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Marcia Selsor

How Do You Develop You Own Aesthetic?

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You are or should be your best and toughest critic. How hard are you on yourself? How do you grow into your own aesthetic? Function is a standard as we can refer to Robin Hopper's analysis to form , weight, balance, in Functional Pottery as well as look at classical pottery from long traditions in ceramics: Asian, African, European, the Americas.

 

were presented:

Some great points were presented by Sammule

in the previous discussion on the "worst critique you ever have":

 

"think aesthetics regarding to proportions. Do the parts harmonize with each other compared to CLASSIC models or are some parts exaggerated or diminished? Again, there are well-known standards concerning proportions. If you've deviated from classic ideas of proportion, was it an experiment or unintended? If an experiment, was it successful or not"

 

"There are more standards but we start with agreed-on classic standards and deviate from them as needed, based on the INTENTIONS of the potter"

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Another note on being able to grow into your own aesthetic ... is it a luxury or a necessity?

 

An artist who is comfortable can afford to indulge in their own search for a personal aesthetic but one who needs to pay the rent might have to go with the standards of the day in the marketplace if their intention is to stay in business. How do you balance this in real life??

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You are or should be your best and toughest critic. How hard are you on yourself? How do you grow into your own aesthetic?"

I am extremely hard on myself. I continue to battle "getting my stuff out there" as I truly feel as it's not quite to that point. This has caused some 'spirited' discussion between my wife and I. She puts up with my neurotic sense of artistic value, and is very supportive of my work. I do feel I am gaining, my pots are continually better (as they should be) and I'm fully aware that even the likes of the old masters, they too felt as though they were growing.

 

As for aesthetic, I have always chuckled inside when someone mentioned my "style". I didn't see it then, nor do I now, but I make things I like to make AND USE. One of my more memorable disappointing moments on my path to good pots, was while I was in school,we had a great artist in residence. I thought I could throw and he humbled me in a hurry. Very awesome guy, great potter. I asked him about using his pots. He said he didn't? I still struggle with that. How could he not? Sure, his pots were high end, probably not the dinnerware type, but really? I remember fondly my first mug (still have the hefty thing somewhere) the handle was hard to hold, the thick rim wasn't comfortable... The next mug was much better. I MUST use my stuff, it has helped me make better pots by far. I still pour water from my still kiln warm teapots and pitchers just to see the effect of subtle changes of shape/rim/angle etc.

 

Bottom line. I like making things. I like the struggle.

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You are or should be your best and toughest critic. How hard are you on yourself?

My standard for judging my pots: If I hadn't made that, would I buy it?

 

I know what goes through my own head when looking at pots. I have a great deal of appreciation of art, craft, and design. But I am value-oriented and hate clutter. I will sometimes buy expensive pots, and sometimes buy things that I only plan to display on a shelf, but mostly I want pots in the everyday functional range.

 

My new pottery designs go through a fairly long design process, which often involves using them myself for some time. I only release a small number of new designs per year, and maybe one or two will survive in my line for the long term.

 

Another standard that I like to achieve: When I can say to the customer "I know you're gonna love this."

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Good point , Chris. Include what your are balancing as well as your attempts to grow.Marcia

 

I've mentioned this on the forum before, and this is the advice I give out frequently, that I worked another good-paying full-time job for the first eight years after launching the pottery business. The other job gave me the funds to start the pottery business, and also allowed me to develop my work without any financial pressure. I didn't quit the other job until I knew the pottery business would provide a living income.

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I fire my work with another potter in his gas kiln. I do not have the space for my own big kiln regrettably. His work never changes or progresses. I am always making glaze tests and searching for colour combinations. We both decorate all of our work. He uses slips applied while the piece is on the wheel. I decorate on top of the unfired glaze. Our work is so different from each other that there is no risk of drifting together.

I have the luxury of the search as  my income comes from teaching. He is trapped to a certain point because he is a full time potter. He always comments on the colours I come up with, and I think he enjoys them. It must be a personality thing-that he doesn't change his work, and I constantly change mine.

TJR.

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Some find it early and stick with it ... some get famous and are stuck with it??

 

About 18 years ago I knew for me it was going to be made from colored porcelain.

About five years ago I realized that layers of all types interest me and runs through all my work.

I still don't have anything nailed down to what I would call an aesthetic.

 

At the rate I'm going, I gotta live to be at least 100 to find it. : > )

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My forms evolve over time -if they work well I tend to stick with them-then over time they evlove again into a differet shape or line. Looking back on old work -new work is a shift of ever changing aesthetics. That make for improvement of form over time.

I tend to abandon forms when a new one comes along and makes it thru my testing period so my form list is about the same 25-35 forms.

The market also has an effect on all this.

I tend to experiment in the spring and summer and never have time in the fall.

Mark

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I think there are potter's pots and potters' glazes  and pots fort he general public.

I use my potters' pots and buy potters'pots  but my best sellers are not to my taste.

I do "like" them at the level of, well they work and are well made, just do not feed my soul.

Schitzo here .

Babs

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I think there are potter's pots and potters' glazes  and pots fort he general public.

I use my potters' pots and buy potters'pots  but my best sellers are not to my taste.

I do "like" them at the level of, well they work and are well made, just do not feed my soul.

Schitzo here .

Babs

 

This is the thought I have every time I use a blue glaze or slip. Blue sells, I need to sell pots therefore I make pots with blue. I don't have a single blue pot for our use in the house.

 

I would much prefer to make carbon trap shino glazed ware, wood or soda fired but it also comes down to what firing methods are available to me. Living in the burbs I don't have the option of firing a gas kiln let alone a woodfired one. 

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Strange but true.i never ever like the pots i make myself..maybe its not me being too negative or undervaluing myself.Yeah when every pot is sold i ask was it that worth.

 

No matter what when i see smile or customer being happy seeing my pots,i gather it was worth.

 

 

Anyhow i like struggling,making,trying and experimenting,always!!!

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I think there are potter's pots and potters' glazes  and pots fort he general public.

I use my potters' pots and buy potters'pots  but my best sellers are not to my taste.

I do "like" them at the level of, well they work and are well made, just do not feed my soul.

Schitzo here .

Babs

Brown pots sell. I don't even like glazing them. The glaze will not take any decoratio. An entire studio full of decorated pots, and people still go for the brown mug. I don't get it.

TJR.

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You don't develop your own aesthetic; you develop your own STYLE based on refining traditional models.  The word, "style" comes from the Latin, "stylus," the instrument used for writing.  It refers to handwriting.  Each of us writes the same letters, yet each of us writes them differently -- that's our style.  Having your own aesthetic would be like having your own alphabet -- no one could understand you.

 

How did we get our unique style of writing?  We didn't get it by experimenting.  We were shown a model, and we tried to imitate it.  At first, our efforts were awkward, but as we practiced, we wrote better and, (because we're all physically and mentally different), our writing came out slightly different than the model.  Maybe we deliberately exaggerated some of the differences, but mostly the changes were unselfconscious. 

 

I think it's the same with any art:  You have a model in mind of how things SHOULD be done, and you try to match it.  Differences will naturally creep in.  You evaluate them and decide if they're useful or not, and if you want to encourage them or not.  Eventually your work looks different than another person working in the same tradition.  IMHO, a potter should choose a tradition -- Indian pottery, Japanese pottery, Stafforshire, Ancient Greek, Italian Majolica or whatever, and try to work in that tradition (I didn't say "imitate" it), before trying to reinvent the wheel, because those reinventions never come out round.

 

(In the interest of accuracy, I wrote the lines you quoted in the OP)

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> Having your own aesthetic would be like having your own alphabet -- no one could understand you.

 

I'm not as well versed in this as you are, but don't all great artists essentially create their 'own alphabet' that few people understand until later? Not that I am in any way grouping myself among them ... But didn't Dali, Picasso ... Banski for a current example ... do just that? Change the alphabet?

 

I agree that you have to learn the rules before you can break them but I'm curious to hear your thoughts re: what is the difference between someone whose aim is to follow the rules vs. someone who sets out to break them?

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It used to seem like my most populat colors where not my favorites like the ever mentioned blue that Min speaks about above. Now its multi combos I'm into and folks seem to like them as much as me-they are very busy and take more time to glaze a pot with 5 colors on it.
I call them Landscape and do like them but I know its just a growing phase and I will move thru it.
Mark

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I like this discussion. As a new potter with less than a year experience, I feel I am struggling to come up with something that is mine. The only thing I know I like is smooth lines and beautiful curves. I have a hard time liking anything that has finger throwing marks in it. I also dislike the old fashioned looking pottery, however it appears if I ever want to make money off pottery I am going to have to adapt to the old fashioned look around my area. I have made several things and glazed them differently, the one I like the least is the one everyone else loves the most. Lots to learn, I still value form over glaze aesthetic and I think I will continue to go down that path. Something about a beautiful curve and smooth wall just makes me smile.

 

My favorite glazes are anything: black, grey or white. I don't really care much for the other colors! In order to increase my potential sales in the future, I have been working with white shino's and stuff to get the white look I want to have, but with the brownish old fashioned look that others want combined together. I think I eventually will narrow my pots down to 1 base color, some type of white shino with decorations on the pot. Maybe brush marks or splatters or sponge circles overlapped. I am not sure yet, but I am getting there slowly.

 

Either way I think the main thing we should all try to do is to enjoy what we create. Even if we don't like the way it looks 100%, if we can sell it, we should take joy that we brought happiness to someone else by creating something that they might use or look at everyday.

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For most of human history, an artist was a person who made things according to his training.  The artist's teacher didn't expect his apprentice to invent some new version of a jug or a chair or a painted angel, and the "customer" didn't expect the artist to make something no one had ever seen before, embodying ideas that no one had ever thought before.  Everyone knew their role in the process and knew the standards by which things are judged because those standards were in the world, not in the artist.

 

Around the time we call the Enlightenment, the artist was redefined as an inspired genius who had original ideas and insights inside of him, and from whom flowed a river of exciting innovations.  That's our model today.  College students are told that there's a unique artistic essence INSIDE of them, and their job is to manifest it in their work.  And so they struggle, trying to think up unique ideas and invent new forms that reveal this unique artistic essence.   But most of us aren't innovative geniuses.  We're just regular people looking for a way to become good at our craft.  If we don't have a Master to teach us, the next-best thing is to adopt a tradition we like, and to work within that tradition.  The "creativity" will emerge naturally as you make things, in the same way your unique handwriting style emerged as you wrote more. 

 

To oversimplify what I'm saying, "Be a craftsman," don't be an artist."  Good craft endures.  Today's exciting art is tomorrow's eyesore -- unless you're a genius. 

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IMHO, a potter should choose a tradition -- Indian pottery, Japanese pottery, Stafforshire, Ancient Greek, Italian Majolica or whatever, and try to work in that tradition (I didn't say "imitate" it), before trying to reinvent the wheel, because those reinventions never come out round.

 

 

That is a very interesting idea, Earth&Ware: choose a tradition!

 

Since I'am doing mostly traditional firings, one cannot use my pieces in everyday life. Pit fired or barrel fired pieces are not functional ware. If I had to put a name to my "style", I would say Red Indian and Japanese pottery tradition. Despite the fact that both traditions work with un-perfect forms, I like the perfect forms very much. I used to be a piano teacher and loved to play Bach because his pieces are composed mathematically. Not so long ago I attended a workshop called: Golden Ratio, and I felt that ever since I am a ceramist, I try to balance the form, using involuntarily the golden ratio. Is it possible that customers buy (or don't buy) our pieces because they (the pieces) aren't harmonious enough? Maybe a customer can't explain why he/she likes some pieces, and some not. But deep in the gut region we have a need for harmony, and we recognize it when we see it. So, looking and striving for harmony and symmetry in the forms we are making, I think that is essential.

 

Evelyne

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For grype and any other new potters ....

 

if you are less than a year into this you should be expanding not contracting. Try everything. Focus on what you love and go full tilt. Don't even think about pleasing a customer yet. You won't ever find your voice if you try to please everyone else because that is an impossible task. If you are concerned about your house filling up with "stuff" then only fire your best work.

Give yourself the gift of four years in home based university where you get to explore and learn.

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Frequently other people notice your aesthetic before you do.  My potter friends say they can pick my pots out of a grouping with ease.  We all have techniques we like, or have mastered, and how we process even a new idea will have tell tales from your skills that translate as your aesthetic to others.  I also like to try on forms that I may see in a pottery magazine, or at a display, to see how it may work for me.  I have found that I like making animal figures and curvy, spirallly designs, with lots of surface texture, or worn looking surfaces. These traits show up when I try out the observed forms.  So my aesthetic has emerged from my ability to make a form, and from application of my favorite design characteristics.  I would love to reach deep and find some ground-breaking aesthetic, but that seems pretty unlikely.  I am happy with that, so don't wait to see my name in the trades for the next great thing in ceramic arts.

 

As Chris said, if you are new keep expanding.  For the first seven years I wanted to try everything pottery related I could get my hands on.  I have settled in with a combination of wheel, hand-build and extruder produced forms. Half of my sales are figurative raku fired pieces, and the other half generally are explorative pieces that may, or may not be functional, but I make for the challenge or design concept.  I started with wheel throwing, then added hand-building as altering the round came into play, then did hand-building as a main method with wheel thrown additions, then I got an extruder and have adapted my main body of work to extruded forms.  Along the way I have electric fired, gas fired, raku fired, soda fired, wood fired, and hope to pit fire and barrel fire before long.

 

Around 3-4 years in I started selling work at the arts center annual sale and the quarterly shows they put on, then at year 5,  I started selling at art events around the Atlanta GA area.  Now I show about six times a year at various art events.  This year is my 10th year from first touching clay.  Like Mea, I have used my construction management job to build my equipment inventory and  to build skills and test the sales waters.  Next year I retire from construction and will amp up the pottery biz to see if it can do more than be self supporting. I sure hope the aesthetics will support the endeavor.

 

John

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I understand that we all have to pay the bills but why make things you dislike? I understand that you need to buy them but then what you create doesn't correspond at all to who you are. Just wondering, wouldn't it be worth it to do what you like and try to find the rights customers instead?

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For most of human history, an artist was a person who made things according to his training.  The artist's teacher didn't expect his apprentice to invent some new version of a jug or a chair or a painted angel, and the "customer" didn't expect the artist to make something no one had ever seen before, embodying ideas that no one had ever thought before.  Everyone knew their role in the process and knew the standards by which things are judged because those standards were in the world, not in the artist.

 

Around the time we call the Enlightenment, the artist was redefined as an inspired genius who had original ideas and insights inside of him, and from whom flowed a river of exciting innovations.  That's our model today.  College students are told that there's a unique artistic essence INSIDE of them, and their job is to manifest it in their work.  And so they struggle, trying to think up unique ideas and invent new forms that reveal this unique artistic essence.   But most of us aren't innovative geniuses.  We're just regular people looking for a way to become good at our craft.  If we don't have a Master to teach us, the next-best thing is to adopt a tradition we like, and to work within that tradition.  The "creativity" will emerge naturally as you make things, in the same way your unique handwriting style emerged as you wrote more. 

 

To oversimplify what I'm saying, "Be a craftsman," don't be an artist."  Good craft endures.  Today's exciting art is tomorrow's eyesore -- unless you're a genius. 

I agree with this wholeheartedly!  I think this has a lot to do with why kids who really enjoyed art when they are young eventually stop drawing or anything resembling art and suddenly decide they aren't creative.  I certainly struggled with this, thinking that because I couldn't draw something realistically without looking at it I wasn't really an artist.  It seems a little scary as well to be copying another person's work nowadays, but really that is how you learn.  Most of us aren't going to make an exact copy, we're going to change it a bit and make it our own and from doing that many times over, slowly your own style develops.  For some of us like me it takes longer than others.  Who cares though when he journey (the experimentation phase) is so fun anyway!

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Personal aesthetic? Hmmm seems like I make gifts for folks that are more traditional, nice round forms, shiny glazes, useful, utilitarian, very functional. . . pots. When left to my own devices, I make things that interest me, tell stories, invoke mystery, and are meant to be decorative. Heaven protect the one who has to dust them. As for them selling, I doubt if they ever will, most people seem to find them interesting subject matter, and question them, which is how they are meant.

However, crazy as it sounds it is group taste and aesthetic is often like bowling. You can throw the same ball for several frames, be in the pocket, and not strike. Then the same ball does nothing but strike for several frames... ... because the alleys caught up to you. Then later the same ball no longer strikes, because the alleys have moved on, and you have to adjust. I think the group/societal aesthetic is much the same, with many examples of artists that caught on after creating the same thing until for some reason or other it caught on, then as something else came along was no longer in vogue. Art is so capricious!

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