First off, as I’m neck deep in my current studio sale, let me thank all of my customers who DID make it on out. One more day to go and I’m hoping to pull this plane from a head on nosedive into a cliff…. (That was a bit dramatic!)
Anyway, Ron Philbeck just had a post on his blog that was probably familiar to all working potters. He was commissioned to reproduce the broken pot some other potter had made, something entirely alien to his own vision for making pottery: “Could you make that for me?” I haven’t heard those exact words for a bit now, but they are symptomatic of a greater underlying misconception about what it actually is that we potters do. You can read his post here, but this is my response to it. Please comment. I need to hear what you all think.
I think its astonishing (but still amazingly expected) that many of the people who buy our pots have no real understanding of WHY we do the things we do. We each make pots our own way, according to our own interests, and they mostly come out looking exactly like or roughly like something we might have made. Somehow they end up being ‘our‘ pots. Even when we are only experimenting. Most of us aren’t just making a commodity that we don’t really believe in. In fact, most of us DO believe in what we are making. We have standards and ethics about making pots the best way we can. And this usually means making a certain type of pot, each of us in our own way.
But customers don’t always understand that. They think that if you have the skill to make some-thing you should have no qualms about doing whatever, whatever it is they special order: “Can you do this but in blue?”, etc. They don’t understand that this is an ethical issue for many of us. We aren’t just manufacturing soulless objects. Our pots are usually MORE to us than simple objects. We are artists, and we are trying to communicate something that speaks from very deep within us. We are attempting to give birth to new beauty, to add to the world in a morally correct way, a way that makes it better. Or at least some of us think of ourselves like this….
So with all the misunderstanding by our customers, my question is how we can educate them to have more of an appreciation for what we do? How do we get them to believe that there are real artists living among them, and that the sometimes humble offerings are unique and incredible contributions to the beauty of the world? How do we get them to see that the value of a pot is something more than its shape or its color, but that a bit of the artist has gone into making it? How do we get them to see that part of the artist IS that pot? How do we get them to see that the pot also is part of the artist?
Did any of that make sense?