Friday, March 28, 2008

Thoughts on Craft and Art

Ok so I am now down to the nitty gritty. Glazing all these pots I have made here with new clays and new glazes. Flexibility, that is the key. You would think after 30-35 years or however long I have been doing this that I would know exactly what I am doing. Does any one ever know in clay what "on earth" is going on?
I am doing two kinds of firing. One cone 6 and one cone 10 reduction. I will leave the best pieces here for a show after I am gone and try and figure out how to safely and cheaply get the others home fast enough. I will mail some clothes home and hope the airline does not crash through my bags like they did on the way over here and they broke 2 pots. Airline security strikes again. Can't they just do it more carefully?
I using some bright Amoco glazes reflecting all the greens and reds I see here. I was supposed to be sent a flat Spectrum black matt, did not come, mixed on from Lana Wilson's book I have never tried before. I have my fingers crossed that I like these pieces and they don't become beach shards.

Next question:
How do I make art not craft? What is the difference, really?

Ok, it is easy to tell crappy craft stuff like concrete ducks dressed in doll clothes. But what about my southeast pottery heritage where craft is not a bad word and is part of art? For example, the incredible schools I attended, Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts. no blue ducks there! Penland School of Arts and Crafts, an incredible community of craft people at the school and living in the community. Craft is not a bad word there and can hold its own to any arty farty statements.

I love art. I love craft. I always thought the simple explanation was the crafts people actually liked each other, enjoyed life as they did their work and were less negatively competitive and might have some fine quality work that someone actually wanted to buy and might be able to make a living selling it. It is kind of the anti snob approach but a bit unfair.

Shall I elaborate and get myself in trouble? Why not? Or, have a fun time stereotyping us all.

Artists may not be craftspeople but craftspeople may be artists? Not exactly.
I don't usually think of the painter as a craftsman.
The artist and the craftsperson both use the same elements of design and need to communicate a message.
The craftsman must constantly bow to the artist and explain they are a quality craftsperson not the potholder maker or the cement duck lady and of course the rick rack in their booth was somebody else's idea of a good display.
Crafts people get and give more hugs than the pure artist and may wear funkier clothing with less spikes.
Artists get into galleries more often and the better fairs as well, once again putting the chunkier craftsperson in their place.
Craftspeople attend more potlucks with brown rice, tofu egg salad and large bottles of cheaper wine. Artists are found at smaller gatherings wishing more people had come to the opening but drinking a more expensive wine and probably finding a craftspersons handmade plate with brie on it.
Artist get more headaches and stomach aches as they look for complex problems to worry about and can't seem to get the big picture that life is sweet if you make it that way.
Craftspeople are relatively happy settled in, don't need adderal but should definitely exercise more and move a little faster.
Artists studios smell worse with irritating chemical smells but craftspeople are messier and have more dust of various sorts on everything to the point of being a health risk.
Artists have nice shoes and expensive boutique clothing.
Craftspeople buy expensive shoes but stand more and have sore feet. There clothing is more likely to natural materials like cotton and flax but they usually find it in a thrift store.
Artists are smartellicks craftspeople are smart asses.

Whoops got off the subject. What is art and what is craft? Who are artists and who are craftspeople?

Shall I stop avoiding the question?

I looked at my pots and thought, how can I make art and not craft. I can only begin to understand how I might try to make this happen.
First, don't just whip them out to get a lot complete without thinking about how they work as a unit. When I make little bowls I want them to look like I had an idea. I want them to be small work of art in the cabinet you want to pick up and use every chance you can.
Some will suggest a nature object, some simple bright spots of Hawaiian color. They won't be some ordinary rushed piece of clay to only fill a need. I divided them into areas of like minded forms, wanting to be part of a group and may be purchased together if the customer can afford to buy more so they have more impact. I wanted this group to feel more special so I put a symbol on the bottom kind of like a palm tree top scribbled and I put a gold rim on nearly every one. I want them to glow with color.
Some of my tea bowls have sentences on them saying how I felt that day I made them.
My favorite piece is my seven series of the lady flying to Hawaii with land and ocean. It is a little heavy and I am thankful I could take it out of the bisqued kiln with no explosions today. I have some other favorites based on the seed pods and they will come out of the glaze firing tomorrow.
I tried to make all my work here a work of art. Some are less complex in their message and thought but each was carefully "crafted" and some were thrown back in the slip bucket. A couple of the figures I made were too tormented looking and I tossed them. Yes, the quality control squad of my mind walked through and said, "No, stop it. That figure is just butt ugly. Dump it back in the bucket."

Now the problem is shipping. My bank account is still on low fuel and I need to have all the non-Hawaiian show pots back in Tulsa for the herb festivals They have to cost more because it has cost so much to produce them and get them home. If I bring them in my suitcase and mail my clothes the airline will not insure them. They broke 2 things rummaging through my suitcase on the way over here.
I will get some home that way in boxes and bubble wrap in my suit case. I may send some FedEx and pay big bucks unless the freight out costs the pots value.
Steve F said he would build me a giant box with a pallet box lift on it and we can ship it by sea and that would cost about $250 or so.
"Yes Houston we have a problem."
OVAC has grants to help with shipping but I still have not written an artists statement and all the other stuff you have to send in to get it and that seems very difficult right now. We may have the show in Tulsa as well for the pieces I leave here. Maybe OVAC would help with that if I have time to write a grant and if my block has not sold and is still in tack.
It all feels overwhelming but I will figure it out.
It is just "Bird by Bird." First, tomorrow I will see my new pots finished for the first time. Next, I will finish glazing. Third i will wonder why I made so much.
I just hope I made some impressive art.

1 comment:

  1. I used to fret over the difference between craft and art more. But I've been opening up myself to the notion of craft being more than wooden ducks and repetitious makings of things that sell. It is definitely different than the high arts, like painting or sculpture, but craft has it's place and we are all somewhere in between at any given time, an artist and a craftsman.