Picture a herd of wild horses roaming the plains. No bridles. No saddles. No masters. Free to go where the desire takes them. Untamed. Not chained up or put in cages. No Brand……
There is a thread of conversation on the pottery webs right now that concerns my favorite pet subject. If you’ve read this blog for a while you might even think I was beating a dead horse (to continue the equine imagery). But I’m not the only one who is interested in this topic. Its often even a default presumption of the way things supposedly work, that brands are important for artists. Some artists are content to heat the iron and sear their own creative flesh, while others look for ways to escape the pens and roam free and unbridled.
Ceramic artist/blogger Tracey Broome opened this latest round of conversation by posting “Branding” and “Branding 101“, to which Michael Kline responded “The Spin“. In the comments Meg Chernack Beaudoin responded to Michael, and I responded to her.
If there is one thing that blogs can do well its to give a forum for ideas and conversations that are worth thinking about. Maybe even if enough people are discussing them and are willing to challenge the accepted wisdom, mythologies, and superstitions we can someday change things. As theoretical physicist Max Planck suggested with science, “A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.” Things are unlikely to change dramatically in our own lifetimes, but perhaps we can lay the groundwork for different thinking about this topic in the future if enough of us are willing to make it part of our conversations, how we teach, how we make things, and how we live. Maybe our children and all future aspiring artists can grow up without a brand being inflicted on them.
Michael asks the central question that seems the largest stumbling block for artists. He asks:
Is it possible to have a great time, enjoy what we make, AND enjoy some modicum of success? Maybe the first thing for each of us to do to brand or re brand, is to define success. What is enough? Can we be more aware of what we really enjoy doing and do MORE of whatever that is?
And can we give up what we don’t enjoy doing?
Seems a little simplistic, but I guess it’s a start.
Meg’s response was:
I have significant trouble with this whole notion of branding. In my pre-clay life when I was a psychologist/psychoanalyst I had the same exact problem with the push for having a specialization, a niche, really an appearance of an expertise that would bring in particular “customers”. I just never believed in it, thought what I was doing was good psychotherapy at a deep level and that might be different for individual different people but it wasn’t different for any subgroup. Specialization perhaps is valid for some fields. I guess I wouldn’t choose my family practice doc to do my spine surgery but even in medicine we know the problems that specialization brings. With pottery it seems to me something essential is is at best bypassed, at worst distorted, by applying this zeitgeist of specialization and its marketing version of branding to what we do as artists. I know that we are pushed by the culture we live in to believe that if we “just” make the best pottery we can and don’t brand ourselves we will forgo all the sales we would get if we marketed (sold) ourselves but I wonder if this has to be true or whether we all keep it being true by living by it. Thanks for opening up the discussion Michael. Joy doesn’t sound the least bit hokey to me.
To which I responded:
So I ask you, can your art be a reflection of unbridled joy? Not the joy of cubicle dwellers, that is. Not subservient to a master’s whim. That seems like an important question. Perhaps, even, there will be a future where artists are not these caged beasts that their owners trot out for their own prestige or to plow their fields. As soon as we put the brands on its like we are bowing our necks to the yoke. Its like we are resigning ourselves to living as beasts of burden. Why are so many artists happy to take the hot iron up and place the brand themselves? Don’t we value our freedom sufficiently?
Things to think about…..
Make beauty real!