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QotW: When you buy a number of a potter's pieces do you feel the need to meet the maker? 

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This week, we have another question from the pool for QotW. This one comes from @Babs as an aside from a discussion of @Mark C.and his pottery business where a woman collected a large amount of pottery by him. Babs question is: 

QotW: When you buy a number of a potter's pieces do you feel the need to meet the maker? 

Over the years, I personally never collected pieces other than a few mugs here and there, At the time we really couldn't afford to collect pottery, and if we needed a piece. .. I made it. There just wasn't the room in a teachers budget for that. However, I did go to conferences with the specific reason of meeting a potter I had read about or seen their work in some magazine or book. John Glick was one of those. Another was Martha Clover. At the same time, I would wander the Penn State festival looking for potters and pots that I had seen examples of their work. In these later years, we have made purchases at the Penn State festival of work that I have seen or from potters that I have met digitally. It is interesting to see how the pots made seem to fit the personalities of the potters.




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I like to use  other potters mugs-in fact we have a ton of them stacked two high in the cupboard and at least another spare cupboard full.

Most I have bought from the potters themselves -say 99% Most where at art shows I did-doing 10-12 shows a year for decades and decades you tend to meet other potters

I have a Don Sprague whom I have never met-but that may be the exception-it was at the Seattle folklife festival  which I did for 5 straight years selling pots in early 2000's and  the Seattle center next tio show has a ceramics gallery where i picked that one up..Once in the late 70s in that same gallery I saw a Tom Coleman pot that I loved but could not afford at that time

On other forms from potters most I have met

We had Tom Coleman come do a workshop decades ago (at laest 30 yaers) and i got a few pieces from him then at a reasonable cost

same with Robbin Hopper-He did it a bit different and you bought work he made at workshop that and bisueed it as it was not glazed and you finish it.

I salt fired one of his platters-I still have an unfired large bowl that I need to fire 

Same with Otto and Vivika Heino as I have some of his work (they where great people with the best stories)

Those workshops we put on back then as a guild (long gone now) put the Heinos and the Robin Hopper up in our homes as you would a friend

I did a pot exchange with Warren Mackenzie  and never met him as well-in fact my cat broke his pot and we did it again

I also had one of my customers give me a Warren piece he won at a auction. He did not like it as it was a earthy glaze (my favorite) He lived in Minnesota and thats where the auction was. They used to live here (redwood coast) and drove here every other year to vistit relatives and fill their van with my pottery. They would come at kiln openings in the summer.

After 50 years in this you meet a lot of potters -some want to trade with you and some you want to trade and some you just buy. Trades are my favorite

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 there are many, many pots in my house that i have collected since the 1970s.  the first was from a small store in georgetown, DC.  the price of $15 was a lot.  it was made by a man who lived in the mountains of west virginia.   a round lidded jar totally unglazed,  brown clay rubbed with black and rio red slips.   i still admire it, signed van nostrand.  a local magazine featured him in a story and i visited  his studio and home later. 

john glick lived a few miles from my sister.  i have several of his things, bought during the visits i made to his plum tree pottery on ten mile road.   

there are some made by tom coleman, one that could have come from the first book written about him and a later one in the warm, toasty colors of the desert.   i attended two workshops tom gave,  more than two would have made me a groupie.   the second was with tom and elaine.   fabulous!

a tiny town sits on the mantle and fills a bookcase.  they are Windy Meadows hometown buildings,  jan signed all of them.   she lived across the river, only a few miles.

there are lots more, some made by potters you may have heard of and some you have not.  i watched seth cardew make the one in the corner during a workshop in maryland.  i bought the cup i used in a visit to the michael cardew studio that seth inherited.  many of michael's pots were still there.  

john leach did workshops for our guild for several years.  i visited his studio with a friend.  she bought a huge pot that she shipped home to los angeles and i got a few of the very small ones.   i have a david leach and one not made by him but from his studio.  i was fortunate to be in bovey tracey for a huge retrospective of his work and visited him in his studio.  

everywhere i look i see something beautiful made by a potter, some of which i use often were  made by members of this group,  it is a pleasure to be surrounded by handmade pieces made with love.  they make me smile.



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I definitely own pieces from people I have only met in glancing, or only know by reputation. When I went to NCECA a few years ago, I picked up a couple of small pieces by potters I’d only seen online, and there wasn’t really a chance to talk to either of them unfortunately. I don’t have parasocial relationships with them online either, so there’s no personal connection. I’m free to admire the work and enjoy it. 

On the flip side of that coin, I do own a piece from a person who’s work I admired, but found out after I bought it that I strongly dislike them personally. I have no idea what to do with it. I can’t use it without thinking of that person, I don’t want to give it to someone else because of how the creator present themselves, and I won’t donate it for the same reason. Smashing it is spiteful, and that’s not warranted. It’s in the back of my cupboard, and I see it when we’ve used almost every other mug.


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I think of ceramics as artworks that draw me in. Like Callie, I think about the potter's personality in addition to the work they make, because they are really intertwined. For me, I can get really amped up by seeing the first spring ephemeral flowers coming up, and that motivates me to create work, even if my work may not be directly related to what I see.  I can sometimes feel that from someone else's pieces. For example, Noel Bailey makes porcelain pieces that look like ice as it has frozen and melted over a cliff face. He does ice climbing apparently, and my husband used to ice climb. This connection made me purchase one of his pieces although I've never met him. He sent a very nice note in the package, and he seems like someone I'd like if I met him. 

I also don't buy large quantities of work from specific potters because I want a little of everything! My cabinets are a lovely mishmash of things I made as well as other potters' work and purchased pieces.  I don't have any space left in my cabinets, so I've got things on shelves and in bookcases too. I also tend to purchase mugs or other small or nesting pieces that I can fit into the kitchen when I admire someone's work. I've seen people build specific beautiful shelving units to store their mugs collections. 

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I really get a kick out of visiting other potter’s houses and seeing pots from potters I know on their shelves. It always feels like some wild unexpected connection, a sense of community. 

 I have a few pots made by people I don’t know anything about, but most I’ve either met or I know their work. Got some real gems from the NCECA cup sales. One rare thrift shop find, a mysterious little beauty nestled in among all the “Beginning Ceramics” pots that wind up at the Salvation Army. No idea who made it, but that didn’t keep me from buying it. Probably helped that it was $3. 



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I don't have a lot of other people's work-don't get around much & don't have the spendoolies. I like meeting clay artists and then may get a piece they've made. My little collection includes  (from the top left) Andy Hampton's cosmic tea dust mug, a nice box that holds my collection of fortune cookie slips, and a  tasty shallow  square catchall. Andy is the president of the NH Potters Guild and who I got to do a raku firing with. Then there is  Maureen Mills' little willow vase-she was the director of the NH Institute of Art's Ceramic Dept. and author of Surface Design for Ceramics (Lark); the next mug is by her partner, slip trail master Steven Zoldak-I got the mug at their studio during the recent Portland Art Tour. The small plate is one of  Maureen's "seconds" and  shows off her signature design w/implied text. The 5 lovely tiny vessels are by Joseph Painted Bear, who I met online. The tiny vase is by Karen Orsillo, who specializes in the Japanese technique of neriage. I met Karen at the NHIA anagama firings at the Sharon Art Center. Last, the gorgeous cacao pod, glazed in Palladium, is by a South Afrikan artist whose name escapes me now- met her in an online ceramics group. Then, since I couldn't afford one of John Baymore's pieces (John & students built the huge anagama kiln at the Sharon Art Center and of course he is well known to some in these Forums) I got the next best thing: I carried off one of his cone holders from a firing that hit  2400 f, ^12.

Update: I happened to re-read my post and noticed that the auto-censor has changed my text! "Then there is Maureen Mill's little willow vase..." Nuh uh...I did not write "little willow vase". What I wrote was the correct description of her slip-trailed piece, which is a  "little p--ssy willow vase".  I'd laugh if it weren't so sad.




Edited by LeeU
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If I can I buy a mug from artist I meet at workshops or at their shop.   If they are coming to visit my studio I will tell them to bring a mug and we will trade if they want to.   I visited Marcia Selsor studio a few years ago,  I brought her one of the pots from the hand coiled tribal series I was making,  I gave it to her as we departed.   I didn't want her to feel obligated to give a piece of her work that she sells for hundreds of dollars.  Denice

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  • 3 months later...

I have 2 pieces of Mark Cortright's work that I got from him when I met him at a UC Davis art fair. One is a mug that I traded one of my bowls for and the other, a French butter dish that I bought, both of which have fantastic glaze work! Old Lady traded one of her beautiful serving platters for some carving tools I made for her. The bad news here is that nothing is getting served on the piece...the good news is that it is sitting in our display cabinet for many to see!

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