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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Owning it

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!!!!





28 comments:

Scott Garrett said...

Hi Tracey, it's been a long time since commenting here, you usually already have so many comments i don't feel the need to add anything! The thing is no matter how much others take bits of your work and use them in their own work, they will never know what to do next! but Tracey will! It's been happening forever in the illustration world, but the original follows their own path, often changing quite drastically at times, the copyist forever churns out their work that is now decades old and stale.
I say go let them! It's their limitation, you're getting on with your own visions.
There's an interesting bit in that Paul Arden book i recommended on my blog. I don't have it to hand, but it basically says remember those kids at school with their hands over their work or a propped up book hiding their work. Well' they're not sharing, they're already limiting themselves. Share ideas put it all out there, more ideas will come and most of it has been done already somewhere/sometime.
That's enough for now! It was great to follow your travels and the hook up with my fellow Brits. You work's looking great. Lead the way, but don't worry too much about protecting the past (i know it doesn't stop us getting a bit angry about it though!)

Kings Creek Pottery said...

I've been wondering when you were going to speak up on this one!!

When people create work that evokes the qualities we wish/want/aspire to evoke that work becomes inspirational. The thing is we cannot copy the SOUL of the work. That comes from within the artist and your work clearly comes from a place deep within you. Soul cannot be copied and therefore causes your work to be uniquely yours.

I agree with Scott and his analogy about hiding/sharing work. Stay true to yourself and do what your heart and soul cry out to do.

That said~ I am one of those people who strive to get my work to evoke the same spirit and fullness that John Bauman achieves with his pots...BUT I will not be making any pumpkin casseroles ;)

There are challenges to becoming a leader, even when you did not "ask" for it...but there are also oh, so many opportunities! You have a gift, Tracey~ try not to lose sight of that...and trust that we can see the differences in you work and work that is striving to be like yours.

Lori Buff said...

They say that imitation is the best complement (or something like that). So take the complement. Your work should grow and progress with the same soul that started it, don't change it because someone is copying it, change it because you as an artist are growing.
I am fortunate enough to attend many potters workshops and most of them will talk about their inspiration, often it's printmaking or fabric or something like that. So you're right, copying another artist may help with technique but the master is the person that's being copied.

DirtKicker Pottery said...

It's all been done Tracy. When I come up with something that I think is original, I do a search to make sure there isn't someone else doing the exact same thing. I also put my copyright on it to discourage blatant copying.
There is nothing you can do about people working off your ideas. The best thing is keep doing your thing the way you do it, because no one else can put your feelings into their own work and in the end, that's what makes the work your own.

cindy shake said...

Oooo the girl who kicked the hornet's nest!!!

I've been ripped off so many times that even my customers now "police" for me -I gave up!! It's a compliment, it means you are a leader no longer a follower -forge ahead, if an artist does have a REAL STYLE and is truly making ENOUGH of that form others will see it. How many bowls, yunomi cups, platters, tea pots, barns, bird houses, tiles, sgrifitto black birds and fish, blah, blah blah have we seen?? Remember, there is no such thing as an original idea...

Michèle Hastings said...

i agree with Dirt Kicker that it's all been done before, clay has been around a long time. i wouldn't worry about the fact that someone else showed you how to make the feet on your barns... when you do them, they are your own.
techniques and styles have been passed down for centuries, whether it is functional or sculptural.
everyone touches clay differently.

HENHOUSE POTTERY said...

Utah is culturally not a good market for potters (or any other artists who make "unecessary" items). It is a thrifty state and people don't want to spend their disposable income on art. I used to take that as a negative but now view it as a positive. I used to feel like I worked in a vacuum, but having a small pottery community here really forced me to create a style all my own because there weren't other potters right there working with me to copy or take ideas from. I agree with you that you have to make your work your own, and I also agree with Cindy that inevitably people are going to copy what you are doing, particularly if you are selling work or if your work becomes popular. The trick is that when you are the originator of the idea or style, you are moving forward to the next level with that idea, while others are still just trying to learn how you got where you were when you started.

Tracey Broome said...

You guys are all very correct and the advise and comments are most appreciated!!!! I try very hard when I see something I like in another artist to be careful and not include that in my own work, I want to respect the artist that came up with that. I know a house is a house, and a color is a color and yes there are black crows on a whole bunch of pottery out there! I don't own the world and I love sharing a good idea, I never was the kid hiding my paper, I was,it is sad to say, letting everyone copy off me because I felt sorry for them (mostly the cute boys). The fact is that when you see something coming pretty close to your own work, it makes you more competitive, just like newspapers used to be and so it pushes me to try harder, make it better, make it more complicated, and this is a good thing, it's making my brain work hard. truthfully though, I'm lazy and I was happy clicking along without a care and now I have to push it to the next place! Oh well, peace everyone :)

Kings Creek Pottery said...

The universe works in funny ways~

Hollis Engley said...

Many years ago, when I had only been trying to make pots for a few year, I was with two longtime professional potters, going to visit my first teacher, Dennis Davis. Dennis started his professional life doing something quite different from pottery, but in his second career he found himself making pots. He studied at Penland for a time with Byron Temple, and his work was influenced by Byron. But Dennis made lovely, precise pots and he was a nice man. One of the two potters I was with that day had worked as a young man with Byron and regarded him as his mentor. As we walked to Dennis's studio, this potter denigrated Dennis, saying his work was "ripping off Byron." Dennis was doing nothing "original" to himself and this one potter clearly regarded him as less of an artist or creator for that. I was particularly struck by this attitude, because Byron's influence was so clear in the work of that critical potter. And so what if that was true? He had taken what he learned and made it his own, and had become a success. As, I thought, Dennis had.
Do we think that no one influences us? That ideas drop like angels from heaven onto only one of us? That our idea of a handle has never, ever, ever been used by someone else? Or our brushwork? Or the foot of a teabowl? Come on, people. Pots have been made for thousands of years. Tens of thousands of years. Michael Cardew made pots like the old country slipware potters of England. Hamada, Bernard Leach, Richard Batterham, Phil Rogers, Lisa Hammond, Mike Dodd, Jane Hamlyn, John Leach, Warren McKenzie, Jeff Oestreich all make pots within a certain wide tradition. So, in another tradition, do Doug Fitch, Hannah McAndrew, Matt Grimmit, Ron Geering, Paul Jessop. And hundreds of others. They make their own pots, not someone else's, even if elements of their pots have been made by someone else, or some other culture, yesterday or a thousand years ago. So the f--- what?
Someone in Japan came up centuries ago with the basic Shino glaze that I use all the time. Do I just give it up because I didn't invent it? Or the temmoku I use? Or the wheel I bought? Someone else might actually try to invent all those things for him/herself. Not me. I'll take the tools I have and the ideas I've absorbed and move from there to make pots I love. The hardest thing we do if we're professionals is to make pots we love that other people will buy.
It's a short life, folks.

Tracey Broome said...

Well said Hollis and Kathy! Hollis your post could be a whole other day of blogging! Lots to chew on there.

Michèle Hastings said...

if this were facebook i would "like" Hollis' comment :-)
very well said and i couldn't agree more.

Tracey Broome said...

I hear ya Michele, I "like" it too!
No Facebook for me though :)

ang said...

vent away girl :)) not gonna write an epic response just know that i'm smiling enjoying the rhetoric....

Noah said...

This just seems like a whole mess of crazy to me. I can't believe I'm the only one after 14 comments to defend Tracey's original post. Right on, Tracey, with those sentiments. There's a difference between influence and imitation. It's real, and I don't believe most of us don't know it.

Why muddy the water about that? I don't facebook, and I wouldn't "like" it if I did. Tracey made a point of excusing functional work (I wouldn't), anyway. So what was that for?

Not trying to start a fight on here, honestly. I just think it sucks if no one one can see her point.

I saw your show at the Crafts Gallery today, Tracey! It's really beautiful. Anyone who can should go see it.

Tracey Broome said...

Noah!! xoxoxo!! Thank you :)
but I do agree with a lot that was said and I think that this is a good issue for all of us to keep in mind. It is so easy to look at someone's work and let parts of it sneak in when you are just starting, but there does come a time when you need to have you very own voice. I didn't take anyone's comments as not defending my post, just expressing their own feelings, which I do invite here. Nice to hear I have a fellow non facebooker, thought I was all alone out here! Glad you saw the show, I'm really happy with it! Yours was awesome too, I got to see it last week, very happy to have followed you at the gallery!

Hollis Engley said...

Hey, Noah. I'm not arguing against Tracey's argument. I think she's right. I'm just trying to expand the conversation a bit. She doesn't need any defending from me.

Tracey Broome said...

Hey Hollis, I totally got your point and did not think you were arguing my point at all. I like the conversation this has opened and welcome everyone's view on it. I have a tough skin :) and Noah I think your work rocks, no way anyone is going to be able to imitate that shit!!! thanks for checking in here.

TropiClay Studio said...

Hi Tracey. Just wanted to put my penny's worth out there. I am still trying to find my way around in this world of clay. I try and copy other's work just to try and find out "what does it take to get the clay to do that?" I haven't sold any of those, just gave them out as gifts, but the point is I am doing a LOT of different shapes and forms just to get used to moving the clay. And... I must confess, I have a long way to go. At this point I am still experimenting... "what would this look like with this type of rim, or that shape to the belly" using forms I have seen here or there. (Unfortunately) I almost never get a finished product that looks even remotely like what I was looking at. One of these days I will be able to look at what came off the wheel and say "it's mine!"
I know you will understand when I say that I am not just happy to play in clay... I "HAVE" to play in clay! It's like breathing, or eating.

Michèle Hastings said...

Noah- i think if you read through the comments you would see that there are comments of agreement with Tracey.
Tracey writes posts that make us think and discuss, i believe she wants to hear everyones opinions and encourages the exchange of ideas and thoughts.

Tracey Broome said...

Yep!

carter gillies said...

I totally understand your outrage about feeling someone is reproducing 'your' work. Bad on whoever that may be if they are doing it intentionally. But I also think we sometimes can't see where our influences are coming from and so accidentally end up making things that relate to ideas we've already digested. And we can't always help it. Some of this stuff is just there in the background of how we think and what we do.

I also think it is possible to start from different places and end up doing exactly the same thing. Just think how often we quote something someone else said because it exactly reflects how we feel about things? So sometimes it doesn't even matter who said it first, who the original was. Thinking the same things, believing in the same things is just an inevitable part of being human.

In the end I think we should be careful not to entirely copy from other people but that we still have permission to be influenced. Its not always where you get the ideas from but what you do with them. And we don't need to stick our heads in the sand and ignore all the good stuff that's out there. We don't need to reinvent the wheel every time all on our own. I think we'd go crazy if we needed to be that original.

There may just be a limit on how different some details can be, and variations are bound to look similar. I checked g00gle images for "ceramic houses" and there were 5 million 400 thousand entries. And that's just images that have been uploaded on the internet. Some of course are irrelevant, but the point is that ceramic houses are nothing new and there is no sense in beating ourselves up if we didn't get there first.

As long as you are doing what you like, taking it in your own direction, as far as I am concerned you are owning it. Love what you do. Be grateful of the wealth of cool stuff you share with others. Be humble about where some of your ideas come from. Be gracious and generous with others. And be the best artist you can be. I think YOU are owning everything you do. I totally admire what you've got going on.

Keep up the good work!

Linda Starr said...

remember when I posted the photo of the church in Texas, I wanted to make it in clay at the time, but being in the RV, I thought I'd wait till we got settled since I didn't think it would handle all the movement in the RV. I also wanted to make a log cabin like the one Gary's grandfather built of wood and a barn like the one we had in Arkansas and like the hundreds of ones I've taken photos of over the years. I was also inspired to make a city scape scene to put on the wall. Perhaps because we were, in a sense, homeless at the time, wanting a new place to live, I thought of making buildings. Then you were off and running with your barns, your dwellings, and I thought to myself, if I make something like that everyone will think I'm copying Tracey. So does that mean I shouldn't make what I was inspired to make back then. I don't think so and I may get to those past inspirations one of these days. I know we've all seen those tourist type houses in gift shops which are probably made from molds, there are so many renditions of homes, houses, barns, buildings, dwellings.

I thought someone will probably copy my idea about flowers after I posted a few of them and I have so many more in the drying cabinet. Then today on the side of your blog I saw a sunflower platter by Cindy and, guess what, I have something similar in my drying cabinet, similar, not the same. So does that mean I copied her since I haven't posted mine? No, and I don't think Cindy copied me either. I don't own all the flowers, I can't because they're part of everyone's life, everywhere around the worldl But I do own mine, I'm making them because I love them and they've been a big part of my life. To me they symbolize the goodness I want to see more of in the world, in life for myself and for others, the happiness and the beauty I wish for others to know and see, the brightness many need during these times of things not so very bright. The flower power of peace.

I think since we're all human and live in the same world we are bound to have overlap in our inspirations and the pieces we make, but no two will ever be alike, even if someone copies or has the same inspiration.

On the other side of the coin there is copying, so many folks get on blogs, I can't believe how many page views there are on blogs. Next thing you know you see something similar to what you've made or posted on etsy.

Tracey Broome said...

Hey Carter, in my case, I don't think the "inspiration" was an accident, and Linda, I still have the photo of that church! I remember posting it on my blog and wanting to make one, but I think someone beat us both to it in clay. I would have never thought you were copying me because I knew how inspired you were by that church, and I don't foresee making a log cabin so go for it! As I said, I certainly don't think I'm the only one that is allowed to make a house structure,and there are lots of people making them, and I'm not saying any of them are copying me or I am copying them, but there is a lot more to this than I want to talk about. Permission to be influenced, yes, permission to take someone's ideas and claim them for your own, NOPE.

Linda Fahey said...

Tracey - I really like your blog and I really like how passionate you are. I don't know if you have ever visited my blog, but I write about other peoples work all the time; many of them are my friends many are those whose work I admire and respect and want to, in my tiny way, promote - get it out there for people to see! In fact, I'm a little shy about my own work. I did a minor in art history, I love to study work. I still believe my integrity is leading me down my own path even if I stop to check out some things along the way.

I totally get the your thoughts on blatant copying and I think those people are to be ignored for the most part, copying is just that. I think it's impossible to control that, but I get how frustrating it can be.

This subject needs some wide berth here; I respect your views. I also respect my own interest in devouring the world of art - it interests me and I believe we all benefit from keeping our eyes wide open. This is a great post and I'm given some food for thought with a lot of comments here. Hollis's for sure; Scott's at the top and Tropiclay. Great post! Great!

Tracey Broome said...

Hi Linda: thanks for the comment. How is it that I have missed your blog? I checked it out and it is wonderful, I will spend all evening there catching up! I'm glad you left a comment!! adding you to my blog roll right now :)

Tracey Broome said...

Just to be clear, this blog was sparked by some very specific incidents, it wasn't like, oh there is a house form, I make house forms, they can't do that... or... they are making a pear, I make pears. I was getting emails from people saying they saw my work on another blog, but it wasn't my work, there's a lot more to this, but I'll keep it to myself for now....

Linda Fahey said...

Thanks Tracey! I'm glad you like it! thanks for coming by, I hope you'll come back often.

cheers!