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art/craft (long)

updated wed 11 sep 02


mel jacobson on tue 10 sep 02

those of you that know me, at least that know my
work...know that i spend almost equal time between
pots and painting.

i have spent almost 40 years of my life teaching `ART`.

i have very strong opinions about how to teach `ART`.
and, very strong opinions as to what is `ART`.

i have concluded over the years that art can be taught. learned.
it can be studied, and taken in. people that say they have
no talent, can be taught to draw. taught to paint. taught
to be creative.

it is a learning curve thing. the more you do, the more you
learn, the more creative you become.

as i told students for years. `creativity does not come in the
form of a lightning bolt, wham, hits you in the ear...and
creative things happen. it comes slow and steady with the
most important findings coming at the end of a long series...
or, at the end of the day when you have made 100 pots. or,
perhaps completed a painting.` the world has it all wrong. art
is learned for those that are normal, every day folks. genius
is another factor, not to be confused with the run of the mill, normal
folks that love to make things. we do not compare genius with us.

craft is the work-a-day study of what we like to do. craftsmanship
is the perfection of that study. craft is the building and making
of art. ideas, creativity, spontaneity are all factors in becoming
an artist. we have to be open to these elements, they are not
born to many of us. the work, the study, the application of
art, starts with craft. how do you make a stretcher, how do you
apply canvas, how do you size it. how do you mix paint, how do
you apply paint, what is the ground, what is the perspective, what
is the color harmony, what is the space element??? these elements of
art are worked on over a life time. when an artist has mastered these
basic elements, has them as part of his or her body and mind, art
proceeds without any hamper. the mind is turned to the `work`...not
the how to do.

when you make pots, you must master the elements of throwing, building, clay
body, glaze, chemistry, physics, fire. nothing much creative happens until
you are in control of your media. people think that they can make
great art without study, but what happens is `accidental`. control
of the media means that you can repeat success, over and over.
craftsmanship means you have control. with control comes confidence,
with confidence comes more work, more work makes the end
result better, then you get more confidence.
a wonderful cycle.
craft, confidence, control, craftsmanship, creativity, art.

when the world at large rejects your work, well maybe you have
a problem. maybe it is time to re-evaluate. good friends and teachers
will give solid critique, honest, straight forward critique with constructive
help. it often hurts those that have grown up thinking that whatever
they do is wonderful, and they cannot do wrong. sorry, i have never
found anyone that cannot get help, or that could not use solid discussion
with friends and teachers. critique is about the work, not the person.
the work must always be judged. often you are the worst judge.
when the maker gets caught up in the work, it is hard to step away,
judge objectively. others can see more clearly. (at least well trained,
honest professionals.)

it amazes me how we honor professional help in law, medicine, finance
and auto repair, but will not accept that same help within art. i see
it all the time, hear the same old saw. ` i am creative, have vision
and always am looking for the new.` bull. it is solid work and study
that comes from years of work that makes comes in
little pieces, not a tidal wave.

it is like a teenage kid, baggy pants, ear rings, tattoos. just like
all the rest. and they think they are being a cool `new wave`
out there person. clones. all the same. and, being the same
makes them comfortable. like art, they `think` they are doing
it to be new.

time, a great deal of time and work makes art.
craftsmanship takes time and study.
repeat lessons, over and over. mind, body, body memory,
all working together. it does not happen in four years, or ten
years, it happens over the life of the maker.
we can hardly tell when we improve. it just happens.

the big `A` art folks with ph.d.'s and run fancy museums
and write for big magazines and papers do not do art.
the talk of art. in many cases, over and over the artist
and the crafts person is treated as a silly child. what makes
and pisses many of us off...real big time, is that condescending
attitude....`well you know, they are just potters and craft people.
we are looking for great ideas`. and, it does piss us off. how many
quality pot shows have you seen in major museums? none.
they show old chinese and japanese pots. swoon over them.
collect them. but, not many contemporary potters get their
work shown next to those old pots. some, now and then, but
not like painting, drawing, prints and sculpture. and it does not
change. the attitudes are built in.

just saw a show in mpls at the museum, a thousand rocks
on the floor, about 80 pieces a clear plastic standing upright.
what was it? junk. found objects placed together. it was
something right out of the 70's. great vision, i think not.
craftsmanship, i think not, control of media, i think not.
artist, i think not. old idea? yes. i left that show again,
pissed off. `what the hell was that about?` nothing.
well, off the box.
i have strong opinions, and they are mine.
but, i have spent almost 70 years gathering
them up. and i spit them out from time to time.
with affection.

Minnetonka, Minnesota, U.S.A.
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