There’s nothing new under the sun I was told when studying ceramics. A bowl is a bowl is a bowl. So there should be no need for status envy among artists. With the internet any new idea is quickly consumed by Korean or Chinese manufacturing markets and spat back at us as the new thing.
This year everyone is taken by pastel coloured cups and saucers in old kitchen configurations and as ceramic artists we can all produce that style if we want and if the market demands it. There are some who are more technically proficient at consistent production and I admire them for it and for their dedication to glaze development and clay research to produce a good product. They deserve success. Jumping on the band wagon to produce the latest style is a soul destroying enterprise because there will always be the masters and then endless look alikes all undercut by mass produced product from Asia.
Recently I held a sale at my studio and I put out an array of objects that ranged from what I thought the market wanted to some of my treasures that I have held onto for several years in my studio. I held my breath as some of my favourite objects were picked up and caressed and replaced on shelves and part of me sighed with relief that they were going to stay with me longer, until the buyers returned and gathered them up.
At the bottom of the price range I disposed of smaller items which were test samples for glazes or foot styles, or miniature dimensions of bigger forms. They were what I would refer to as my thinking process. Objects which have been in the studio and handled hundreds of times as I mull over whether the glaze feels nice or should be on an interior or exterior, whether it can take colour additions, whether the colour survived a firing etc. These objects were picked over just as fastidiously and my favourites all went for coin. So even at the bargain end people are making aesthetic decisions and recognizing a creative thought process that they want to connect to. It was gratifying to watch people who had the time to circulate and connect one piece with another and juxtapose disparate pieces to create a new aesthetic for themselves.
All my years of teaching were about helping children to know that they had all the resources they needed for a great life within themselves. The greatest of these resources was imagination and the other was synthesis. Big corporate entities work overtime to stamp this out of us. Billions are spent on campaigns to make us fearful of being different, and at the same time urging us to buy “unique” and prestigious purchases as seen on the big screen and associated with luxury and fame. By creating envy of the luxury classes a viral fever can be promoted that unsettles the human heart and fills us with insecurity
Facebook feeds into this fever with its instruction to “be the first to like this”. Huh? What for?
Being the first to like something or own something is part of the consumer virus that feeds the throw away society. Because just as soon as you have finished paying it off and all those to whom you have passed on the envy virus have propagated and copied you, what you have is no longer unique and you need to throw it away, just in case people think you are copying!
So I have decided that my next year’s work is not going to be about catering to anyone’s taste but my own. There will be less work but with the aim of more exploration. No mass production for me.
The world is divided into two groups those who want to be uniquely the same as everyone else and those who just don’t fit in. I am going to design for the second group. They are my favourite sort of people. The odd bods, the crackpots, the cranky ones, the ones with the most interesting minds. They are the ones who fill me up.