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competitions dialogue (long)

updated tue 30 apr 96


Michael McDowell on sun 7 apr 96

Fellow Sufferers,

Reading over Jim Connell s post that came in my digest yesterday:

< So quit your bitchin and get back to the clay>

I see that this whole area of discussion may be trying the patience of some,
perhaps many, Clayart subscribers. One of the nice things about Clayart is the
broad spectrum of participants. Clay is the thread that brings us all together
here, and it seems clear that we all share in having a passionate commitment to
the medium. But our passions are not shared; they are as diverse as the many
paths one can take with this most pliable medium. I wish I would take Jim s
suggestion myself, but there are still some things I ve got to say, & my poor
psyche will be tortured if I clam up now. I hate to think how that will come out
in my work. The best that I can offer is to try & get it out now & then let it
rest if that is what the rest of you want.

I ll just make a guess that a good percentage of those of us who are wanting
clearer criteria in shows, and more feedback from them, are functional potters
like myself. I believe that there is art in what I do, but I don t think that it
can properly be judged as some sort of hybrid mixture of painting & sculpture
that can be evaluated properly in the same format as painting and sculpture are
judged. Art comes in many forms, and clay can take so many forms, why can t we
at least entertain the possibility of devising new forms for
competitions/exhibitions. I don t think we need to throw out the current ones,
but I believe there is a need for something new, to better promote the area of
expression - functional pottery. OK I m thinking of all the people I m boring
to tears right now & saying cut to the chase . It s an embryonic concept right
now, but I am working on a new form for a functional pottery competition &
exhibition that would be a radical departure from what we have now. There may
well be aspects of this plan that are totally impractical when it comes to
putting it on, but I d like to get some reactions to the basic concepts.

Functional Pottery International Competition

Functional Pottery is an art form unto itself. Its full expression is only
realized in the use of the piece for its intended purpose. While there are
aspects of sculptural and two dimensional art in each piece, these aspects are
constrained by the damands of functionality. The highest achievement in this
arena is accomplished through the integration of form, function and surface
treatment in a harmonious & vital expression of the potter s art. The format of
this competition is designed to advance the understanding & appreciation of
the art of functional pottery in the general public, and to promote, over time,
an improving standard of excellence by the practitioners of the art. Due to the
peculiar nature of the art form, classical music competitions serve as a better
analogue than do the traditional formats of visual art competitions. The scope
for originality is constrained by the functional category in this competition
in much the same way that the classical musician s is by the score. Yet within
that bounded scope lies an infinite universe of expressive possibilities, and
qualities such as vitality are brought to the fore.

Entries will be juried in a variety of functional classes. Teapots will be
judged against other teapots, Casseroles against casseroles, etc... Three
jurors, each practicing functional potters themselves will evaluate all entries.
They will be judged by direct examination of the pieces. Each piece will receive
a numerical score on an arbitrary scale from one to ten in each of four
categories: 1. Form 2. Function 3. Surface treatment 4. Integration. Scores in
the first three categories will be added together and multiplied by the
integration score to determine final score, and the three jurors final scores
will be added to give each piece a total score that will determine its overall
rank within it s functional category. Copies of each jurors scorecard, along
with any comments they choose to make, will be forwarded to each entrant.

Entries & Fees:
The only fee for entering this competition is the piece itself and the cost of
shipping it to the jurying site. Along with each piece the entrant will be
allowed to submit a statement of up to 50 words that will be read by the jurors
& accompany the piece in exhibition.

Competition will be funded through sponsorships and the sale of entered pieces
through silent aution.

The overall exhibition & silent aution of all submitted works will take place on
the Web. There each piece will be available for viewing, along with the artists
statement & contact information, as well as the current high bid price. In order
to eliminate disparate photographic skills from influencing the
competition/exhibition in any way, all pieces will be photographed & digitized
by the competition in a standardized format. Highest ranking pieces will be
offered for exhibition to appropriate venues.

So there's a sketch of what I think will work for those of us that are bent this
way. I sure would like to get some responses to it, on or off the list. Who
would be willing to enter such a competition? Who would be willing to sit as a
juror? Who would be willing to offer sponsorship? What if it works, even
generates a surplus of income?
Where should that go? Should this be a "volunteer effort"?

I know this was long. I promise to shut up about it if this proposal doesn't
ring true to a good number of you out there.

Michael McDowell
P. O. Box 4125
Bellingham, WA 98227