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an issue of humility or shame? - plus gift horses and college

updated sun 3 dec 06


primalmommy on fri 1 dec 06


I agree with David that you need to use a pot for a while to learn how
it works. I regret now that I sold a poorly designed pot for years until
the one, too flawed to sell and too pretty to hammer, that I used
myself. If I was an auto manufacturer I would have issued a recall.

You find out that a casserole has a hard-to-clean hidey hole for baked
on cheese under the gallery... that the tall foot on this small bowl
pees on your foot when you empty the dishwasher... that this spout
dribbles, that this glaze is less durable than you thought. In a rare
moment of self indulgence, I bought an $80 bowl from a well known potter
at NCECA one year, only to find that the spoon we stir or serve with
leaves ugly grey scrape marks in a buttery-yellow, insufficiently
durable liner glaze. That's one the potter should have lived with for a

I don't live with my own pots long, though, because I need the cash more
than I need a pot. My husband and kids get excited over some of the
seconds when I unload a kiln... "Damn!" I say. "HOORAY!" they say. "Does
this mean we can keep it?" Jeff would love to have handmade dishes
instead of the set of fake willow-ware we got with grocery store savings
stamps as newlyweds. He'd love a garlic baker, and a nice set of thrown
stoneware bowls. "If only we knew a potter", he sighs, and grumbles
about the shoemaker's children who have no shoes.

I should set out to make an enormous place setting, a hundred of each
thing. It would be Mr-Uchida-style training for me, and I might come up
with five or six sets with a glaze drip or a goober somewhere that my
family can keep!

My house is full of other people's pots, because I like the potter,
because I like the pot, or (mostly) both. I laughed at what Dolita
wrote, though, because I have learned NEVER to take another potter's
pots out to my studio. I'd rather drink my coffee out of a tin camping
cup than have yet another studio visitor look at my shelves full of
work, and then point to my Ann Tubbs mug and say, "Now, THAT one THERE,
THAT one I like!"

Just an afterthought on the thread about art degrees failing to prepare
students for the harsh realities of the real world. I think everybody
overestimates the supposed scope of education in general. I had college
students in my writing classes who graduated from high school with
honors, but had no idea how to feed themselves, do laundry, schedule
their time, pay bills, manage their money, get along with roomies, stay
sober long enough to function in school, or keep from getting pregnant.
Does it never occur to parents that their kids might need to know this

Once you're of college age, there's nobody to blame but yourself if you
don't have the foresight to choose your classes well and prepare
yourself for life after school. Whether or not a degree program gives
you room to choose a useful elective ( I know mine does) -- you can
still take the classes, if you think they will pay for themselves later.
Nobody really believes a degree in anything -- especially art -- is
Willy Wonka's Golden Ticket to a cushy job, or that recruiters will be
beating on your door on graduation day.

Maybe it's OK with me that college programs don't spoon feed art
students all the "right" ingredients. Maybe that's where natural
selection comes in, and gives an edge to the ones who thought about
business or bookkeeping or marketing classes.

If I were a conspiracy theorist, I would claim that teaching students
budget management and fiscal responsibility would endanger our economy.
I know that every college ID at my school has, (along with a photo, and
the magnetized strip on the back that keys us into buildings), a Master
Card logo on the front and credit card function already installed and
"pre-approved". There's a crash course in the real world for you. Lots
of kids -- and adults -- are flunking it daily.

And by the way -- as much we all are secretly disappointed about gifts
that don't suit us -- I think griping about them is ungracious, and a
bit shallow, and totally misses the point of giving. It's a gesture, not
a paycheck. It's not owed to you, and the giver would no doubt be deeply
hurt by learning the idea had missed the mark. I think folks who are
crabby about gifts they receive should by all means donate them to
charities, shelters, soup kitchens, and the people -- here and abroad --
who have nothing at all.

Kelly in Ohio... whose kids have always known that Santa is just a fun
pretend, and that we're good because it's the right thing to do, not
because somebody will bring us a bunch of stuff as a reward... that we
have more than we need because we are lucky, not because we are more
deserving than the poor. Giving is about that, not about obligations and
wish lists, naughty and nice, and whether loved ones meet your standards
as a pottery snob.

Ho, ho, freakin' ho.

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