Making Flowery Pots in Tough Times: Real Talk May 28 2015
I love what I do. I am currently surrounded by 80-100 pots that came out of the kiln this week. I have lined them all up on my studio tables so that I can sand the bottoms smooth, price sticker and pack them to take to my show this weekend, Handmade Harvest. I can't tell you how satisfying it is to see the fruits of my labour and to have three back-to-back, super successful kiln firings. The past three months have been heavy in production for me and though it has been stressful at times (including the kiln needing expensive repairs and our beloved cat passing away after 17 glorious years) but this practice of keeping my hands busy has made it all manageable. It's been a minimum of 12 hr days, 6-7 days a week and through this hard work my pots are made and my sculptures for the mentorship group show are complete. Sigh of relief...
With ceramics, your hands are always busy but at times your mind can wander. One thing I always carry in the back on my mind is that being able to do this work is an incredible privilege, yet I'm doing it during a time when the world is pretty much in shambles. Perhaps not the earth, it will prevail over us in the long run, but civilization might be. I sometimes have to laugh nervously when a customer says, "Cute pots!" because my mental response is sometimes, "Thanks, I was thinking about what an uncertain future the human race has while I made that!"
Hey, are you still reading this? Ok. Good. Moving forward, the big, bad questions of: Does the world need more stuff? Is there a way to make this work without burdening the planet? How am I preparing or helping my community to deal with hardships to come by making art?
It's a crunchy subject that no one enjoys. I had to block it out for the past few years to be able to actually make art, but many of us are pondering this as we work away. What I've found that there aren't always good answers to these questions but I'd rather think them than keep creating mindlessly. Of course, life has a funny way of giving you answers if you pay close attention. Just this morning I saw that NCECA posted Malcolm Davis' 2010 lecture in which he touches on this very subject. For him, clay was inevitable but his belief in social justice work was always there behind the scenes. If you've been pondering how your tiny studio art practice relates to the larger (pretty scary) issues of today's world, listen in around the 36 min mark (then go back and take in the entire thing. It's fantastic!)
Real talk. Art talk. Let me know if you're also working your way through these big questions as you grow your art practice.
"Art restores hope." Malcolm Davis
Leslie Fruman on May 28 2015 at 05:37PM
Such a thoughtful post, and I will watch the video. But here are my thoughts right off: Your work makes people smile – and it makes their food taste better – important and useful antidotes against a world in crisis. I make pots too – but I don’t feel like my pots have to be soldiers in the fight, or part of a call to action – they are a retreat from chaos. To help save the world, there’s volunteer work in the community – along with reading, writing, voting, and staying on top of things. But in the meantime, keep making pretty pots. They will help people cope.
Therese on May 28 2015 at 12:46PM
Yes! I often sit at my desk completely absorbed in an illustration and then think, what am I doing this for? I’m working hard, and I’ve made sacrifices and the people I love have to live with these sacrifices, and it’s just a children’s book! So what? Sometimes it feels selfish and I feel guilty, particularly when things are going well and it doesn’t feel like “work”. I guess we just have to think that these small things can have a small impact in a big way on people’s lives. These beautiful things that we make balance out all the awful things going on in the world. I know that when I buy a work of art, I marvel at how complex and intelligent and magical human beings can be.