search  current discussion  categories  business - money 

arts & $$$ -- the roots, the self image, and the medium

updated wed 30 apr 97


Hiro Matsusaki on tue 22 apr 97

Dear Clayarters:

Our roots are hugely important.

The self image is also important for us, since we have been in a rather
undefined world with a higher technological and industrial input. We are in a
way late arrivals in the world of traditional arts in North America. Thus our
creative thrusts can take on many fronts, forms, directions and magnitude. We
are a diverse bunch. And we must face the growing schism generated by these
three elements.

To my way of thinking, the challenge for us is to find an optimum balance
between these three often conflicting demands. The proper balance, depending
on personal circumstances, is the key to make it.

Well, that's the way I see it. Never mind the medium, the message, or the
messenger bit. That "revolution" took place many years ago. It is an old hat,
despite that very recent, well made CD-ROM to commemorate the event. The self
image notion had preceded that era. The roots, who knows?

The self image determines, to some extent, what we want to be, with whom we
want to be associated, and how sensitive we wish to be relative to others.
It motivates us to be something other than what we really are in this
mundane life.

It is our destiny, as clayarters, to aspire for more beautiful things, or
search for the finer things in life. Without such aesthetics, we cannot
possibly survive, can we? Maybe it is within our realm to tempt our destiny,
disregarding all possible odds. The small is beautiful. So is the large. The
sky is the limit, either way.

Unfortunately, we cannot do much about the roots which are basically
god-given. Our hereditary, chemical or environmental makeups differ a great
deal, giving rise to individual differences. The roots keep us firmly planted
on the ground. Or, shall I say, the soil, rock, or clay in our case? Not in
sand, dirt, or a different medium, hopefully, since the roots are more likely
to hit the wall that way. By intelligent perseverance, patience and hard
work, we may be able to grow the roots along the path laid out by the self
image, within the technological constraints, albeit slowly.

And I note with a perverted pleasure that there are those poor souls who will
never be clayarters! And they are the majority in this world, since there are
not that many of us around. For the time being, now, anyway.

The clay as a medium with a higher technological and industrial inputs? That
is mostly what the clayart posts are about, I think. We learn from each
others' mistakes and avoid repeating the same technical ones. With the
miracle of modern science we can do far more with this medium than our
predecessors could have dreamt about. Reputedly for some reds, they would
have died for. Compared to those ordeals, we now live in a miracle age.

Can we say that to traditional drawing, painting, or sculpture? A person must
be extremely skillful to succeed in these labor intensive area. Materials
used are relatively straightforward, but one must be very, very crafty to
make it. Most traditional crafts, if well made, demand similar intensive
skills. It's relatively easy to get into any one of these craft endeavors,
but quite difficult to make good, quality stuff. Competition is keen, and the
market is not yet there to encourage would be artisans and craftrs to keep on

So? Let us decide things by the majority of one. With the me-ism, as we have
always done. Not by the imperfect market rule. The way things are, we should
not complicate things with $$$ signs. We should seek the balance of the above
three elements: the roots, the self image, and the medium. And hope for the
best. Serendipity may yet to come. I think it is up to us to strike a proper
balance, individually, to make the clayart a real goldmine.

Copyright April 21, 1997 by Hiro Matsusaki. All rights reserved.

(Hiro Matsusaki is a self-appointed critic of ceramic arts, and a self-styled
maker of craft potteries, who likes to point out both the bad and the good.)