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snooty guilds, curse them.

updated tue 30 sep 97


Joseph Herbert on sat 13 sep 97

Laura Conley made a post wondering about potter s guilds, with the required
negative references. As we now, potter s guilds are viscous small groups of
expert potters who bunker up together to keep anyone from learning the true
way of pottery. These groups are the modern equivalent of the Pythagoreans
in their defense of esoteric knowledge to the detriment of the uninitiated.

Sorry, must have gotten a press release from a militia group mixed into my
clayart. Actually, potters guilds are groups of potters that get together to
share the expenses of a work space and equipment. In some cases, they mostly
share a selling space - one is Houston Texas is an example. As we have
discussed previously, it isn t the easiest thing in the world to be an
independent artist. In the case of guilds, some of the total independent is
gone but there is gain from group resources and cooperation. There is a
guild in Wallingford, PA. that shares a space on the grounds of the
Wallingford Community Arts Center. This group of 10 - 20 (I don t really
know) shares a space of maybe 3000 square feet with individual areas, shared
areas, and shared equipment and kilns. By the way, get all the wheels you
want, until it s cooked, it s just mud. This guild limits its membership
because there is a limited amount of space. This guild is selective about
the members it admits because there are requirements for certain communal
upkeep activities - like cleaning the shared areas, kiln repair, trash
disposal, etc. - that must be undertaken by all in turn, and if a person
under consideration seems unlikely to carry their weight in that area, they
don t get in. Would you form a partnership with a person who you knew would
not cooperate?

Another consideration for admitting a person to this cooperative group, other
than that rather basic consideration of their being cooperative, is their
ability and willingness to pay, in actual money, for their part in this
shared experience. Again, would you form a relationship with a roommate who
wouldn t or couldn t pay the rent? You might, but these relationships seldom

The idea of a guild as a closed, secret, exclusive group has lingered from
the Middle Ages and Renaissance. The potter s guilds I know about limit the
numbers of their members because of space constraints and select their
members with care because of bitter experience. If a person tells you bad
things about a guild and its membership, you might ask yourself some
questions about that person s cooperative abilities, interpersonal skills,
reliability, and credit rating. If a guild has an opening and you can t get
in, you might want to look at these qualities in yourself.

When someone says "So-and-so wasn t good enough to get in the guild." The
perception is that their work was somehow lacking. I doubt if it was the
work that lacked quality.

Joe Herbert