When I moved to this part of town back in 1989 there were gunshots heard every once in a while at night, houses were routinely broken into, and I witnessed a mugging a few blocks from my home…..
Thankfully things were changing, and more folks began renovating houses, and new families were moving in. The neighborhood was growing up and settling down. The frontier part of town was getting civilized. Law and order was not just something in the hands a few sheriffs herding outlaws, but a community that finally liked living together.
Still, I wondered about my house getting broken into. I had grown up in West Philadelphia, on the fringe of a sketchy part of town, and we’d been broken into on a number of occasions. It seemed almost a normal part of life growing up that you or someone you knew would get mugged, their house broken into, or some other civil violation perpetrated against.
If someone did decide to get in my house, what would they take? An old crappy hand-me-down tube TV? An ancient computer? The budget model CD player? The cheapest dvd player available? Or maybe they would take from my collection of art. Maybe they would see a Michael Simon pot and lick their lips with avarice. Maybe they would see that Nick Joerling vase that I paid $180 for about a dozen years ago and see dollar signs.
But not likely. Not many people who know pots seem to fit the category of serious outlaw. Our transgressions are mostly infractions of style. We are cultural outlaws in the sense that telling rude jokes violates public decency. Mostly we are pretty harmless. Mostly we are actually trying to do some good in the world. Mostly our expression and support of art is meant to make the world a better place.
So when I put my addition on the studio to have a permanent outdoor display area I had to wonder if leaving all that pottery out there, just a few dozen feet from the road, was asking for trouble. Its been about ten years, and I don’t think anything has ever been taken. Thousands of pots have come and gone in that space, the opportunity for theft has been there for several thousand days and nights, but not once to my knowledge has a pot gone missing.
I used to tell myself that if someone wanted to risk going to jail to own one of my pots, then they were welcome to it. I would be almost honored, in a way. I could picture David Niven dressed all in black darting through the shadows to lay his hands on the priceless pots. Or Cary Grant slinking over roof tops to pluck the golden glazed ware. A person willing to risk jail time for art, even a piece of pottery, conjures visions of Steve McQueen robbing museums in the movies. It conjures the idea of sophisticated cultural and aesthetic tastes. I didn’t think your average drive by thief was the sort to be interested in art, much less know enough about art to contemplate its market value. One of my $20 mugs would seem little different from a Ron Meyers teabowl to most non-pottery insiders. Mine might even seem more valuable, if Ron’s crude casualness was perhaps confused with beginner fumblings….
So this last weekend during my sale I had my first blatant theft. It wasn’t at the sale, exactly. It wasn’t someone there to support the arts. It wasn’t a patron. Rather, I put out one of my ‘big’ pots by the driveway entrance at the street, on a pedestal, right next to the pottery sale sign advertising the event, and sometime on Sunday afternoon when we looked down the driveway it was missing. Gone. The pedestal empty. The goose plucked.
To be honest I’m not that devastated. Maybe it was my most expensive pot for sale. Maybe it was the most expensive pot I’ve ever made and tried to sell. But I made it several years ago, and it hadn’t yet sold. Even among pottery enthusiasts the market value seemed questionable. Frankly, I was a bit tired of looking at it. I had moved on in many aesthetic respects. I might have been more upset if someone walked off with a $20 mug that I actually liked……
Still, its a bummer. I just Hope whoever took it enjoys the hell out of their new acquisition. And then I hope they go to jail. (Not really, perhaps, but it feels right to say so) If it was an honest mistake (Not Steve Martin’s “I forgot armed robbery was illegal”) then I am more than prepared to be forgiving. A fraternity prank would piss me off. Maybe it could have been construed as a curbside freebie. Maybe……
If you see something like what’s pictured above show up on ebay or in your pottery travels, please let me know. And if you didn’t believe it before, be aware that pots apparently are worth stealing. People need art in their lives enough to risk going to jail. People value pots enough that they imagine a market value to offset the risk of jail time. Maybe that’s a good thing? Silver lining anyone?
Make beauty real!
And have a fantastic holiday season!