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japanese aesthetics...change in america

updated thu 17 jun 99


John Baymore on wed 16 jun 99


Now I think the conversation on clay-art should be about how to get artists
and others to respect and utilize art in everyday life, not about
philosophies on American's lack of interest in art and craft.

How do you get a people to want to pay a bit more for something that is
handmade and has a deeper sense and meaning? How do we teach the public
that handmade ceramic art can and will give their lives more meaning?



Master: What is the most important aspect of this fine teabowl,

Acolyte: (thinking)....................(and thinking)..............

Master: It holds tea.


To get them to pay more for something that has a =22deeper sense and
meaning=22, first of all, you have to SHOW them that it DOES have a deeper
sense and meaning. Then you have to convince them that there is a benefit
to them for spending money ON that deeper sense and meaning.

(Of course it will help if the pieces in question DO HAVE that aesthetic
depth =3Cg=3E. THAT is another whole offshoot of this whole discussion.
Developing general widespread public aesthetic awareness is a double edged
sword. An educated public is a discriminating public.)

Sensitivity to issues can be deadened or heightened by upbringing, I think.
If your mother and father (and grandparents, and older siblings, and
friends) constantly focused your attention on something, you'd probably
begin to notice things about that subject, particularly if everybody else's
mothers were doing the same thing. It would be identified by you as one of
those =22IMPORTANT ISSUES IN LIFE=22....and would creep into your psyche. =
might not agree with the conclusions that your parents came to.... but you
would be well aware of the issue and would have given it much thought over
the years. You'd develop a =22personal awareness=22 at a basic level.

Art, aesthetics, and even spiritual values are NOT something that most
American mothers amd fathers focus their children's attention on very much.
The schools don't either. Our focus is on other things....... sports,
academic acheivement, social success, getting ahead, making money, buying
things. The example set in living by parents makes the message clear from
an early age about what is important.

Art in everyday life............... To get the general American public to
consider it in the first place, first of all you'd need to figure out how
to communicate that there IS a difference to the =22life experience=22 =
a schlocky Walmart mug at =241.99 and a well done handmade one at =2420.00.
(I saved over =2418.00=21) Since very little education in the last 10-15-20
years has been devoted to the aesthetic, spiritual, or even cultural
history (as opposed to political history), as an artist you are starting
from a standpoint that gives you little common communications ground.

Ah yes.... that's the REAL issue, for sure. Unfortunately, I think it is a
BIG one, and goes way deeper than solely the efforts of even EVERY
craftsperson. To have a similar arts/aesthetic/spiritual awareness to the
Japanese here in America would require a major cultural paradigm shift.

To have people en mass (including Joe Sixpack) connect far more closely
with the value of the aesthetic in life, you need to change basic cultural
core value systems. This takes generations. This is sort of like steering
the Queen Mary. You pull hard over on the wheel....... but it takes the
ship a LONG time to come around =3Cg=3E.

That is not to say that each and every one of us should not be doing
whatever we can to educate the public and raise consciousness. We DO need
to. Aggressively. If we don't ........ WHO WILL? But I think we need to
be realistic about the possible outcomes. What we do, we will really be
doing for our children's children.

To pinpoint the magnitude of the problem ponder this thought ...........

When the inevitable educational budget crunch comes in your hometown, go to
your local high school and make sure that the football or basketball team's
budget is cut instead of the art and music program. Better yet....get the
art and music program's budget INCREASED. When THAT can happen regularly
(or even be seriously considered) we'll know we have made some inroads in
this issue.

What would we need to do to do THAT? That's the level of this issue, I

If anyone has some good ideas......I am all ears. Looking forward to the
input of the CLAYART group on this.



John Baymore
River Bend Pottery
22 Riverbend Way
Wilton, NH 03086 USA


=22Earth, Water, and Fire climbing kiln firing workshop Aug. 20-29,1999=22