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reviewing the responses to the handmade issue........longishj

updated tue 16 may 00


Jonathan Kaplan on mon 15 may 00

I'll not belabor this issue as it is really a battle with no winners or
loosers. But I will address some points that some on the list put forward
in their responses to mine.

>I am sorry to pick up on just one point of your mail, but being a mere
>consumer of ceramics, my concern is slightly different to those actually
>doing the making. I (rightly or wrongly) see slip casting in the
>manufacturing tradition. However, since Leach & Co. reintroduced the ideal
>of the hand-made tradition as an art form and honest work, this issue is
>programmed to continue... eternally. There will always be a "Them" and "Us"
>and ne'er the twain shall meet.

Let us not for one minute only think that the Leach ideal is the only art
form and one of honest work. This is eliteism pure and simple, and
certainly presents a rather myopic vision. Them and us? I really don't
care. I think that laboring in the Leach ideal is a fine and nobel way to
work, if it fits your own particular vision of the world. But also let's
not prostelitize this as the only way.It certanly doesn't work for

>This will hardly be the only discussion which tends to repeat itself.
>Although it obviously annoys you personally, I trust we will be allowed to
>bicker on? Someone recently asked if had anyone changed their opinion about
>the other point of view, as a result of what has been said... I presume not
>among the old die hards.

Sure, bicker on as much as you wish. This is an open forum and there is
room for all opinions, yours and mine. I don't for one minute assume that
anyone will really change their opinion. Its a matter of perspective and
experience. I think the issue is more a financial one than anything else
and that the real hand made issue is only a veil masquerading as a
financial one.

>But if the final product is made by assisted technologies, with nothing else
>done to it but minor finishing and glazing, Then it should not be
>represented as handmade, and it should not be entered in competitive
>exhibitions of handmade work.

This is too broad a statement to be left out there. For instance, my work
is slip cast from molds that I make from original parts that I make. These
forms are then assembled, decorated, and fired. What is not handmade about
them? Everything about them is handmade from the original concept,
designing and making the models, making the molds, casting the parts, and
assembling them, finishing and decorating them. My hands touch each and
every part of them in every stage of the process. They are handmade and
have entered competative exhibitions of handmade work and have also wond
awards. I would be hard pressed not to define them as hand made. The are
slip cast from hand made molds and models that are designed and made by me.
What could be more handmade? The wheel or the slab roller does not define
the parameters of handmade.

>My entire point here is that when the artist makes the transition to assisted
>technolgies, and thus to a cottage-industry semi-mass-production operation,
>she/he steps out of the role of the one-of-a-kind craftsperson, and that is
>a very significant step, not to be taken lightly. As you and I both agree,
>it requires that the artist be completely upfront with the consumer about
>the means of production, and that the work be entered in appropriate
>exhibition and sales venues.

Agreed. If we are not honest with our customers, then we not only deceive
ourselves as well as them. But what defines appropriate exhibition and
sales venues? Surely we cannot have the sales and exhibition police! But if
an exhibition clearly states "no cast work, jiggered work, pressed work"
and some potter gets in and puts work made with these methods out for sale,
then that person is in violation of the stated rules of the exhibition. But
if there is no stipulation then whats the point? ACC states in their
prospectus that the work should be made with appropriate tools. This is a
broad definition, subject to interpretation, and leaves the decision to be
made by the exhibitor. Having exhibited for many years in ACC and Buyer's
Market shows, there is this broad range of work represented and the only
issues that I remember over these many years was that one year someone had
the gall to put out decorated mugs with ' Made in China" stickers on the
bottoms!! Yes, that really offended us. But there has never been, IMHO, any
issues relating to how things are made at these major shows, Not that these
shows are in and of themselves the standards by which all exhibitions
should be judeged, but they are a major barometer of trends in the craft
industry. The point is , I think, is that again, its the work that matters.

>A fine pot has a pesonality and a presence, and in this case it
>becomes an inseparble component of the final expression of the piece. So,
>no matter how exquisite the painting, if the pot is mass-produced, it will
>suck some of the creative energy out of the painting.

Only perhaps. We have exquisitely made plates and platters that are sold
to potters and others for decorating. These are mass produced. I have never
seen them diminish any creative energy whatsoever. They are a well made
canvas that enhances the decoration.
There are some very fine lines of beautifully produced tableware that are
mass produced by major manufacturers that have been designed by artists,
architects, potters, etc. To my mind some of the lines produced by Swid,
Rosenthal, and others blend beautiful mass produced forms with equally
beautiful decoration.

>When all is said and done if you put your heart
>in the work then the customer will reward you. And if that customer thinks
>your over priced then let them go to the factories. We all know who's
>creating the problem here ( The Promoters ) can't live with them can't live
>without them. That's the real conundrum, after all a potters life is not
>really about money its about freedom, peace of mind, communing with the
>earth and its center, being one with your self.

Well, this is an issue that is ripe for more discussion. But again, lets
not assume for one minute that the only true potters are potter's who
believe "a potters life is not really about money its about freedom, peace
of mind, communing with the earth and its center, being one with your
self." You can be all this and more!! But I would venture that money is a
prime concern, financial viability, success, etc. etc. And I also have felt
for a long time that the real issue here is a financial one, not one of
handmade vs. assisted technologies.

>I guess my argument is still this. Press, cast, jigger whatever just don't
>masquerade as a potter.

I disagree vehemently! I am as much a potter as anyone else on this list.
And are many of my colleagues who use assisted technologies. I have just
made a choice to expand my view and not be trapped into a myopia that reaks
of eliteism.

>Another potter in Ontario keeps his press in the garage under a tarp. His
>press guy works at night.

This guy needs a smack! He has a problem with self image and self worth,
and is too affected by the opinions of others. I would venture that he also
many not have a good feeling about the work he produces. My press, jigger,
casting equipment are out there for every one to see. I'm not ashamed of
anything that we do or make. In fact, there is nothing but pride in this
shop among my staff, myself, and our many happy customers.

There was one post that postuated that "we need to return the issues of
integrity of the work to the marketplace". And that the only way to do
this was to hand make the work. At the expense of good design? At the
expense of poorly crafted work? You can only bring your own sense of
integrity to the marketplace. Any less will show through immediatley. The
post ended by saying that by restoring integrity to the marketplace will
help those who are dependant financially on the same marketplace for
survival. Huh? What does one have to do with the other? The marketplace is
only as "integrity bound" as what you bring to it. You can't worry or loose
sleep over what anyone else's standards are. Does poor work effect everyone
elses at a show? Sure does, but it also makes your work look even better
and even perhaps more sellable.

Finally, I think that one of the essence of this "arguement" so to speak is
that we view process as the only viable involvement in potterymaking.
Process is important, but not at the expense of the other areas of
involvement in making pots. Process is part of the big picture, not at the
exclusion of everything else.

I'm determined not to get sucked into this arguement again. I will agree to
disagree, and there is no need to put forward my views again. They are out
there, along with my work, for all to see. I don't hide anything.



Jonathan Kaplan
Ceramic Design Group LTd/Production Services
PO Box 775112
Steamboat Springs, CO 80477
(970) 879-9139 voice and fax

UPS: 1280 13th St. Unit13
Steamboat Springs, CO 80487