Yesterday was a great day here in Athens GA. Canadian potter Tony Clennell did us the honor of a visit, rubbed elbows with some local potters and pottery enthusiasts, and gave us all an entertaining and informative slide lecture. What a blast! Here are some of the images of his pots I’ve been collecting over the years:
Not only is Tony one of my all-time favorite contemporary pot makers, but he’s such a tremendously great guy in person too. I was thrilled to finally meet him, and then I was enthralled by his story of being a pot maker. And to top it off he blew my mind with a breakdown of the force behind commerce in different eras, a lesson it does well to heed in thinking through our own position as commercial professionals, selling amateurs and hobbyists alike.
What he described was this: In the 1950’s commerce was driven by innovation. Build a better mouse trap and you have folks on the hook. In the 1970’s commerce was driven by its service quality. Better serve an audience and you will make the difference you need to stand out. And both of these are still important as influences and things to think about. What really blew me away was his next phase of commercial direction. He termed it “experience”. What influences today’s markets is not necessarily bells and whistles and new fangled hoo ha. Its not simply standing behind your product or serving it up in custom attentive detail. Rather, what stands out in the minds of customers is their experience in making that transaction and their experience of its connection to a larger sense of identity. And this has huge ramifications.
An example Tony threw out, and which I’m sure he won’t mind me sharing, is that when he sells a pot or two to a customer he always engages them in conversation. He learns a bit about who they are, what their interests are, and what motivates them. And a few days after the sale he sends them a postcard riffing on a bit of what they shared in that conversation. That’s it. And it sounds so simple. But when you think about it, placing that pottery transaction in a larger context of a human relationship makes a huge difference. It introduces a personal dimension, and it reflects on the buyer’s own self-identity. Something much bigger than simply the consumer of a new product or the patron being served by an anonymous staff…..
Think about it.
And this is much bigger than simply the issue of individual artists connecting to an audience. Its an issue of community and of identity. There is an enormous gulf between supporting the arts where artists are anonymous cyphers, and supporting the arts where these artists are human beings with real and personal connection to their supporters…..
I’ll leave you with that to ponder.
If you don’t know Tony, you can find him on his quirky and insightful blog here:
Make beauty real!