You’re not a potter, if

A few years ago at NCECA, Milwaukee I was on a panel with Mark Hewitt, Lisa Hammond, Mary Ann Steggles to discuss “Where Have all the Potters Gone?
Mark during the discussion said that if you didn’t make all your money from your pots you were not a potter!
Well after the panel I’m swaggering down the street and come face to face with a smart mouthed friend of mine Chiho Tokita. She gives me this great big grin and says “Soooooooo, Tony Clennell you’re not a potter! You don’t make all your money from your pots! You teach, do workshops and peddle your million selling book Stuck in the Mud. I thought for a moment and said “You’re absolutely right, I don’t make all my money from my pots so I guess I’m not a potter.  I’m just a weekend potter that didn’t realize the weekend was over.
I had a teacher back some 40 years ago Roger Kerslake a British trained potter that made and still makes great porcelain fluted t-pots. Once a visiting David Leach said to Roger- your teapots look a lot like mine only they are better! A high compliment I’d say. Roger thought that you could judge a potter’s skill by their teapot. It has to be interesting and it surely has to work. Probably the most sophisticated functional item a potter is called upon to make. So secretly in the back of my mind is this notion –you’re not a potter, if you don’t make a nice teapot”.  The teapot is the gold standard by which I still judge a potter. I remember very early in my career staring at a very strong and wonderful teapot by Peter Voulkos.
I plan to stay at home this week so I shouldn’t run into smart mouths here in my town. Home sweet home.
I figure when I get older the teapot is a form that is small enough to keep making. When my teapots start looking terrible I will quit.
When you are dissatisfied and want to go back to your youth
Think algebra – Will Rogers

PS: If you want my answer to where have all the potters have gone refer to my million selling book  Stuck in the Mud and read the last two articles.


Cyndi said…
Tony, I remember getting ready to attend your workshop in La Meridiana. I read that our first task in the course would be to make a couple of teapots. I knew that this would show you the competency of our attendees. For me, before attending your class, our friend, Hopper, let me attend his workshop, his advice was to be quiet and keep my eyes open. So, I made three teapots before heading to Italy. Yes, you did make us create a teapot early in the workshop. I remember hearing Vicki say 'I love making teapots. I have a shop who sells several of mine." I remember sitting at the wheel in Italy telling myself, "yup, you don't make teapots. But, I have had good teachers with great traditions "listen to their voices." From there, we had a great two weeks together. I learned a lot. Made life long friends. Did what our friend "Grass" suggested with regard to travel, looking, and learning. Thank you, Tony ( and Sheila).
Wyndham said…
A person, lost in the desert, nearly dead from thirst, stumbles upon a watering hole with an intricately decorated clay dipper for water. As he picked it up he began to study the patterns his mind went to the internal discussion in his head of art vs function. He debated with himself whether the maker of the dipper was an artist or a mere crafts person If it were art, it should be in a museum and handled with great care, with white gloves and only the most well educated curator should be allowed to handle such an item.
If on the other hand, it were made by someone who toils daily making 100's of these per day, then as a common utilitarian piece. he could use it without feeling guilty of a sacrilege.
This debate went on for some time til he keeled over and died from thirst.
Chris Snedden said…
Brilliant! And that is exactly the consequence of that useless debate. Good one!
George Ouimette said…
Agree with Chris. Not worth addressing.
Earl and Vickie said…
I love Mark Hewitt pots, but not the exclusionary club he apparently belongs to. Just like I hated art philosophy in college where the majors sat on their sanctimonious butts and implied they were better equipped to discern the "meaning" of the art then the hand, heart and brain that actually made it. Let each individual pot stand on its own merits.
Rick Berman said…
My two cents worth of what I think about the art vs. craft mumbo jumbo. I think that all of the forms, ie. painting, drawing, photography, jewelry, sculpture, glass, ceramics, leather, wood, etc. are all crafts, but occasionally ART can emerge through any of these disciplines. It can't really be explained, except to say that there are gifted people in every field. Rick Berman

Popular Posts