Responding to Scott

Scott pointed out in a comment on the “why?” post that the ray of hope quotation from a director of the Museum of Art and Design  rings pretty hollow when the name of that institution has been officially changed from the American Craft Museum. Potters are just being pushed further into the margins everyday, the comfort and security of hardworking and successful potters notwithstanding.

A potter living comfortably in their niche is not proof that all is well. Species of animal whose habitat is shrinking are not healthy based just on there being living members. A species that is under threat may look just fine if we only examine the healthy members. A niche that is flourishing is small comfort to those living on the outside of the safe zone. And while we have to be glad that some deserving potters can eat well, their thriving is no reflection on the conditions of other potters. And the authority they express from the comforts of the less marginal world they have worked hard to inhabit doesn’t exactly mirror the perspective of other potters whose niches have been plowed under in the name of ‘progress’.

All I’m saying is that I think there is a problem. So this was my response to Scott:

“No wonder I’m such a pessimist!

But that’s why I get so carried away with issues like this. Even our best ideas are being corrupted by institutions that don’t have our best interests at heart and by the inattention of the audience that stands to suffer the most.

Potters are disenfranchised in much the same or similar ways that other historical groups have been marginalized by institutions. We sit back and take our exclusion from opportunity when folks no more deserving get all the perks and benefits of standing on the inside of acceptable. We are outcasts in our own country and our response is to only turn our backs or to vent our personal outrage.

Will that change things? I doubt it. The establishment can weather isolated disaffection, and the ones who are alienated can be ignored altogether. They don’t have to change because we don’t give them a reason to change. And the ones of us that don’t care are simply no longer in the conversation. The ones who only argue amongst other like minded individuals are only preaching to the choir. Unless we engage the institutions we can’t even be sure they are listening to us.

Interesting to look around the world these days and see how many people are standing up for themselves after long years of oppression and marginalization. What would happen if potters banded together and confronted the establishment? Would we change the world? I don’t know, but not caring is giving up, and not trying amounts to the same thing.”

About Carter Gillies

I am an active potter and sometime pottery instructor who is fascinated by the philosophical side of making pots, teaching these skills, and issues of the artistic life in general. I seem to have a lot to say on this blog, but I don't insist that I'm right. I'm always trying to figure stuff out, and part of that involves admitting that I am almost always wrong in important ways. If you are up for it, please help me out by steering my thoughts in new and interesting directions. I always appreciate the challenge of learning what other people think.
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One Response to Responding to Scott

  1. Scott Cooper says:


    Wow, my own whole post. Pretty cool.

    I generally agree with you, but that last point reminds me of a quote I just found, which is too close to not mention:
    “Withdrawing in disgust is not the same thing as apathy.” – The Oblique Strategies, via Slacker,, via R.E.M.’s “What’s The Frequency, Kenneth?”

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