Wednesday, January 16, 2019

That's Saying Something



Satian Leksrisawat

If you've seen him at art fairs in the past few decades you're probably familiar with his porcelain and crystalline glazed pieces.

You also know what a fine craftsman he is.

I got these bowls some time in the '80s when he was still doing stoneware (I understand he might be doing some again now. Last time I talked to him, he hinted that he might make some functional work again).

I know the pitfalls of describing work with too many superlatives. Pot making is not a competition. But these small bowls are among the pots I prize most in my entire collection.

The subtle perfection of the shape, the contrast of matte glaze on stoneware that is magically both sturdy and elegant, and the simplicity of ever-so-slightly distorted squared off rims that wink just a hint of playfulness. When in use, they function perfectly.

I'll be making a bunch of bowls next month. I get to visit with my friend, Ron Sutterer and he's promised a day of bowl making and music listening while I'm there.  I can't wait. 

Whenever I make small bowls, though I've never tried to copy, these bowls of Satian's are never far from my mind.

How can something so small and "merely" functional say so much? Can I add to the conversation?

Monday, January 14, 2019

The First Aim Of Indian Guides




1. "To be pals forever with my dad."


I was 5 or 6 years old when I built this plywood tool chest in the basement of Little Turtle's (Todd McKinney's) house. It was a project for Indian Guides -- a YMCA pre-Boy Scouts program -- and Big Turtle (Boyd McKinney) had pre-cut all the parts so we could assemble them and get a taste of woodworking.

My dad faithfully took me to Indian Guides and we, along with a dozen or so other men and their sons, sat cross-legged on the floor and, with the beat of the tom-tom, called the weekly meeting to order.

Dar dug this toolbox out of the attic yesterday. I cleaned it up and put some teak oil on it. I'm going to use it to carry my clay tools to the workshops next month. Not because it will function better than plastic. It won't. But just because I want to.



The other morning I awoke with a start to the feel of a man's whiskers on my cheek. What an odd sensation. And what was further odd about it was that it was familiar.
It was Dad.


Oh, I don't mean he was really there. But it was as real as any memory could be of a father’s kiss. Maybe it's just that he'd been on my mind a lot in recent months. Over the past year I've met family I never met before. Conversations have turned to family history. After 50 years absence, Dad has found his way back into my conversations and my consciousness.



We all have to separate wheat from tares in our lives. We all have to make judgments about others for our own self-preservation. Maybe a little grace allows us to judge in the same merciful manner in which we'd allow as how we'd prefer others might judge us.



I think advancing age forces many of us to judge with a bit more of that grace. By now we've walked a few more miles and changed moccasins -- some we chose to wear and others we slipped on supposing they might protect our feet as we stumbled blindly around in the dark.



And by this age we've taken a few turns on the dance floor with hopelessness cutting in for a few numbers. But we’ve been fortunate enough....so far, anyway....to still go home with the hope that brung us to the dance. Despite the rosy dance metaphor, hopelessness is never a kind flirtation. Hopelessness is an unstoppable force. The best that can be prayed for is that it only visits when it's supposed to. At the proper end.


But it doesn't always wait. It apparently didn't wait for Dad. It visited early. 


And it left his family mostly remembering him for his obvious failures. When you choose to leave life early, you don't get to choose who writes your biography.




And the biographies that got written are inconsistent to say the least. Six children who themselves span beyond the length of a common generation are bound to see the man differently. It makes sense. He wasn’t the same man for any of us.



So, some of his children will hold him in high regard. The idea of forgiving him would never occur to them. Forgive him for what?


Others will remember the cruelty of inappropriately high expectations meted out without a matching support of encouragement and instruction. It was all “do” and no “how”. No coming alongside to work with, rather, simply a dictate. No understanding. No motivating beyond “do it”.



A few will remember the cruelty of his constant disappointment at not meeting his standard….though much of the problem lay in not knowing what that mercurial standard actually was. So, we were supposed to get rich by some means that involves work and luck and then what?



A few will remember his cruel derision when he was disappointed.



But in most of those cases, forgiveness comes forth naturally from a fairly standard generational understanding. Fathers aren’t perfect. When the roles change and we are parents, we suddenly understand just how opaque the job of parenting is. We don’t know how to direct children. And just as we are discovering that our children’s personalities are so diverse that even if we could figure out a way to successfully direct one of them, the next in line presents a whole different circumstance.



But a few of his children faced or continue to face the need to forgive him for his desertion of us. Toward that forgiving end, it has lately occurred to me more and more often that in the battle, the deserter isn’t the one who dies. To the extent that the end result was his having deserted his family, it should at least be observed with the honest realization that he didn’t desert his family so that he could go off and build himself a better life. He didn’t go looking for hope in some other life with some other family. We weren’t deserted for something he saw as better. He simply gave up. 



It’s a painfully honest admission that that fact is ameliorating at all. It shouldn’t matter. I should be equally capable of forgiving even if his deserting us was for something he saw as better. But it does matter. It does help to understand the circumstance for what it actually was. Again, the result was desertion, but it was not the intent.



And it’s not lost on me. His children did fine without him. Arguably, the one child who had the least of him built the most successful life of us all. That says something.



I didn’t know Dad well. I’ve spent a lifetime trying to understand him. Honestly, I know myself well enough to know that any lack of forgiveness on my part is largely a very unflattering unwillingness to let go of a useful excuse for my own weaknesses and not face my own responsibilities. As long as I can build up this mythical father into something that I can tell myself caused me to be what I am instead of what I should be, it’s going to be really hard to forgive him.



But the whiskers on my cheek felt good. I was instantly happy to feel them. I was instantly happy to feel connected to Dad, if but for a second – and that second perhaps nothing more than a dream state. Maybe I’ll finally get something of a handle on this forgiveness thing.



Tuesday, January 8, 2019

One Man's Devil/Another Man's Angel



There's an interesting story within the story of Warren MacKenzie's life. It's part of his lore, but I'm not sure how or even if it will be addressed because the overwhelmingly popular sentiment might be masking a greater reality. In other words, there might be just a touch of political correctness within the pottery world that is keeping folks from grasping an interesting reality.

Ryan Greenheck touches on the story in this bit of autobiography:


"As we all reflect upon Warren Mackenzie’s passing I wanted to share one of my most treasured experiences in my ceramics career with you all. I was so fortunate to have several exchanges with him throughout my life. Every single one stands on its own. This was our first encounter. This is also my first piece I ever had accepted into a national juried exhibition. @sikora.studio (Linda Sikora-later my prfesdor @alfredceramics ) and @sandysimon were co-jurors. It was held the Nash Gallery at the University of Minnesota, where Warren taught for years. I spotted Warren across the room and my mother proceeded to bring him over my ceramics hero. I was a bit star struck and pretty nervous. Then my mother without hesitation asked him why he no longer signed his work, I too wasn’t signing my in part because of Warren. Omg mother! I thought it was simply his affection for Mingei and the unknown craftsman. Nope! A guy was simply showing up to his studio and buying every piece that had his mark on and reselling it. I guess it was his form of payback ;) Shortly after I started signing my work, in the hopes of one day being as cool as Warren to not sign it out of spite! Thank You Warren Mackenzie for being the greatest teacher I never had"


Somebody was showing up at Warren MacKenzie's sales, buying pots as MacKenzie had them priced, and turning right around and ebaying them for multiples of the original price.


The practice was seen as some sort of scalping on this anonymous villain's part. 


But was it? In the long run, wasn't this guy facing a reality to which MacKenzie was blind -- either willingly, philosophically, or...and just as likely....simply because, being involved in academia, he really had no idea of the market for pottery? Couldn't this be seen as a service this anonymous villain did for MacKenzie?

I would love to know what the real value of my work is. Pricing one's work is a shot in the dark. It's trial and error. And when inventories are hard fought for by processes that just about guarantee a huge amount of loss -- glaze materials that vary, firing in combustion atmospheres, material/clay that by nature wants to crack and break as it dries -- every trial in pricing costs a great deal in inventory.


 Price too high, sell a few and you'll find that you've trapped yourself by the ill will of those who purchased at that high price, only to find that you had to lower it when the market didn't really support that price.

 Sell it at a too low price and find that you didn't sufficiently pay yourself as a potter.

I don't think I'd resent some guy buying my stuff to re-sell it. I think I would that God for his guidance in helping me see both the value that I was not recouping in my pricing, as well as the insight he was offering as to my place in the market.

But the curious thing is that if I were to express this in the world of potters, I fear I would likely be seen as equally villainous for not understanding that we're not suppose to profit from our labors.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

The Longest Shadow



He was one of the main reasons I made the drive to MN for last year's St Croix Pottery Tour. I wanted to meet him before he died. He was supposed to be at Jeff Oestreich's place. He wasn't.

His influence was greater than the sum of his pots. His influence was greater than some of his pots. Subtract the name from the work and you'd never guess any of the pots were by a famous potter, much less America's most famous potter. But he inspired others in greater number than any other potter.

I appreciated him for:

1. Back in the late 80s, Ceramics Monthly did an article on the recent recipients of the National Endowment for the Arts grants. In the next issue, MacKenzie wrote a gently scathing rebuke of the grants -- pointing out several griefs, not the least of which was that almost all the recipients: 1. Didn't need the money, and 2. Were already receiving public money as their professorial salaries, effectively double-dipping into a system that they had unfair access to in the first place.

2. The world of potters is divided -- not neatly, but divided none-the-less.

Some potters are carrying on an historical role in society -- providing their communities with work that fills the same niche it has filled for 4,000 years. Pots. Things people use. As such, those potters price their work accordingly -- according to the simplest laws of supply and demand without the psychologically steroidal notions of "preciousness". These potters make and sell more or less unself-consciously.

The other potters are shoe-horning clay work into the world of art with art's artificial and academically propped-up notions of value.

The latter potters deeply resent the former because the former is actually (capable of and willingly) communicating with the community in which it lives, and giving that community what it wants at a reasonable cost that more closely matches perceived value and community norms.

The latter potters are trying to sell work at premium prices that are essentially propped up on a shaky foundation of academic's and critic's skillfully obfuscating language as it describes these emperors and their new clothes. And they resent the former potters because they believe that every pot sold at a reasonable price decreases the probability that the public will buy their pots at exorbitant, inflated, "precious" prices.

And they're probably right, at least to some degree because the potters who make work in that former, historical vein are at least as skilled -- and often more-so -- at creating products that the world wants. In part this is so because those historical potters are more productive. And more production usually leads to better pottery at the functional level at which most end users live.

And as admired as Warren MacKenzie was, there was at least some resentment at the unique niche he filled in the world of pottery, and at where he stood in that pricing/value conflict I described. MacKenzie didn't believe in the "precious" pricing of pottery. He believed in functional pottery.

But as the world so often turns, the backhanded irony of the MacKenzie phenomenon is that few if any other potters achieved (or are capable of achieving) the stratospheric pricing that became the market for MacKenzie's work. MacKenzie had to deal with a unique reality -- sharks were attending his annual sale and buying pots for the expressed purpose of putting them up on ebay. They would buy pots directly from Warren for <$50 and turn around and ebay them for >$500. The MacKenzie name became the value of his work.

It isn't a market that others can create for themselves. 

Like pushing string.

Like stargazing -- the more direct the focus, the fewer the stars.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Perspectives

As I stand here watching you crossing the field
Something of my singularity is revealed
For the moon above you stays stuck in that tree
It doesn’t follow you.  It only follows me.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Black Dogs


I once had a conversation about depression with a good friend. He was worried about me. He said that the "black dog" had visited him from time to time. Most of the time, maybe a "black puppy". A melancholy. Tolerable. Even useful to the creative mind.

But the art world is geared toward feeding the darkest of dogs. I think it's a false sense – a vestige of what used to be, shared mostly by folks who are not in the arts -- that the arts are a search for beauty. That may have once been true. It is a rapidly diminishing reality. 

What the art world values today tends more toward the negative, the naughty, the cynical, the dark. I remember listening to “Tales of a Red Clay Rambler” podcast interview Ben Carter did with Stephen Hill. Carter said one of the most telling things about contemporary culture and the arts…and he did so in the most off-handed manner that it belied a truth deep and accepted, but a truth that seems to have crept up on us unawares sometime in the last century. 

The observation Ben Carter made in his interview with Hill was this (and I paraphrase): “You seem to be one of the few well known ceramists who actually, intentionally tries to make beautiful pots.”

Wow.

Such an honest evaluation. And how true.

But we’re surrounded with negativity in the art world (not so much in the craft world where the community of potters has somewhat successfully fended off “art”). We have been unwittingly forced as creative people to believe that there is no meaningful distinction to be made between the twee of Thomas Kinkade and the grandeur of Frederic Edwin Church. To the contemporary critic, both are compressed – flattened -- into one naïve “pursuit of beauty”. And “good art” doesn’t go there. Art has moved on. Art explored beauty and found it wanting.

But if our compulsion is toward hope, if we want to pursue the positive, if we remain – counter to culture – hoping to believe it possible to grasp some truth in beauty, we’re probably going to need some help. Some support.
And we’re probably going to need to pick our feet up out of the mire from time to time and find some high and dry ground from which to gain fresh perspectives – especially when the coincidence of the dark world so perfectly coincides with social media.

My friend’s " black puppy" metaphor is pretty good. I’ve appropriated it for its usefulness. It pretty much describes my not infrequent melancholy.
But I've also got a vile temper that's easily provoked when my sense of entitlement to a good life gets threatened. As long as I can keep feeding that delusion of entitlement I'll probably be safe from dangerous depression. Maybe.

Family is, for me, not the thing to lean on. My family has suffered me the most. Depending on me has proven an exercise in pedaling a bicycle that has no chain. Still, for some reason -- possibly a dearth of alternatives – that family somehow continues to furiously pedal our tandem, in spite of an obvious lack of forward progress.

Over the past few years the dawning realization is this: I have lived a fairly solitary existence insofar as my livelihood didn't involve co-workers of any kind, rather, it involved days and months of solitary shop work. I'm a social guy but I happen to love that solitude -- my own music, books, thoughts. But that extravagance of solitude came with a downside: When I needed the help of "networking" it wasn't there. Social climbing -- even if but for the sake of financial security -- favors and always will favor who you know and not what you know.

That's one reason I've leaned a little too heavily on my connections with friends on the internet forums, social media etc. I felt a little less vulnerable and a little more connected to the possibility that I had the ear of at least somebody with life experience that might help me through mine.
Of course, I've also learned that most of that connectivity is pretty delusional too. Social media isn't a terribly honest communication. At its best it's friendly. But at its worst, that friendly is nothing more than telling us what we want to hear.

For instance, I’m often complimented on my facebook postings. That's one of those delusions I liked to have fed by social media. My smarter me doesn't listen, but there's still at least a vestigial adolescent in me that craves affirmation in the valueless pursuits -- music, art, writing -- that define me.
Anyway, the social internet is of great value if you can find a small group – especially one that crosses often into the 3D world – and especially one that fosters differing opinions and eschews our tribal instincts to cloister. Such groups are harder – harder to find and harder on our egos. But they often get honest. I love that honesty when I'm not hating it and I hate it when I don't love it. 

The slough of despond that the art world is constantly shoving us into doesn’t end well, and the honest hand that reaches down to help us out of it is quite often not welcome. It might be to our advantage to maintain the bridges we’ll need to go over it. It will always be there. The helping hands might not be.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Hand-Me-Downs


I've been the recipient of an out-of-the-blue act of kindness from a stranger.

The opening of the stranger's email began:

"___________ told me David Shaner was one of the potters who earned your respect."

...and what followed was the attachment of a cookbook of David Shaner recipes -- a collection passed on from the man himself.

It made my day. What a thoughtful kindness. It afforded me a new and encompassing sense of connectedness to the world of potters. It's a remarkable fraternity.

Oh, the "stranger" I'm referring to -- the fellow who sent me that email -- wasn't a stranger to me. I've known who Jack Troy was since I was a teenager reading Ceramics Monthly in my college library. I bought "Salt Fired Ceramics" in around 1980 and from there grew to appreciate a potter -- Mr Troy -- uncommonly able to communicate in written word the joys and trials of working with clay.

But I had no idea Mr Troy knew who I was, much less that he might know that I considered myself a debtor to the life's work of David Shaner. Apparently the internet has made the world just small enough to make such knowing possible.

But Mr Troy's generosity didn't stop there with that email.. A few weeks later I got a package in the mail. In it were two of Jack's books -- one I didn't even realize had been published called "inscapes" -- a collection of thoughts that David Shaner found meaningful enough to collect, all compiled and edited by Jack Troy.

I would never claim some personal connection to David Shaner. I never even met the man. But his were among the first pots to ever inspire me as a teenage potter. I had a photo of Mr Shaner hanging in my first 8' X 16' pottery shed, and carried it with me to my next studio.

I couldn't begin to count the number of pots I've made with David Shaner glazes selling their worth. Such pots were a collaboration in which I clearly drew the long straw.

But though I never met Mr Shaner, through Jack Troy's book I was allowed a glimpse into the man. That glimpse confirmed a kinship. Okay, a kinship as asymmetrical as the pots we made "together", but a kinship profoundly meaningful to me.

If you have any way to obtain a copy of Jack Troy's "inscapes", I highly recommend the book. You can easily read it in one sitting. But that won't be the last time you read it. I guarantee it.

I owe Jack Troy a huge debt of gratitude for introducing me to one of my lifelong heroes.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Mr Obvious




Funny how you can play the same chords for years and never hear the obvious song in the changes. 

You can eat peanut butter and you can eat dill pickles and you can eat the two separately for years and never guess how perfect they are together between bread.

I've used this clay and this glaze for years and never thought about letting the clay show through.

Friday, September 28, 2018

And I Quoth

RAVIN'
by Edgar Plastic Kaolin

Once upon a midnight dreary
Eyes rimmed red, bloodshot, and bleary
Again my kiln is in no hurry
Waiting on the cones once more
So far I’ve barely bent cone 4
Only this and nothing more

Nodding off just kills my neck it
Dawns on me I ought to check it
Pull the peep hole from the back it
Shows a slightly bent cone four
Still a slightly bent cone four
Only this and nothing more

Maybe I’ll adjust the damper
This kiln's causing me to hanker
For a kiln I need not pamper
Computer-controlled so to ensure
I’d never again be stuck at four
Just cone four and nothing more

I’ll admit, I’m mildly pissed off
A month’s production will be kissed off
If this rocket never lifts off
But stays right here, stuck at cone four
Only four, and nothing more
It’s no wonder I stay poor

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Sixty Minute Man

Quick thought: Can you make more than you can sell, or can you sell more than you can make?




That's a good question -- maybe the best question ever asked -- and you're the only person in 40 years who has ever asked it. It really has been one of the hardest parts about navigating this business. A concrete answer has been one of the most vexing things to come up with in my entire business life as a potter.

I could probably write nearly a book-length explanation, but to sum it up as well as I can, however incompletely: I've always had more market than product.

That's really being in the catbird seat of business, idn't it?


Well, no.

It's not.  It's because I've always shaded toward the near side of the invisible but abrupt line in pottery that divides "appropriately affordable" and "Priced like precious art".

In my 40 years I have seen more potters fail by jumping to the wrong conclusion about their raised prices. That is, as they raised their prices the pots still sold.....but they never did the math to see if, in the long run they were:

1. still making an adequate profit from that pot in, say, a year's time (they were pricing the pot as a one-off rather than a product. They were looking at each sale as an auction, not as a retail product.) And because they weren't looking long term, they failed to detect the lost of income per item. It was hard to detect because they still sold the item. It didn't stop. It slowed. Maybe imperceptibly unless they had some device in place to catch such things.

2. Considering the differing markets that make up a typical pottery business. We sell in multiple markets -- not just regionally, but also types of market. 

For example, almost every potter I know has to put together a show schedule of varied shows from "A" shows (those juried shows that are nearly impossible to get into, but when you do they afford a potter the very best in markets and a premium price is almost expected), "B" shows (those juried shows that a potter may not get into every year, but of which there are many alternatives such that doubling up on jurying for several on a weekend will likely net you at least one entry. Those are where your price is probably going to be more realistically set for a general public), and "C" level shows (maybe a local show that, due to the lack of overhead, they still are worth it for at least a few shows in a schedule. Sometimes these shows turn out surprisingly great. But often, just as the "A" price would prohibit sales at a "B" show, "B" prices would probably slow sales at a "C" show).


3. ....and then there's internet sales.

Anyway, as I saw the accidental attrition that hit my fellow potters as they started believing their own press, I decided there wasn't a season that I could really afford not to sell well. So my prices have always been on the conservative side.

Even saying that, though, I'm still fuzzy on it because I look at my current prices and, yes, most of the time my contemporaries think I'm underpriced (and some are even a little angry about it. Competition, you know. I outsell most of them most of the time)....but my prices are what I would have considered "precious" just 20 years ago. I'm priced at the level at which 20 years ago I saw the first exit of overpriced potters.

But it's mostly guesswork. And the hard and fast rules that apply to retail have a bearing, but they're not nearly as easily applied when:

1. you aren't just the retailer -- you are the manufacturer.

2. what you make isn't -- I never remember the word for something "duplicatable" as opposed to something made one at a time -- like the difference between being able to write a book (a one-time endeavor) but then getting royalties from the copies vs. making each individual pot one piece at a time.

3. you are in a field where notoriety (small group fame) can influence price.


It would be easy, for instance, to look at my situation of perpetually selling more than I can make and simply conclude that I need to raise my prices. And there's a cold-and-calculating aspect to that too. That is, if you aren't getting enough for the work then you simply shouldn't be doing either that particular body of work or that career.

Easy said. Not so easily done. There aren't a whole lot of other offers out there. I'm looking, but have been for some time now.

Some of the advice has been to take a job -- any job. I get that. Declare bankruptcy. Sell the house. Rent. Kill the dog and cat. Send the wife off to live with her sister. I get it. I've listened to Dave Ramsey.

Maybe it will come to that. I don't know right now. I'm navigating in the dark. Without a rudder. The other tough reality is waking up at 62 and realizing that my entire life has been dedicated to skills that don't make money -- even if I happened to be better at those skills than the average Joe. That's a tough one. Especially for a cocky guy like me. I'm suddenly the frat boy who is getting his comeuppance at the end of the revenge of the nerds movie. I don't know Jack, but I've always thought I was smart. Guess again.

Additionally, I know I'm going to have to sell this house -- in spite of the fact that when I lose this house, I lose the ability to make a living as a potter (this is where the kiln is).

And like most of my problems, it isn't quite a simple one. For instance, I may or may not be upside down on it. And not knowing that makes it difficult to know exactly how to approach selling it.

See, on the one hand I could paint the very best picture -- if this house was anywhere else in the county (any place other than the industrial park in which it sits) it would easily be worth north of $200K (rural Indiana housing market isn't like big city real estate prices. A million dollars really buys you something around here). And it is one of the most unique properties in the whole county -- it is zoned I-3 BUT it also has a variance for commercial...AND....it is grandfathered in as a residence. That means unlike almost any other acre in all of Warsaw, a buyer could come in here and do any kind of business they wanted AND live here.

Additionally, it is a very attractive property with its historical house, decorative fences, mature trees, nature conservancy across the street. It's got curb appeal.

BUT...

Knowing that the next occupant of this property might very well be an industry that levels the buildings and rebuilds, we've felt somewhat hesitant to improve the place. Add to that the fact that the house is going through the 20 year thing -- needing new furnace, roof, water heater, kitchen....it's just not that attractive to look at as a ready-to-move-into residence.

I don't know how to solve that. Since I'm in debt I can't really do the improvements anyway....but if I can't then, sadly, I lose even more in the sale.

But, yes. We're going to have to sell the place. We can't afford to live here. If I owned it outright I wouldn't even be worried. In fact, if I'd gotten this place paid off before the crash of 2008, I'd be looking at a pretty comfortable retirement of making a reasonable number of pots per year and playing music at the Goshen Jam on the weekends. But that's wishful thinking. That didn't happen. The pots still sell well but the amount of money needed to maintain this level of debt load is just not possible.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Taking a Flyer



With a HUGE helping hand from Nancy Gallagher (who virtually did all the layout work) and my friends who helped with proofing and advice -- Bonnie Blandford, Julie Kradel, Jon Hecker, Don Ament, L.J. Mattingly. And to Sara Laitala who got the ball rolling on the whole thing (whether she knew it or not).
I just got these from the local printing company.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Blowin' Away


You ride the wind right up until 
it suddenly dawns on you that you're chasing it.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

We're IN With The IN Crowd


Dar and I had recently been discussing the fact that we're pretty happy living in Indiana. Oh, we don't have anything really tying us to the area except for a lot of inertia.

We don't have family in Warsaw. There are a few friends we'd miss if we moved away, but being self-employed potters has kept us relatively isolated -- not lots of free time for socializin'

Besides that, though, Indiana
is a safe place to live. You could say that Indiana lacks the spectacular extremes. We don't have mountains. Our "coast" is Lake Michigan, not an ocean. We aren't the hottest in summer or the coldest in winter.

We do have pleasant hills and hardwood forests with dazzling autumn colors. We do have prairie with its wide open spaces and big skyscapes.

But we don't have dangerous, poisonous, vicious animals. One of the few places Dar and I have considered moving is western North Carolina. But we intend to run (optimistically) or walk (realistically) our dogs until the day we die. And I confess it's an intimidating thought to round a bend with a dog on leash and come face to face with a bear.

So, I'm thinking Indiana is a safe and happy place to stay.

Until this morning. While running in the dark along the greenway I heard the rustling of some small animal re-positioning itself on the ground about four feet from me. I'd darn near stepped on it. Flashes of white were all I could detect in the darkness.

I am an old man but I instantly turned into Usain Bolt. Nothing like the threat of a skunk to get you moving in the morning. I went from 0 to 60 instantly.


Today I got lucky. But Indiana is a very dangerous State to live in.


Sunday, September 16, 2018

Doppler Gangers




Rolling Stone Magazine posted yet another "10 Greatest Albums Of The Rock Era" lists.  Nobody agrees with it.

There are only so many ways to express the reality that it is nearly impossible for any popular art form to register the same to any generation other than the one that produced it. 

If it does, it is with a doppler effect of distortion advancing ahead and trailing behind it. Even if a next generation embraces the art, it won't be for the same reasons. The art won't elicit identical feelings down the line. 

And it will be re- and re- and re- interpreted if the original art said much of anything at all to begin with

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The Scales Fall Off

Sunday afternoon I was set up at an art fair in Milwaukee and talking pots with fellow potter, Brian Beam.  For a long time it has vexed me that I lacked a way of explaining what I find so visually pleasing about Jeff Unzicker's large pieces that I don't find similarly appealing in equally large pots.

Thinking out loud with Brian, I think I finally found a way of explaining it. It's the same thing I find so appealing about Jane Graber's work -- as ironic as that may sound if you are aware of both Jane's and Jeff's work.

See, they represent total opposite ends of the size spectrum. While Jeff's pots are monumental, Jane's are miniature. 

But what I find so appealing about both of their pots is that they are proportioned so perfectly that scale is somewhat incidental to the aesthetic appeal. They'd be good pots at any size.  

And neither making a piece huge nor making it tiny will magically transform a poorly considered shape into a beautiful piece of pottery.