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lists and making a living

updated sun 31 aug 97


The Shelfords on fri 29 aug 97

Joseph Herbert wrote:
> it is possible to be a working potter who can make a house payment, make
>a car payment, buy health insurance for the children, and afford to take a
>vacation every five years. I just believe it is really rare. Really Rare.
> And I don t think it is wrong to tell a person about the difficulties their
>choices might present in their future lives.
I agree. How many potters make a living at just potting? Not including
teaching potting, in school or workshops. Or writing or making videos
about potting. Not selling ceramic materials etc. on the side. Not
running galleries or shops. And did they start out that way?

We had someone living with us for nine months - a childhood friend who was
an out-of-work actor. He's been "in the business" all his life (in his
mid-fifties now). Not likely to make it to star status now but certainly
knows the business and is very competant in it. But he STILL suffers from
the idea that he's a failure if he does anything other than act. So he
could never reconcile it with his ego to get any other jobs between acting
work. We were drawn into being one of a life-long queue of people who
ended up supporting him for awhile while he went to auditions and things.
Got out of it eventually and he found someone else to live with. But he
was an extreme example of what sometimes becomes an unrealistic goal.

It seems to me that if you love clay enough, you will work in it, and if
you keep on loving it and working at it, it kind of gets into everything
you do, and eventually everything you do is clay-related (not to mention
And anyway, doing other stuff as well is hardly a bad thing. Where would
this list be without the teachers, ceramic technicians, the rocket
scientists, the physicists, the engineers, the writers and dreamers and
metal-workers and wood-workers and computer whizzes and all of us from
everywhere on the job list.

>We could also make a list of persons who encourage ignorance in others only
>to be brought up short by ignorance themselves. On second thought, there are
>no people like that so there can be no such list.
Well of COURSE not (I've never not known everything - can't imagine what it
would be like... )
But the way I read Vince's comments, I thought he was chiefly concerned
about the possibility of just this happening - by the power of personality
and authority, giving people the idea that something is impossible, instead
of just very challenging, and requiring some tough trade-offs. Like my art
prof at McGill eons ago, crossing out the 80% end-of-year grade (an A) that
he had given me, and changing it to 79% (a B), because, as he kindly
explained to me, he didn't want me to think that I could ever be an artist.
Leaving me with the choice of giving up on it (which I did for a long
time), or rebelling and running off, fuelled with resentment and complete
ignorance, to try to prove him wrong. I' not the kind to have got far on
that fuel mix.

I don't know that listing the names is all that helpful - doesn't give the
individuals involved a chance to change, or to explain their position (they
might be being misquoted - we don't always hear everything that is said,
even when we're right there...). But I do think it's helpful to see
discussions like this, and for lists like this to discuss the practical
problems of making some sort of a living with pots. Which we are doing.
And thanks to you all, for continually enlightening my ignorances (yes yes
alright I admit it) and letting me share whatever I do know (or think I
- Veronica
Veronica Shelford
s-mail: P.O. Box 6-15
Thetis Island, BC V0R 2Y0
Tel: (250) 246-1509

KDrescherg on sun 31 aug 97

This discussion is is tending torwards the negetive and that is to bad.
Yes, people can make their living doing clay. I worked as a curator in
Kentucky and met many potters successfully working for a living. Maybe I
am niave, but I know that it can be done. Do I think it would be easy? No,
I have not sold anything in the last two months. Please read Margaret
Wildenhain's book on potting ( not sure of name) where she includes a
discussion between herself and a young potter to be.......... very
enlightening. Pottery like raku is not for the faint at heart.

I obviously do not make my living from pots. Each of us must find our own
way...find what works for us ...and make it work.