Owning it. Indeed, I think you are owning what you do. It's easy to fall into the lure of wanting to make other people's pots.... Brandon Phillips
Brandon has a thought provoking post on his blog this morning that has gone ahead and opened up a can of worms that I have been stewing on for weeks. I AM owning my work right now. I don't look at other people's work for inspiration, I don't take elements of their work and use the lame excuse that "I made it my own", which is bullshit (except for the feet on my barns, which Judith Duff helped me with in a workshop I did with her, they are very much like the feet she puts on her baskets, but she taught me how to make them so is that fair? or should I change the feet to keep this post real?) anyway I 'm getting off track here.
These barns came from dreams I have, they came from my soul, they came from my grandparents, they did not come from a blog I read or someone's website or google images, and then got inspiration from. They are barns that potters hold and admire, which makes my heart soar, they are pieces that I give to galleries and they sell and I have a proud moment, they are barns I watch people buy because they connect with them, they invoke a memory or represent a cherished place in their heart. So you are damn right, I am proud of them and I would prefer to not look on the internet and see elements of them in other people's work, which is now starting to happen and this is causing me to not want to make them anymore. However, it is also causing me to want them to get better, different, more complicated so they are mine and they can only be mine because they came from my soul and not from a photograph of someone else's work that I was "inspired" by.
Functional pottery is different. There is the tradition of pots that apprentices follow and there is a clear understanding, here is how you make this cup, now go make hundreds of them.... or you follow in the tradition of the greats from the past, carrying on the lineage of greatness, nothing wrong with that and it has to be that way, so that we will have these beautiful things to use in our home, we can't use museum pieces in our home, but we can use things of similar looks. It is the thought of the maker not the thought of who inspired that maker that comes to mind when you use a piece by a particular potter.
But the work I do is personal, it comes from somewhere deep inside me and when I see very similar work of mine on someone else's sculptures, it makes me crazy and I want to say mean things on my blog, but then I don't because I hate that feeling of cringing just before I click on my comments link and then have to read responses to things I probably should have just kept to myself or shared with a trusted friend. But I have stewed long enough and like I said Brandon's blog opened this up so here it is.
People.....don't look at other people's work and long to make it, go make your own work! Look at the work of people that are dead, look out the window of your car, look at other mediums, go to the damn museum, look inside yourself, but don't look at the websites of artists that pour their hearts into their work and then add so much of their work to yours that it isn't really yours.
I bought one of Brandon's little jars that I love and use everyday. One day I sat down at the wheel with it in front of me and tried to make one. My thought was that I would raku fire it and it would look nothing like Brandon's work, I just loved the shape. It was ridiculous, it looked very much like the jar in front of me, but it wasn't mine and it felt so out of place with all of my other work, so that's the last time I longed to make work like other potters. Now I just long to OWN all of the work I love, after all that's one of the reasons I love the work, because of the person that made it. We all make interesting things because of who WE are, not because of whose work we copied or were "inspired" by. I'm not directing this to any one person reading my blog and don't intend to offend anyone, I'm just having to let off some steam before I explode!
So look inside yourself, make work you are proud to own, and know that it is YOURS!!!!