A Little Pottery Sale Lesson

First sale of the holidays complete and I’m feeling a bit more rejuvenated!

I like that word: “Rejuvenated”. It speaks of the joyful optimism of youth, the unspoiled innocence, untarnished ideals, unbounded curiosity and healthy vigor of of someone growing into their own. They say you are only as young as you feel, that it is a state of one’s mind, and today I awake feeling  just a little better about things. Rejuvenated.

Perhaps the thing I am most proud of concerning this past sale was my decision to create a special ‘Kids’ section, where smaller pots would be offered to smaller people for smaller prices. I am absolutely committed to helping young folk make contact with the arts. And what better way to begin an education into creativity than to dine off of or drink from something handmade and beautiful!

And the positive feedback this received was fabulous! I truly felt like I was doing a service to the community. Perhaps many parents regret how the arts are disappearing from school curricula. Perhaps lending our talents to filling this void is one small thing that potters can do to make art real for the children of today. Perhaps some parents just appreciate artful things done with their children in mind. I don’t rightly know. But what I did seemed to make a difference.

Here are my friends Oliver and Charlotte Alice showing off what they went home with:

After seeing this how could you not want to make pots specifically for adorable children such as these!

After seeing this how could you not want to make pots specifically for adorable children such as these!

And here’s my friend Megan helping oversee her two daughters and their friend’s choice of pots from the ‘kids’ section:

Amelia on the front left is hamming it up because I saw them in roughly this pose and asked them to stay put while I ran to get my camera!

Amelia on the front left is hamming it up because I saw them in roughly this pose and asked them to stay put while I ran to get my camera. Kids gotta be kids!

All in all there were so many parents who brought out their kids on this sunny weekend and who left with great little pots to give new homes to that I can’t help but feel that this is an important thing for me to be doing. Parents seemed to appreciate it. And the kids all had a blast too! Kids genuinely are open to the idea that handmade pots are fun to use, and it is fascinating that someone they have met may actually have made that pot. Its part of the wonder still contained in the world that these things are possible. And maybe, just maybe, if a child grows up knowing the value of handmade pots, perhaps they may one day consider giving it a try themselves. And perhaps they will grow up not needing to be convinced that art has value, that pots are humble yet amazing expressions of the human imagination, and that these things are worth preserving, nurturing, and encouraging.

Its something to think about at least!

Thanks to everyone who came out this weekend! And thanks to so many of you for welcoming my little creations into your lives! You are all invited out again next weekend when I do it all again!

Peace all!

Make beauty real!


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.
This entry was posted in Art, Arts advocacy, Arts education, Beauty, Creativity, Pottery. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to A Little Pottery Sale Lesson

  1. Melissa Rohrer says:

    Nice idea. I might use it next year.

    • If you ever needed an example of the difference you can make with your art, this is it! A parent friend of mine on facebook commented that his two children are using their pots “FOR EVERY MEAL”. That is just so darn cool!

  2. Scott Cooper says:

    Totally awesome.

    As a parent, I would be completely grateful to any artist who did this — it’s such a generous, thoughtful gesture to including the kids, giving them a unique experience on that day (and one that pays dividends over time).

    And, from a pottery biz standpoint, I seems to me much more likely that those people will become repeat (or more frequent) customers; probably bringing the kids back next time, possibly buying more full price pots for themselves or as gifts. Also, assuming you’re in this for the long haul which I think you are; I hope to still be doing this in the same place 40 years from now), it seems like a wise approach to the long game; building a committed local customer base one kid at a time over the span of a couple decades.

    Seems to me like a path to doing good and doing well at the same time, and those are pretty hard t come by.

    • Doing good and doing well, indeed!

      I sure hope there is some spillover into the adult market. Many parents did get either their own pots or supplemented the kids choices with a few extra at full price. I can’t complain!

      And I think that because I priced these pots so low parents won’t be turned off as quickly when the inevitable drop from the counter or nudge off the table happens.

      • Scott Cooper says:

        Good point! Yes, the “kid sized prices” idea is great because it makes them easier for a kid to buy with their own money (assuming their parents are cool with that; I assume most would be). And it makes them less precious, so easier to just let the kids use them as they like — which is really cool!

        I imagine there are potentially some great lessons built into this, too; about living “with” art instead of merely around it; ownership and caring for things we’ve bought, and how to react when they break some day.

        • All those points seem true!

          What I want to see is how many tiny pots you can fit in that salt kiln of yours. Maybe you’d be better off getting some earthenware, mixing up a few lowfire glazes, and just running them through your electric kiln. It might even be possible to glaze fire them as you bisque. That might put the least strain on your production routine, I’m guessing. You could even get Maggie to help design some decoration with slips! Or you could take her drawings and decal them on pots like Emily Murphy did with her nephew’s drawings. You might even get Cindy involved! I’m just brainstormin’ here….

          One of the best comments I had from a parent I ran into after the sale was that when he and his son were home the son was totally blown away that I get to come out to my studio “At 2 in the morning if I want to” and play with clay. Apparently you could see the wheels turning! I think a new future artist may have just been revealed here in Athens!

      • Scott Cooper says:

        Yeah, getting more little pots through my little kiln might be a problem. I’d probably have to go bonkers with the stacking.

        But I really like the idea of putting Maggie to work on this… I’ve been imagining that before too long she’ll making her own stuff, and then will probably want a shelf at the sale to set out her wares. Maybe an alternative would be little pots for little people by a little person? Intriguing!

        • My computer is going bonkers this morning. It is taking almost 2 hours (as of now) to copy and paste some interesting quotes from Brain pickings. Lets see if I can do it. From their lovely post on children’s books this morning:

          “Attuned to these changing tastes, narratives, and market movements, open-eyed editors and perceptive publishing houses continue to play a vital role in the discovery and cultivation of budding artists — and the resulting creative process tends to be a two-way street. Often taking a welcome long-term approach and vie, outstanding editors — like Harper & Row’s legendary Ursula Nordstrom who cherished, nurtured, and defended beloved recalcitrant geniuses like Maurice Sendak and Tomi Ungerer, among others — serve as headstrong and softhearted yet pivotal enablers who can set the stage and direction for an entire generation of picture books. And yet there is trouble afoot: pandering to economic trends in the growing — and increasingly competitive — picture-book market, actual contents, creativity, and originality might lose out, right down to the point where bookstores dedicate entire pink-clad corners to a monoculture of princess books.”

          Salisbury stresses the formative role picture books play in cultivating aesthetic literacy:

          “After all, this is often a child’s first introduction to the visual arts: the picture book serves as a personal, private art gallery, held in the hand, to be revisited over and over again.”


          “One of the problems of trying to research young children’s responses to imagery is the fact that they don’t have the language to express what they are experiencing. And of course they are just like us, individuals — with equally individual tastes and responses. But it seems clear that they develop the ability to process pictorial sequences very early on. In fact, this seems to be an ability that we — quite often — have to relearn as adults! My guess is that, even if everything in the images is unfamiliar, children are making their own sense of things. on a basic but important level, a picture book will allow time for the eye to travel around the page and explore shape, color and form. The key thing is that the speed is not dictated externally, as with many screen-based media.”


          “Children seem to have a limitless capacity to absorb and handle all manner of thins that we might worry about. In recent generations, we have become much more protective and censorious. While we would not wish to return to the days when children’s books promoted the chopping off of thumbs if they were being sucked, I think a lot depends on the done with which such cruelty is portrayed. Roald Dahl’s enormous popularity reflects his complete absence of patronizing language and joy in the ‘incorrectness’ that children adore. I think we could afford, certainly in the West, to be a little less protective.”


          “Of course, one of the main preoccupations right now is the role of downloadable apps and e-books in the picture-book market. At the moment, no one seems to know quite what their impact will be, but everyone is running around saying, ‘We should be doing something.’ One thing, however, is clear: printed picture books are becoming increasingly beautiful in their production with ever greater attention to the physical, tactile, ‘holding’ quality of the books as artifacts, in gloriously varied sizes and shapes. This process is carving out the territory of the book as a beautiful thing; a thing distinct from the screen that provides us with information but doesn’t allow us to own, feel, or interact with tit in the same way. Until very recently, most picture book apps were rather banal in their conception, concentrating on trying to shoehorn commercially proven books into an alien format with minor digital bells and whistles. It reminds me of the period immediately after the arrival of Photoshop when everything looked the same as designers decided they were no illustrators. Once the people who were most resistant to it (i.e., the ones who weren’t seduced by technology ) began to learn to use the program, however, things started to get interesting.”

      • Scott Cooper says:

        They nailed it on the “pink-clad… monoculture of princess books”. Sickening!

        But I think they’re also right about the renaissance in picture books. From what I’ve seen, the quality and variety is off the charts.The catch is that the monoculture stuff is very seductive and sticky. Sadly, what I’d like to read to Maggie and what she wants me to read rarely overlap.

        • And if these quotes are an insight into the possible avenues for potters to make pots for the wee ones, I think we should aim high and “cultivate their aesthetic literacy” and not dumb things down with cheap pandering to our adult ideas of what is fit for kids’ consumption. If they learn to appreciate the Mona Lisa from the get go just how sophisticated and nuanced will they end up as adults? Make real pots for real albeit smaller people.

          Most adults in our culture are starting out as raw beginners in their appreciation of pottery form and pots in general. And we succeed all too often in dumbing it down for them with bright flashy glazes and garish decoration. We make it eye candy instead of nuanced information requiring careful and long term study. And it works at the check out counter simply because most adult consumers don’t know any better. They don’t have a background in the possibilities of clay or its sophistication. But if we teach folks the large diversity of expression in clay they will have an informed background for assessing their tastes. Not all decoration on pots dumbs things down any more than decoration on a canvass does. Its all a matter of where you are aiming, and simplicity and serendipity have their roles to play as surely as laborious and exacting execution.

          When we give children the mashed peas and strained pear baby food versions of art do we give them an infant aesthetic diet to nourish their unformed opinions or do we use this information to stake out the proximate limits of their exploration? Intentionally or as part of our blundering misinformed adult sensibilities? For too long in our culture children have been talked down to. In the end that serves neither the child nor the society they grow up in…….

  3. Fred Bowling says:

    In case you don’t know about them, check out http://www.woodfiredkids.com/. It’s the work of Nate Evans and Hallie Hite, apprentices with Mark Hewitt in the last century. I’ve purchased some for my grandson, but have a hard time convincing his mother to use them. Hope to see you this weekend!

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