“We do not worship, we do not adore, for fear that we should bow down to the creature rather than to the creator, but we venerate the relics of the martyrs in order the better to adore… whose martyrs they are.”[Saint Jerome]
“Artists are the Apostles of strange beauty”
And speaking of relics of the Martyrs and assorted other holy personages, check out my newest venerable acquisition! Doesn’t this itself look like a temple? Sequoia calls them “hut Jars”, and they do look architectural, but I’m thinking pagoda or shrine for sure.
All of which ties in to the idea from the previous post that potters are already engaged in creating objects that strike the ordinary public as dizzyingly as “strange unwanted cathedrals”. In other words, as cryptic and alien as the holy objects of an unfamiliar religion and strange gods. Originally I meant this comparison metaphorically, but just maybe there is also a bit of truth close to the surface (None of which is meant to be taken as intending offense or taking the institutions of people’s faith lightly)….
And when you think about it, potters are something like missionaries of a different faith, one that is at odds with the overconsumptive trends of disposable culture, valueless inert objects, and the rat race sprint to the finish. And our pots may seem bizarre and preposterous to outsiders, or quaint anachronisms from folks oddly out of step with the times. Our strange fascination probably makes us seem like the worst of outsiders. Geeks. Dorks. Uncool. Unclean. Dangerous….
But to us potters and to our flock, the insiders to the sacred knowledge, these pots are like holy items. They are our sacred relics and the many gospels we spread throughout the world. From the ancient branch of woodfiring potters, the sect of salt and soda potters, the schismatics of lowfire decal ware, the orthodox kickwheelers, the renegade pedal pushers, and the radical handbuilders, the purveyors of pots are an eclectic group. And we potters are but the ministers in search of a congregation….
“Beauty is truth, truth beauty” John Keats wrote in his poem ‘Ode to a Grecian Urn’. Despite whatever differences we may have, isn’t that the foundation of all our potting doctrine? That we find these diverse expressions of beauty as uncovered truth, and that these truths in turn acquire the grace of beauty? Isn’t this the message we are trying to spread?
And its no wonder that so many of us collect the relics of other potting holy men and women. Our kitchen cabinets and shelves are often filled with the pots of others. It is our faith that a life surrounded by pottery is a life worth living. And we leave the sanctuary of our homes to brave the great wilderness beyond, where the word we carry is anything but welcomed….
That we find ourselves on the inquisitorial racks of competing faiths and institutions or slowly marinating in the stew pots of strange cannibalistic tribes should hardly come as a surprise. Potters are heretics in today’s culture. Even in the Art World potters are the outcasts. We preach humble handmade beauty and artful function. We invite our audience to slow down and to consider the small rituals of daily life. And we give them tokens to focus their meditations.
And preaching to the faithful is our worthy mission. But when we come across pockets of unwashed benighted souls, our efforts are those of proselytizing missionaries, our business the business of conversion. We believe that pots add value to the world. This drives us to share our beliefs. And the more believers there are out in the world the more the ideals of our faith will flourish and the more pottery will thrive. In the big picture.
Maybe a bit too much? Maybe a few too many odd dots dubiously strung together with wispy threads? But how else would you explain the difference between folks who see value in pots and folks who couldn’t care less? Isn’t this a difference in culture? A difference in beliefs? A difference in faiths?
Trust me to stretch a metaphor beyond recognition…. Something to think about, at least….
Happy potting, all!