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free speech? or elitist opinion? (was: art? or self-pandering

updated tue 15 jul 03


Janet Kaiser on sun 13 jul 03


My cousin is going to react to our captive dust bunnies just as badly as
Russel... But sobeit... I cannot stop myself...

If you are referring to my "claptrap", Joyce, I am sorry you feel that way,
but it was a sincere attempt to be inclusive about what everyone is doing
or attempting to do without hurting any feelings in Clay Town. I admit that
is well-nigh impossible when there is such a diverse "audience", but I
never baulk at giving it a go, no matter how badly I get burned.

This world and our society IS elitist for goodness sake! Why else would you
choose a mobile home park to illustrate how non-elitist you are yourself?
What you describe seeing with new eyes is also a shining example of what I
was advocating: there simply is no right or wrong and everyone is entitled
to their own taste. That applies to the producers and the consumers.

If it is wrong and somehow "elitist" to demand the highest quality in all
that is made... Well, sorry but I am of the ideology that if I buy any
product I want it to last for my life-time at the very least. There should
be no built-in obsolescence, it should be finely crafted and well made.
Does not matter what it is. And because I "know and understand" pots, yes I
can make value judgements. I do not apologise for a 40 year learning curve
from the day I realised pots were made from clay, any more than you need to
in your short acquaintance.

Never in my life has it been a sin to actively seek quality and durability
or desire the very best available for myself and others. I was not raised
in a disposable culture and I do not enjoy living in an age where there is
so much unnecessary waste. If something is worth making, it is worth making
well. Period.

As a maker I strived for perfection in what I did. As an educator it has
always been my prime goal to urge students first towards competence and
then excellence in all that they undertake. As a gallerist I continue to
push for the very best, so that artists/makers AND the public are
challenged and stretched. I am certainly not alone or unique in this
attitude. Is it claptrap? self-pandering or otherwise?

My one pair of outdoor/school shoes were durable and comfortable, they
needed scrimping and saving for by my mother and short of custom
made-to-measure the very best she could afford. I soon found out when I
started buying my own shoes, one good pair were preferable to a whole
wardrobe full of fancy, Made-in-Taiwan, cheap and cheerful, the
source-of-bunions-and-corns shoes. Is that a value judgement? Sure it is.
Would shoe makers the world over object to it? Not if they were honest
about the end result (= long-term customer satisfaction and personal
"belief" in good quality shoes) rather than just their own product or my
elitist attitude to shoe-making methods and fashions.

The "problem" as I see it in Clay Town, is that people take what is being
said far too PERSONALLY. No one who writes is looking at your pots and
making value judgements or statements about you or your work. Not yours and
not any other artist/maker on Clayart. But how are important issues going
to be seriously discussed on this forum, if we have to pussy-foot around
with a hundred apologetic exclusion clauses?

How is every single maker ever going to feel warm and fuzzy at every word
spoken? Is that in the least desirable? I think not. The delightful part
about Clayart, is that there are so many different artists/makers around to
talk to and exchange views. Elitist? Hurtful? Only if the words coming into
your line of vision are taken to be the writer speaking to you and you
alone... Very few are doing that. Personal "value judgements" are just
that. PERSONAL. If TC sees a "sea of shit" that is up to him and
illuminating to hear. Should it make people cry? Did he dump on them
personally, by name. No! Could he have been exaggerating for dramatic
effect? Or was he whistling in the dark?

You know the longer I am a part of this strange virtual community, the more
I think some people are losing their ability to read between the lines,
beyond the written word. They are not picking up on the angst of the maker,
the self-doubts of the gallerist, the concerns of the art critic, the quest
of the chemist, the guilt of the environmentalist and the social
reformer... There are many layers which need to be unwrapped and looked at
very carefully... Some do, some don't.

And whoever is talking, the are speaking from their perspective and very
often (as in the current thread) in the light of current developments and
trends in the ceramic and/or art world as they see it. Whether that is from
an educational, academic perspective (elitist?) or a gallery promoting
affordable, quality work (elitist?) or the pot peddling maker who is
finding their niche market (elitist?) or a once a week night-class clay
devotee (elitist?) how can everyone be singing from the same hymn sheet? It
is not feasible and it ain't going to happen.

A certain amount of sophistication is necessary here... The ability to
distinguish between generalisations applicable to the market/art
world/culture/society we live in and reference to particular
products/makers/methods/styles. Put it another way, would anyone in a party
situation take huge offence at something someone is saying to the guy/gal
sitting next to them on the sofa? Or do you get people going off in a huff
to sulk and whine to Mommy because of something the preacher said in his
sermon last Sunday?

In the absence of true discourse in other public venues like the the
ceramic press, Clayart has provided a wonderful forum. Instead of "one way"
articles with so-called clay gurus and art critics dictating what is and
what is not acceptable and the odd reader's letter in reply, we have this
tremendous opportunity to iron out so many creases between ourselves in a
mature, adult manner. That includes taking the bull by the horns and
addressing issues... And never in the history of mankind has that been
possible to do that without treading on toes. Good god... Some issues
whether great or small lead to wars and loss of life even (or especially)
in the 21st century.

As Clayart was conceived from the desire to increase knowledge and
understanding in ALL aspects of "Ceramic Art" participants have to pick out
the cherries most appropriate for them. OK "take it on the chin" when
discussion heats up, but they can go out kick the dog if they want. Or more
productively join in with reasons, responses, rejoinders, facts & figures,
experiences... anything but self-pity or whining about how A "attacked" B
and how that ain't right...

As for "elitism"... Well I think it is just dandy! The quest for the very
best in whatever you do. As long as there are 3,000+ in this community
there is going to be a wide spectrum of experience and opinion. What is
claptrap to one, is serious pause for thought for the next.

And now I will definitely pause...


Janet Kaiser -- I see out of the window that the porpoise are in so the
mackerel must be rising... Better get down to the beach and collect supper!
Never mind those dust bunnies... They will be kangaroos soon... May even
hop out on their own...?

TRUTH is too precious to tell every fool who asks for it...
****** This post was sent to you today by Janet Kaiser *******
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