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handmade again

updated mon 5 apr 99


Don Jones on fri 2 apr 99

I gues I have to weigh in here with my 2.5 cents adjusted for inflation.
I think there is a middle ground between the purists who just use the
traditional "folk arts" techniques for making pottery and those who
legitimize using any technology available.
First of all most of us if not all were trained in a college or university

"ART" department. I assume the reason for this was to round out our degree
with some hands on materials training combined with traditional aesthetics.
Secondly, money can be made from these folk art techniques so people who
are in the business of making pots from folk art techniques have their own
following and markets.
Thirdly, good pots aren't just good design (with all due respects to
Jonathan). This isn't the Bauhaus anymore. Our goal isn't just to make
good pots for the market.
Fourth: clay is a fine art medium also. Most of what is in the clay
mags these days is not pottery but small sculpture. People who love to make
fine art using clay are in the right place here on clayart.
Lastly, I believe our goal here is more related to honesty of expression,
function and personal growth in clay. I think you have to ask yourself if
you are in clay for the money or are you in it because you love clay.
Personally, I think the core/heart of this list is comprised of people who
love clay in all its forms. They leave the automated production to others.
If you want to work for Onieda or some other factory using your art
training, go ahead. God knows we could use some good industrial design.
Flame me if you want, but I believe that the debate is not between art
and craft but between the folk arts and the fine arts. If you personally
own a Jacquard Loom and can crank out a few bolts a day then fine. If you
own a small loom and work many days/weeks on a single rug, where should you
show your work?
Don Jones

>From: Jonathan Kaplan
>Subject: Re: Richard, eh!
>Date: Fri, Apr 2, 1999, 5:56 AM

>If our goal is again to be better potters, how about spending some time
>designing better ware than to be cought up in this process/product debate
>that will really serve no purpose
>other than clog this list and make fools out of many, myself included?
>Let;s work on making better pots.
>Jonathan Kaplan, president
>Ceramic Design Group LTd/Production Services
>PO Box 775112
>Steamboat Springs, CO 80477
>(970) 879-9139 voice and fax

Barb & Ray Sapergia on sun 4 apr 99

At the risk of keeping this topic going in circles FOREVER, I have to add my

Don Jones wrote:

> I think you have to ask yourself if you are in clay for the money or are you
> in it because you love clay.

Personally, I'm in it for the money AND because I love clay. I don't think
one is (or should be) exclusive of the other. I have been making a decent
living making pots for 21 years now...a LONG time, in most employment circles.
I have supported my family selling pots for years - I don't have a
doctor/lawyer/electrician husband in the wings with a second income. He's a
potter too.

I love the smell of clay, the texture. Throwing is my favourite thing and I'm
good at it, dammit, but this many years later and after an injury in a car
accident, I can't physically sit at the wheel for as many hours as I'd like to.
I am lucky to be a fast thrower, capable of supporting myself thus far, but who
knows? The reality for me and many 'aging' potters is the what I call the 'body
betrayal' thing - in order to maintain our lifestyles as our bodies age, we may
have to consider other ways to earn a dollar. We could go to work at a
department store, or a University or Art School ( then we could REALLY make pots
with soul!). I choose to make certain production pots with a Ram Press because
I still want to work in clay.

If you have ever bothered to check out the price of dies, you'd realize that
they are so expensive that only really fast-selling production pieces, suitable
for pressing, should be made into a die. One year I threw over 4000 mugs - all
alike, part of my 'regular production'. That is not only unhealthy physically,
but is draining mentally - where's the challenge, the creativity? I still throw
my mugs (probably only around 1500 per year now) because I prefer the shape to a
more open pressed shape, but I would make a die in a flash if I designed one
that I really liked. I would still be able to satisfy my market, and have more
energy to put into making more interesting work. That for me is the point. Why
disable yourself working like a machine, when you can accomplish exactly the
same thing with a piece of equipment? There is still a lot of work to be done
on those pieces after they come off the press, but it does free up some time for
more creative pursuits.

I am part of a six person (3 studios) Pottery Store here on Vancouver Island.
Two of the three studios have a Ram Press. We do want to be honest, and sell
good pots. Of the hundreds of different kinds of pots in our store, only 7 are
pressed - big deal! In the beginning, all pressed pieces were marked to let the
customers know what was pressed, and after explaining it over and over we
realized that nobody cared except other potters, and it's usually a 'how can I
compete with that' objection. We even had one potter accusing me of pressing
some dip platters and pie plates that I threw. She refused to believe that I
could possibly throw that consistently.

We produce a newletter every year and mail it out to 1500 or so customers and
also have them available in the store (we print 10,000). Last issue we did a
piece called 'The Equipment We Use', and included the Ram Press beside the
extruders, slab rollers and pugmills, along with a detailed explanation of what
was involved, complete with pictures. The customers loved it and thanked us
very much for providing them with the info.

So after all this rambling,

I love clay. I want to work in clay. I want to play in clay. I want to earn
my living in clay. If I can use a Press to help me do that, I will. I still
want to be working in clay when I'm 90. What other potters want to do is their
business. Hire throwers for all I care, just be sure to tell the customers
that they are not really your pots.

Barb ( just sounding cranky, but not really) in Chemainus Vancouver Island,
where it actually looks like spring today. YAY!