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discounts and discourse

updated wed 20 may 98


Michael McDowell on sun 17 may 98

This dialog on discounts has been a very interesting one to me. I think its
given many of us food for thought on what our pricing policies are and might
be, and to me it reveals something about the nature of discourse on the
list. I'd like to share this insight while I'm still under the illusion that
I've had a moment of clarity.

As I review the discussion thus far in my mind, I see that this thread has
once again revealed what a widely diverse group we are. As a result the many
views expressed have resulted in the presentation of ideas that will be
useful in a wide variety of contexts. Something for everyone. I think that's
great. It is the strength of this group that we can share our diverse
viewpoints openly, united as we are by our universal passion for clay. But
there is a dark side to what goes on in these discussions that limits the
range of discourse and diminishes what it can accomplish for each of us.
Have you noticed how often when a person has an answer to contribute to a
discussion or thread current on the list they seem compelled to present it
to us as THE ANSWER? I think that's easier to see in this discussion on
discounts than in many others because, while pricing policies are important
to all of us, they are not generally such an emotionally charged issue as
some others we might touch upon. In spite of the disparity of views
expressed, no one seemed to feel the need to attack those with opposing
views. In this case, discourse survived the fact that some participants felt
there was no room for discourse.

I have seen many potentially valuable discussions die or degenerate here on
the list when just one or two participants felt so strongly that they had
TRUTH on their side that they were unnecessarily harsh in their criticism of
opposing views. Once a thread starts to turn sour that way, I've rarely seen
it produce much more than hurt feelings. Other people with other views and
additional information are reluctant to join in a discussion that threatens
to subject them to abuse and ridicule.

A few days back someone posted a query as to where was the aesthetic
discussion that was supposed to be taking place here. At the time I thought,
and others responded, "We have our aesthetic discussions. Start one!" But as
I think about it now I'd have to say we don't discuss aesthetics nearly in
proportion to the importance of aesthetics to us all. To some degree we
retreat in our discussions to technical matters because it seems safer
ground, but this spectre of intolerance can arise even there; consider the
recent flameout over kiln stacks. I think that's because we generally are
deficient in the habits of thought and speech to be able to affirm our own
values and beliefs without denigrating those of others. Of all the things
that I've learned on Clayart over the few years I've been participating, to
me the most important one is that I need to cultivate these habits of speech
and thought.

Michael McDowell
Whatcom County, WA USA

Vince Pitelka on mon 18 may 98

>A few days back someone posted a query as to where was the aesthetic
>discussion that was supposed to be taking place here. At the time I thought,
>and others responded, "We have our aesthetic discussions. Start one!" But as
>I think about it now I'd have to say we don't discuss aesthetics nearly in
>proportion to the importance of aesthetics to us all.

Michael -
We don't discuss aesthetics very often because it is such a subjective and
individual thing, and because few of us really know how to verbalize our
appreciation of art. It is easy for that to happen, since the critical
theory junta has imposed such a convoluted and unnecessarily intelectualized
artspeak on the field of aesthetics. Pardon me if I seem to be lapsing into
my professorial mode here, but this is something I have thought about a lot,
partly as a result of having taught art appreciation for quite a few years.
If the anticipation or expectation of art appreciation and/or aesthetics is
convoluted and frightful, then it is no surprise that we are not willing to
immerse ourselves in this dialogue. But there is absolutely no reason for
it to be convoluted or frightful. We each should have confidence in our own
point of view, our own tastes, and the experiential and cultural baggage we
each carry along with us.

No one exists in a vacuum, and we can certainly learn a lot about art
appreciation and aesthetics by listening to the opinions and ideas of
others. But first and foremost I think that each of us should be
comfortable appreciating and interpreting art in our own terms.

At the foundation of art appreciation, one of the most important and most
misunderstood concepts is that appreciating art has nothing to do with
whether or not we like it. If we interpret art only in terms of whether we
would want it in our house, we are limiting our experience severely.
Appreciating art, and discussing aesthetics does not demand a lot of
training and/or knowledge, but the broadest experiential appreciation does
require that we open our eyes and minds to all the possibilities of human
expression, and that we try to distill from the work something of the
artist's intent and experience.

And yes, this applies equally to pots and paintings.
- Vince

Vince Pitelka -
Home 615/597-5376, work 615/597-6801, fax 615/597-6803
Appalachian Center for Crafts
Tennessee Technological University
1560 Craft Center Drive, Smithville TN 37166

D. McDysan on mon 18 may 98


Perhaps the reason no one has responded to the discount issue as
passionately as they have to other topics is because pricing and
discounts are as individual as the work we all produce. Certainly we've
all contended with fellow artists who underprice their work and lamented
the difficulty in educating the public of the true value of our efforts
in the face of the guy in the next booth who severely undervalues his
own. He has every right to price his work as he pleases and my input is
neither requested nor regarded.

Why should we attack each other on Clayart over something as personal as
pricing and discounts? How can we even begin a viable discussion (or
answer an inquiry) without seeing an example of what is to be priced
and/or discounted? Let's face it, not all pottery is created equal. I
have been in shows with people who took a couple of classes at the local
hobby shop and put their decorated slip cast wares out for sale at a
really low price. To the untrained eye (customers) the hobby shop pieces
looked "perfect" and although the decorations were very amateurish,
people snapped them up because the prices were lower than the "real"
pottery and they didn't know any better. (Needless to say I'm not doing
that show anymore). That may be an extreme case but the comparison of a
novice to a pro isn't far behind. I'd have to see the work to comment on
pricing and such. Even then, of course, it would only be my opinion.

The same point applies to the aesthetics issue. Without seeing the
object or having knowledge of a particular genre I'd be hard pressed to
comment. I am not deficient in the habits of thought and speech and I'll
denegrate with the best of them but I must KNOW what I'm talking about
first (some how I think this statement will come back to haunt me
later). Who among us will chance the scathing comment that squelches
the creativity of the meek observer particularly if unsubstantiated? How
many potters have changed their minds about raku due to the black velvet
painting discussion? Can our influence be great enough to cause the
person who will take raku to the next level decide to give it up to
avoid the negative label?

Debbie McDysan

Cynthia Spencer on tue 19 may 98

>At the foundation of art appreciation, one of the most important and most
>misunderstood concepts is that appreciating art has nothing to do with
>whether or not we like it.

I have found that some of the work that troubles me the most upon my
first viewing, are pieces I grow to appreciate the most because they may
me work to like them, to think about why the artist deemed this piece
good enough to go out into public. Sometimes it is a piece that is so
simplistic looking, it begs to be dismissed, but therein often is much
more to be pondered. Othertimes it is a piece so angry, ugly and
repulsive, it is only after empathizing with the making process--the
action involved in the making--that the beauty of the piece can be seen.
The hardest pieces for me often are the really technically slick works.
Where emotions/feelings play second fiddle to technical excellence.
Sometimes these pieces are too cold for me. I can appreciate the brain
power and craftsmanship, but must work harder to appreciate the piece

Thanks all for re-adding this discussion topic. We can all get so caught
up in growing our business and technical sides, that this important
growth can be lost.

Cynthia Spencer

KellDogn on tue 19 may 98

............and so for art appreciation......

These are really the thoughts of all men in all ages and
lands, they are not original with me,
If they are not yours as much as mine they are nothing, or
next to nothing,
If they are not the riddle and the untying of the riddle
they are nothing,
If they are not just as close as they are distant
they are nothing,
This is the grass that grows wherever the land is and
the water is,
That is the common air that bathes the globe.

Walt Whitman