April 20, 2015 § 5 Comments

Fine art is all about the head, an intellectual engagement – it’s a non-contact sport. Craft, on the other hand, is all body, where touch is central. Art is an experience; craft a relationship, and it means nothing without the utility. Tailoring, carpentry, jewellery, pottery – it’s all the same. The relationship is borne out in the ritual of use within the domestic setting.

This domesticity is important to me as a maker of functional ware. The moments when I am at my most glad are when we, as a family, surround the kitchen table on a Saturday or a Sunday lunch or tea-time. There is much noise and laughter, and, when the girls are on form, plentiful singing. Or quiet days when it is just my partner and I, and our youngest, pottering about the kitchen, doing separate things together – making chutney, drawing, tidying. These are glad times, too; some of our favourite. Since I started making pottery, my pots have increasingly been a part of these occasions.

kitchen shelves

The catalyst for using my pottery in our kitchen was my partner – I would have been/was much more reluctant – but from very early on she encouraged them to be used in the house. As you can imagine, I had just started to throw, so the pots were crude to say the least. It was a bold move on her part. It was, though, one of the most supportive things she could have done. It gave me first-hand experience of the objects in use. This is a simple and obvious thing but in the daily use you get a feel for how the aesthetics actually work. It is not, cannot be, a beautiful object if it doesn’t function well. The beauty or elegance is only there when these elements dovetail into one another. So, there are pots in the house that I stay well clear of and others that I gravitate towards. And it gives me enormous encouragement when the table is laid, primarily with Dove Street Pottery ware, the piano is being played, food is brought over and the family dives in…


§ 5 Responses to 20.04.15

  • charlie says:

    art often has a hierachical nature, look and respect but don’t touch, but i think this is a sociological and cultural effect, though absolutly some artists desire it. i, if my memory serves, like you, have a painting background, and although i rationalise it after the fact, i like craft, in particular ceramics because it can embody both the brain and the touch, and is up to a point, devoid of the hierachical complications art gathers around itself.

    also, as always a lovely clarity of thought in your posts, always a pleasure to read.

  • From the comment above I gather that you have a background in painting, which is an establishment art, has been institutionalized as ‘non-functional’, and embraces the virtues that the art world promotes as defining ‘art’. And I have no problem seeing what painting brings to the table as art. Its just not the model upon which all distinguishing characteristics of ‘art’ can be measured.

    Uselessness has become a quality that gets taken as an essential determiner of the fitness of things as art. Unfortunately its a game the art world plays to divide the ‘real art’ from the pretenders, and its only the dogmatism of this narrow definition that holds sway where it is concerned. Potters have the choice of embracing the virtues of ‘craft’ as distinct from ‘art’ or of fighting for a seat at the table and a slice of the respect that the art world doles out so stingily. We can accept the art world’s pronouncements and find a separate way, or deny the exclusivity and make our case in the face of its hypnotizing mythologies and self satisfied class structuring. In my mind there is no reason what you call ‘craft’ isn’t simply a kind of human creativity related to other human creativity, and the exclusivity of art an arbitrary self serving tool to measure the self importance of one side of human creative acts.

    Also, looking at art in this way has the dubious charm of only acknowledging products, the objects of art, which can then be placed in a commodity context and valued on a hierarchical market structure. Value and money become so intertwined that we forget about or ignore the ephemeral things like the creative act itself, the performance, and the ideas rather than the objects. If the gallery can’t pay its bills on that stuff, then how could it be ‘art’? You can’t make a profit on these as easily as their physical manifestations, so of course art seems to matter more as the objects rather than the experiences…… And also, your $32 mug may work just fine in a pottery context, but measured against $5,000 or more paintings its a hard sell to serious investors the galleries cater to…… And it seems this is where the prohibition against pots has the most momentum.

    If we admit that art also lives in the performance as well as the result, things open in an almost unlimited way. Its not just what was made but how it was done. Rather than the marrow canonical media that seem to define ‘art’ in very narrow minds we have a plethora of materials from which to work, because art is no longer tied to a specific activity, its potentially tied to ALL activities. And if you look at it that way you sometimes wonder what besides financial manipulation skyrockets the price of some art over others and biases us against seeing things like pots as ‘art’.

    Its an interesting question, at least…….

    • Hi Carter. Thanks for such a considered response. It has lead me to your blog (very interesting…) and your pots (beautiful…). I love particularly the blue bowls with the green lip. Happy potting (you clearly are…).

  • Ingrid says:

    This is such a great blog post. I have now read it many times and I share with you that the domesticity is very important in my work. I am a potter making functional ware in Norway, and I always try to find the perfect line that keeps mye pots beautiful but still functional. The two caracteristics dont work on theyr own. I read about you in Ceramic Review and will definitely follow you from now on.

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