"Spirited debate at its best is like wrestling partners who are fiercely competitive... without the rough and tumble its just not fun nor is there any rigor in the argument" --Garth Clark
I am beginning this new blog in an attempt to address the nature of "workshop" pottery and its context in my home state of North Carolina, explaining why I feel that traditional, functional or classical pottery is still relevant in the twenty-first century.
My interest in articulating my thoughts and feelings on this segment of the Craft Movement has grown out of my other blog, "Critique of a Critic," which seems to be finished for the time being.
As of this writing, I am putting together a tour of some North Carolina potteries along with speaking engagements for Garth and his partner Mark del Vecchio in October of 2012. Garth will speak at the Mint Museum in Charlotte, the Gregg at NCSU in Raleigh, and Garth and Mark will be hosting a program for potters and ceramic artists in the Asheville area that explores the opportunities and limitations in the market, sharing their accumulated wisdom after running galleries for the last 30+ years. All of these events will be free and open to the public and will provide stimulating opportunities for dialogue between makers and patrons and one of the great critics and historians in our field.
I am aware that the first blog was meant to be a dialogue, and then it essentially became a monologue as I struggled with my complicated feelings and thoughts concerning Garth's Envy argument. I would like to open this current blog up to any potter or collector or scholar or critic who would like to add their own perspectives in support of or in contrast to my writing. I like to be challenged and have my ideas tested and retested so that I can get to some deeper understanding of my own beliefs. I also recognize that I will not be making my arguments in a vacuum and that many of you who might be reading have in some way contributed to the NC Pottery community and helped to build the context that I will be describing. With that in mind, there may be some of you who would like to deepen the discussion or give better contextual information than what I am capable of presenting alone. I welcome all who would like to participate. Please leave signed comments or anonymous comments if you would prefer. I also plan to host at least one essay from a good friend who has written extensively of his own life in functional pottery, and would be willing to consider posting links or other essays here if there are contributors interested in sharing their musings. Also feel free to spread the word about the discussion to other people who might be interested in following or participating in the conversation.
I am reprinting half of Garth's G-spot challenge letter below. I have cut the introductory paragraphs which refer specifically to the last blog and a few sentences at the end which indicated his original intent to visit NC in January. This blog will deal primarily with addressing some of the questions and observations Garth makes here. I will also refer to some of Garth's writing in his excellent book Shards to provide some context for some of his opinions.
"Where is the Workshop Potter’s “G” Spot”?
"I am sorry you are upset at being lumped in with other voices in functional pottery. Perhaps the nuances of your position slipped by me but the evident chip on your shoulder, the dénouement of “ceramics” and worse the demon “ceramic art” all are familiar. I am waiting for a 21st century raison d’être for studio pottery and have still not yet heard it from anyone.
And as for my response not being entirely friendly, your friend is correct. Nor was your first broadside to me. But I was not offended. Spirited debate at its best is like wrestling partners who are fiercely competitive. Firstly, one must wrestle to win but graciously concede defeat if one does not. Secondly, one might get a little hurt in the process. That’s how one learns. But without the rough and tumble it’s just not fun nor is there any rigor in the argument if one is too timid to offend.
To conclude: I have never understood why functional /workshop/traditional potters are always so angry, always seem so cheated by their culture. They have deliberately chosen to live and work in an arena that is marginal. There is no longer a need for handmade pots and there has not been one for the greater part of a century. Industrial potteries often have a smaller carbon footprint than studio potters and so studio pottery is not even green.
Did you not know when you committed yourself to this calling that it would be tough and misunderstood road? Did you not realize that that there is a touch of anachronism in your calling and that would have consequences in how you are valued and defined? An overly defensive stance does not work, it makes one sound more like a crank, a muttering luddite. One needs a plausible contemporary explanation for why you make pots today if you want to enjoy a reasoned debate.
I am going to leave you with a challenge. I have never discovered the workshop potters “g” spot. What makes them happy? Can you write a description of an idealized, perfect world for pottery? What do you want from the market, criticism, history, museums, galleries, and culture? How do you define respect? From where do you want it to come? From critics, museums, the general public? What is missing? What defines satisfaction with your place in society?
And finally, I am honored that a working potter would feel strongly enough to take on my ideas and give his time to this debate. I am actively thinking about things we have discussed, both on and off the record, and will not walk away unmoved or unchanged. I respect what you do and the overall genre to which you belong but my “job” is not to be a palliative but a goad."
p.s. If you would like to read the entire letter, you can do so by going to post #20 in my first blog, "Critique of a Critic: Rising to Garth Clark's Bait"
Thanks for reading,