Most of my potter friends all think I’m wasting my time on a fool’s errand when I talk about issues in the arts field. Maybe some of it is sort of interesting in a tangential barely relevant sort of way. Most working potters don’t seem to be bothered by larger issues as long as they get to hunker back down in their studios and make the work they want to make or think they can sell. What happens to other working artists seems a distant concern. The arts community is there when we need it, for asking favors or getting answers to technical questions, but there is no real sense of an ecology or the urgency of a shared community where what effects one person impacts the rest of us. We are so focused on our own process and way of life that we barely have time to reach beyond our own concerns of the moment: Fixing kilns, building studios, repairing wheels and other equipment, solving glaze chemistry issues, figuring out firing schedules, working on techniques, photographing our work, uncovering new markets, managing our art practice as part of a life that includes family, responsibilities, and frequently other employment as well…….
Because we so often operate on the fringes on our own we are less secure within the industry that shares our interests. Individual artists are routinely divided and conquered by those in positions to promote us or hold us back. Galleries often act as though they are doing US a favor by showing our work. Its not usually suggested that the only way they get paid is on the sweat and tears of working artists. The artists are mostly treated as second class citizens of an industry that only exists because of the hard work and genius that individual artists supply. Too often the professional organizations at the top of the food chain operate with perplexing callousness and endemic exploitation of working individual artists. Not always. But enough that the practice seems condoned by its commonplace regularity….
Last post I suggested that there was a downside to the morality of ‘seizing’. “Seize the day!” sounds all well and good until the people around you notice that you have seized their goods and burned all the bridges to tomorrow. The morality of seizing is the morality of pirates……
So just this morning I came across an example that made it real in my mind, and it was an excellent example of why I care about advocating for the arts. I’m looking out for the little guy. I’m going to bat for my fellow artists…. Here’s what I saw:
Brandon discovered the appropriation and brought it up on facebook. Here’s a link to one of the webpages where the image is featured:
One of the reasons I like facebook is that folks can easily share what’s on their mind. One of the reasons I despise it is that it makes interaction a glib moaning or consoling for this or that tribulation, offers up the dubious wisdom of poorly considered opinions, but seldom goes further. Maybe sometimes it does. But the reason I am motivated to be an arts activist is that I want to do something about issues I feel are worth doing something about. I do my share of moaning, I do more than my own share of ignorant pontificating, but I also attempt to get others involved and actually work toward examining (if not always solving) issues…..
So I wrote the Sharon arts center this email. It has only been a few hours, but I will post their response if and when I get it. There seems no other easy way to hold folks accountable when the consequences for seizing are blown off or taken for granted….
It came to the attention of the artist whose kiln and whose work are being displayed in the image you are using for your ‘clayfest’ publicity that his image is being used without his prior knowledge or approval, and also that there is no credit given that the image is of his work and his kiln.
I’m not writing on his behalf, but I suggest you get in touch with him and straighten this matter out, if you are so inclined. His name is Brandon Phillips in case that somehow got lost in appropriating his image, and you can reach him at:
For my own clarification I’d like to know exactly what the ethics are your organization subscribes to. If this uncredited unauthorized appropriation was a mistake or an aberration, I can understand that everyone makes mistakes, and I hope you will make it right with Brandon. If this reflects your policy, that a kiln in Texas can be used to advertise your projects in New Hampshire without proper identification or attribution, then I guess I have learned something new about the way things work at a certain level of professionalism.
Most potters are generous folks and most believe that courtesy goes a long way. Perhaps artists in general…. I think many potters would have been delighted to have been asked for permission to use their images. I’m just not sure how the community of artists benefit from an attitude where unauthorized appropriation is the way things work or that seeking forgiveness is preferable to asking permission. Artists are already hard done by, and the system and many arts institutions already take merciless advantage of individual artists…. I’d just like to know where your organization stands. Do you support the efforts and rights of individual artists? Are you there for them? Or are artists simply there for organizations like yours to use….? I’d like to think we are all in this together and that the creative community is there for the welfare of all. I hope I’m not being naive or idealistic……
Potter and arts educator
If this issue strikes you as something in need of a closer look, or if it upsets you, perhaps you are an arts advocate and you just don’t realize it. Perhaps your sense of community includes outrage when one of our fellows is taken unfair advantage of…..
What do you think?
Make beauty real!