Wednesday, October 30, 2019

City of Brotherly...Questions

My brothers mostly don't get me. They all followed more "professional" paths (one's a pilot, one's a periodontist, one's an accountant). My world seems strange to them.

Upon seeing me sharing my potter-friend's images on facebook, one brother asked me:

"I wonder after seeing some other peoples' pottery on your website .. to what extent do you have to "stay in your lane" in your designs?"

His question already betrays a businessman's "product" perspective of the pottery. Commodity. Objects for sale in a competitive market. That's the world as he sees it.

I answered:

.... On the one hand, there's lots of sharing. Something you learn pretty early on in pottery is that you make yourself an island at your own risk. Clay is taken right out of the ground and, as such, one acre of clay isn't the same as the previous acre. There are always materials problems to solve. Heck, I've lost the better part of a year's production when feldspar started being pulled out of a different section of the mine.

So, there's a great attitude of sharing among potters. If you don't share information when others are struggling and trying to solve clay problems, you're going to be on your own when you suffer your own clay problems.

With some potters there's a clearly shared influence -- like "schools" -- so that some potters' work can look similar to others'.

Additionally, glaze recipes are handed down in a very folk-traditional way. So, many of us use the same glazes. Of course, our idiosyncratic kilns make it so that the same glaze isn't always recognizable as the same.

But at it's core, most potters I know are part business man and part artist. I heard someone describe mankind as having two basic drives: Security and significance.

I think that what drives the potters I know is the significance thing. And because of that, outright copying at the level of shows I do is pretty minimal. There's not much personal significance to be derived from outright imitation.

Like the moon's light we'll shine
Many a time
But like the sun's?
Maybe once.

There are a few obvious exceptions, but most of us got where we are by being recognized as unique. That also means that nobody is going to climb the ladder to the top using the same rungs we used to get here. It wouldn't work.

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