Monday, October 6

Production, pea and me

Judy Shreeve asked a question in her post about how we work, and I had said that I don't consider myself a production potter. I was thinking this morning though, how true or accurate that is. These photos are the last two days throwing. About two dozen mugs, eight pie plates and about ten dip dishes started. Don't forget the sixteen or so square casseroles and five bird feeders I just finished. I work like this all the time. You might notice that not only are there multiples of everything, but they are very similar to each other. So what does that mean? Am I a production potter?

I guess I don't think of myself that way because 1. I don't want to, and 2. My goal is not for the pieces to be identical. The only thing they have in common with eachother is a similar form and the weight of each piece, but the heights vary somewhat, as do the diameters of their openings. And I want them that way. I guess I think of production as precise and mechanical. Without a lot of flexibility. I'm not going to write too much more about this now, mostly because I have to get working, but it's something to think about. If anyone has any ideas on the subject it would be interesting to hear them.

So, on a more personal note, I found a great Pea jacket at the thrift store yesterday for 25$. It's in great shape and fits perfectomundo. It is navy blue. Not to be confused with my shorter, pleated in the back, girly-style, black Pea jacket you see below. I love these coats I think because they are as at home over something kind of dressed up as they are over jeans and a t-shirt. The funny thing about this though, and the reason I am posting about it, is that I found this jacket just a couple of days after I read this post from a blog (avert your eyes if you are easily offended) called "Stuff White People Like". An entire post could probably be written about the site and whether it is offensive or whatever, but I just think it's pretty funny, and strangely accurate about, well, white people. At least those living in New England.


cookingwithgas said...

I was following the conversation about being a production potter and how folks felt about that. Having spent most of my life in Seagrove where pottery has been made continuously for about 300 years- lame if you are from China or Japan- but there is an unbroken line here among some of the families. Dot Auman was a production potter and her definition of that was someone who just stayed with the wheel and made the pots. She did not glaze nor did she fire kilns. Her husband Walter did this job along with mixing all the glazes, digging and making clay. She considered me and many of us “studio potters”. This was her definition of a studio potter- someone who does all the steps taking the pot from the clay to the finished piece without anyone else involved with the process.
Now, I think things are a combination of both. Do you work from a list? Do you have things you make all the time? Do you make pots in series?
Working production does give you a good set of skills. It can be the ground work to taking a pot beyond just something with a hole in it. I am amazed daily what folks are doing with clay and how the bar for handmade goes up continuously.
Does it matter if you label yourself production or not? I think most of us are studio potters and if we are lucky find a way to sell our work. The final transaction between you and the customer is as valuable as the making- you are sharing what you do.
Keep making – because you have to.
On that note- I’d better go glaze….
Love the coat takes me back to wearing my fathers……

Deborah Woods said...

I'm not too concerned with defining myself as production or not -I guess I more wonder how someone else would define it, the term, or how they think of themselves.

I think of myself as a studio potter, mainly because I am not trying to repeat forms exactly, and my desire and emphasis is more on being creative.I think some other potters who could be considered studio potters are at the other extreme and create mainly one-offs.

By the way-if I had to sit at the wheel all day, every day, and just throw pots-I don't know, I think I'd be very unhappy. A little too factory for my taste.

Judy Shreve said...

This topic still really interests me as well. Thanks for keeping up the conversation. I agree with 'cookingwithgas' - in her definition of production potter & just had not thought to define it that way. That potter who just sits at the wheel is definitely a production potter -- and those of us who do all our own studio duties are 'studio potters.' Sure makes sense.

But I'm still contemplating working from lists & making a 'line of work.' I don't want my pieces to all look the same either - but I'm working toward getting better at the forms I make and in that I've decided to limit the number of forms I make - weigh the clay needed & try to create the same form - not the exact form. And also to work with a smaller glaze palette.

And most importantly I hope to still stay engaged & creative within the limits I've set for myself.

Ben Stark said...

Quite the interesting discussion. I would have to agree with the definition to some degree, but I don't necessarily think that production potters can't do the other parts as well. A studio potter that makes an exact line of work and makes pieces to near exact specifications can be both a studio and production potter. I also don't think that being a production potter limits the ability to be creative--change may not be as quick, but a gradual change in design would happen. But these are just my two cents and worth maybe less :)

That blog cracked me up! I'll be heading back over there when I've got a little more time to read. As a white person, I can say that I'm not offended one bit. Then again, I'm not offended easily.

Deborah Woods said...

Hmmm. Now I am more unsure then ever of the difference. I went to school with this guy who is a local potter and is very, very successful. I think of him as a production potter. He creates mass quantities of items,lots of wholesale, etc. He has help with bookwork and glazing from his wife, but does everything else. So that would technically make him a studio potter according to some definitions.

Then I think of someone, say Sylvie Granattelli (I'm way off on spelling). I think of her as a studio potter, but I know she sometimes has an apprentice helping, so let's say all she has to focus on is throwing and trimming. Maybe the helper does the grunt work. Well then that would technically classify (hate to use that word) her as a production potter according to one definition.

Whatever, it doesn't really matter. I guess I just realized with some surprise today, that although I detest the idea of being a production potter, that in reality I work somewhat in that vein. I've just spent too much time in factories when I was younger, and I don't ever want to put myself in the position of doing repetative work, in a beat the clock kind of way.

Linda Starr said...

Hope it's ok to ramble a bit here. Someone once said to me, "You're just a production potter". This (I think) because I was making many more pieces compared to the others taking the same 6 week workshop at a studio. Each one of my pieces (slab built) was completely different than the other, i.e., one casserole, one cup, one vase, one plaque, one mask, etc, etc. I felt it was said in a derogatory way, like a production potter wasn't as respected or revered as a studio potter or a ceramist who made only artistic works and not functional pieces.

Since that time I have been confused at the term production potter. I started thinking maybe a production potter was someone who made only functional ceramics, or someone who made lots of functional ceramics perhaps sets of dishes or sets of cups or perhaps one who made wares to sell and make money. Not someone who made only "artistic" pieces to put in a gallery or enter a show etc. Now I see no matter what the piece of ceramics is, they are all artistic and since they are hand made they aren't production.

The word production seems to signify an assembly line of wares going along in a factory, perhaps produced from a mold. But even mold poured forms can be non production - for instance the recent Sandra Black workshop I took - she pours her forms from a mold, but the mold was made from an original form she threw and each is poured or carved differently and individually.

It seems the term production potter has a small underlying disparaging connotation and production potters are thought of as a little less artistic than studio potters. Now I don't feel this way myself, but I get the feeling from some others that they feel this way - like there is less artistic value in those pieces that are produced as multiples. Some of this comes from other ceramic artists and some of this comes from the fact that folks uneducated about ceramics processes don't realize how much goes into making a piece of ceramics whether it be made on the wheel, a mold, slab built or otherwise.

So for now I don't like the term production potter; I like ceramist, potter, artist, studio potter, or ceramic artist, the last being my favorite.

cookingwithgas said...

In Seagrove there are several potters who I consider production potters. They work shop to shop making anywhere from 1.25 a pound to 2.50 a pound. They work for potters here making the production ware. I’m with you DW I could not work this way. Although one potter who does takes off and spend 2 months a year in Italy. That I would like!
In answer to your original question:
We work from a list every firing.
We weight or actually we measure, we have a pug mill and every 2” is a pound.
We throw in cycles – three weeks for throwing.
Then a week for glazing, fire, cool, unload, clean-up and do it again.
We find most customers or visitors think we are only working if we are throwing. They don’t consider anything else work. Boy- how far off is that!

Deborah Woods said...

Interesting ideas everyone. I guess it all depends on individual perception.

brandon phillips said...

people ask me if i'm a production potter, i say no, i'm a productive potter.

Deborah Woods said...

I like that a lot Brandon. I think I'm stickin' with it.