Monday, May 2, 2011

Owning it.

I appreciate all the comments on the last post...I didn't mean to leave you hanging there, we had to make an emergency run to Austin this weekend and didn't get back until Sunday evening. I had a post planned in response to that but now it may be a week or two before I can get my thoughts down.

I've been having a short email conversation with another potter and this was part of my response today. All these email convos...maybe why the blogs aren't getting written.

Owning it. Indeed. I think you are owning what you do. It's easy to fall into the lure of wanting to make other peoples pots...I'd love to make pots with gnarly shinos...big jars fired on their sides for five days...anything by richard batterham...but those things don't suit me, they're not me. XXXXXX's pots are f-in awesome but they're not you.

I know exactly what you mean about "serious" work. I constantly wonder to myself if I would be mocked in the public arena for some of the things I do. What is serious anyways? Cruet sets? Fancy teapots? The need for recognition? Peer recognition is nice but it sure doesn't pay the bills. Why do you think all those fancy MFA potters are doing residency after residency? Because they can't pay the bills. No one wants a f-ing $500 oil and vinegar set on a tray. You can spend 5 hours on a pitcher and make it amazing visually but it's still a pitcher, why is it "serious work" because you've spent more time messing around with it?

I think the issue is that if you feel you aren't doing something worthwhile(worthwhile=serious? maybe...) then there is obviously a confidence problem with your work. I'm not directing this at you, i'm speaking generally...or perhaps to myself! I think that's all part of owning it.

I think it's a question of wanting to make a living vs. wanting recognition. And they don't always go hand in hand. There's a good chance that our work will never see the cover of CM, we're not part of the trend right now, our work is too simple and we haven't worked with anyone important. But what does the cover of CM get you? A month of popularity amongst your peers and $50? It's kinda like getting into the SFPN or the AKAR yunomi show, all ego boosting, very little monetary gain, unless potters are your primary customer. But you know what...I think it's okay to want that ego boost, hell maybe we even NEED it sometimes, but I don't think it should be the end goal. You telling me about (f-ing awesome potter) appreciating what I was doing, that was a nice little pick me up the other day. I needed that bit of ego boost. rant for the day.

Feel free to add your own commentary.



MattyT said...

I'm curious who this is to and about.

I think that peer recognition and sales are both equally important to most potter's but nobody gets into making pots to make money. potters make pots because they want to (need to). And other potters are the only credible judges that can give you that ego boost. potters that you respect buying your pots is when making a living and getting recognition go hand in hand. I think that the end goal should be being completely satisfied with your latest batch of pots and looking back at them 6 months later and still being satisfied; however, if you can do this then you have probebly had one to many ego boosts.

Joe and Christy said...

Bitter? Certainly there are potters out there who seem to "need" to be recognized, or taken seriously. Ego thing I guess. Personally if I can just make a semi-comfortable living making pots that I love.... what else can you ask for?

carter gillies said...

Great post Brandon!

These are really important questions. You start off saying that "I'd love to make.... but those things don't suit me, they're not me" and then at the end the question is "wanting to make a living vs. wanting recognition". I just worry that some of what you love to make will drop out of the equation. I think folks like us who are trying to support ourselves with making pots need to focus on how we can make a living, and maybe part of that sometimes includes recognition, but I hope that all of us can still have time to do things we would love to do, even if on the first impression they don't seem to suit us. How do we really know if we haven't tried it, if we haven't given it a fair shot?

If we can't stay open-minded about the things we would like to try then we are already putting ourselves in tight little corners. And as long as experimenting doesn't interfere with the need to make a living I would say there is no harm done. Try something new. Do something you never thought you could like. Who knows? Maybe you will be surprised.

If we only make the stuff we think we already know about ourselves we are in danger of stopping our growth. Or we are putting our imagination in chains of what we already think about ourselves. We will have decided that we are only supposed to make such and such without ever having tried something else.

I think we can own far more than we give ourselves credit for. We just need to learn to follow our noses, to trust our instincts, to allow ourselves to experiment, to give ourselves permission to try new things. And if it turns out we don't like what we did, that we can't own it after all, then we can do something different or the same old same old again. This hasn't been decided before we even touch the clay. Its not predetermined before we even set out.

How do you know you won't like Thai food? Well, try it and see. You may learn something new about yourself. And in trying new things we also grow. We break loose from the little comfort zones we have built up around ourselves. We are no longer the same.

That's my take on things, at least. The pressure to make a living can force our hands sometimes, but somewhere deep down inside we are all allowed to experiment. We are all allowed to follow our dreams. we are all allowed to discover our bliss.

lisa said...

We are all allowed to follow our dreams. we are all allowed to discover our bliss.

Well said.

Chin-Purcell said...

Yep, seems about right... Although I wouldn't mind seeing your pots on the CM cover! Often the featured work, and perhaps some "potter's pots" in general, can be a bit un-subtle. A lot of work goes for the jugular as it tries to (yet again) be bold and new.

"New" seems to be a problem for my pottery, and probably other potters too. It's kinda hard to do something new with a functional pot, and yet it's the easiest route to recognition. I'm strongly drawn to improve and create, but New flumoxes me.

Anyway, thanks for a good post.

Julia said...

I can't afford a subscription to CM, and when I could, I often didn't care for the work on the cover (or inside!) wasn't relevant to the mostly functional work that pays my bills.

I think peer recognition and personal satisfaction are also two completely different things. Sometimes I make things I want to just because I like them. Years later, even if peers or customers or "real potters" didn't like them, they are still my favorite pieces and bring me great joy.

"owning it" for me is more about owning my creative process and my evolution as a potter, and less about the end result.

Great, thought-provoking post!

Scott K Roberts said...

"..To make something as simple as a cup or bowl that might somehow trancend it's intended function, to become something much greater than a common utensil for the serving of food or drink" is very serious work. Be true to yourself!

Unknown said...

Reminds me of
Big Deal: On Being Famous to Almost No One
by robert hoekman, jr

Anonymous said...

"Art and commerce having nothing to do with each other" - Don Reitz