?)

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Hi Hopscotch and welcome to the ceramics world.

you brought up many good points. I am in a thread discussing early studio potters on the Facebook page "Studio pottery Appreciation and Identification. Many there post about their thrift store finds and ask others for help identifying the potters. This current thread refers to early studio potters around the Arts and Crafts Movement 1900. The annual Nat'l Council on Education of Ceramic Arts (NCECA) (US based) always has about 100-200 exhibitions, demonstrations , lectures, and materials for sale in an exhibition hall along with non-profits. I have been attending as an educator since 1971. I enjoy the lectures by Ceramic Art Historians. Market Value can be established by exhibition records, collectors' enthusiasm, museum collections, etc. All that is difficult to nail down.  Mostly "art is in the eye of the beholder" . A good piece of pottery may depend on the buyers' response, how it fits the hand, how it feels to the lip, how is balances, and the aesthetic design appeal to the individual. There are many good potters here. And there are many asking for help from the others. It is a sharing community. Pottery is a complex medium and everyone advances by sharing. There is a Facebook group of South African potters. There is the International Academy of Ceramics with many international members. There is lots of information out there. As for determining who makes the judgement calls, it depends on what is trending. Right now figurative ceramics is on the rise. Social commentary comes and goes. Roberto Lugo gave a very powerful emerging Artist presentation at NCECA a few years ago and he is currently a very hot ceramic artist with shows at the best museums and venues.



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On 2/13/2020 at 5:54 AM, Hopscotch said:

Is recognition achieved by continued exposure and the approval of other ceramic artists? Or, does recognition depend on the opinion of art critics who might 'discover' someone's work? Are there recognized attributes that make ceramic art particularly good? Are young people (prodigies) ever recognized as exceptional ceramic artists and if so could any one name one so I can look at their work? Thanks.

I think Intent also matters if you are thinking of galleries and that type of artistic recognition. I think most of the regular posters on this forum are functional potters (at least it seems that way to me). Functional pots will have acceptance as art in many circles but not everywhere. Academic level will matter a great deal to some and little or none to others. Repetition will be important in building skill for wheel thrown forms (often refereed to as muscle memory) so number of hours as opposed to years on the wheel will very likely determine how skillful you are in the long run for wheel thrown pottery. 

A person who throws in their personal studio several several hours every other day and lets say 6-8 hours on weekends will get in 15 hours a week of throwing and that works out to around 700 hours a year if they miss a week here and there for vacations and such. I think almost anyone would consider someone who throws that often to be a serious potter. It will take a similar number of hours or more in the studio each week to actually process that work all the way through to the glazed rack.  If they do that for five years they will have several thousand hours on the wheel and about the same in trimming, glazing and general studio work and would very likely be considered very accomplished. An obsessed teenager with nothing to get in the way beyond 5-6 hours of classes during the week might hit that experience level in a year, year and a half if they were really into it and because so much of that time would be compressed I would guess they would prob be even more experienced. Either way the five year potter or the less that 2 year potter would either be considered really skilled at that point of making pottery or it is probably not their thing. 

Exposure will likely be up to you to achieve if your work is functional. When you get to the point that YOU think your work is exceptional then apply for some juried shows and approach galleries. Use social media to try and develop a following and maybe consider an online store and local shows to try and sell your work. If you become very good and manage to get your name out there then you could consider teaching classes or giving workshops to enhance your name recognition further.      

Have fun!

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