I’ve been making pots now for 40 years and I’ve attended the NCECA conference just once (in Loiusville, Ky.) Each year as it approaches I have an ongoing internal struggle…it is a thrilling idea to be surrounded by like-minded folks and to see all of the exhibitions and sit in on some of the panel discussions, but is it a valuable use of my time and resources? Of course, NCECA is primarily about education and academia, with a few bones thrown to the working potters of the world. This year there is a panel discussion titled “Where have all the Potters Gone?” led by Mark Hewitt, Tony Clennell and Lisa Hammond. This should be a great conversation and I’m sorry to miss it, and I’m sorry to miss Cynthia Bringle’s closing talk. I think that my own answer to the question is “not to NCECA because I have pots to make!”.
But, I also think that it is an overly dramatic question. There has been talk about the greying of the craft world for 20 years now (maybe more) and yet I continue to be impressed by the great work that continues to bubble up from the younger folks who are drawn into our world. I can’t say that I’m anxious to see another mug decorated with decals anytime soon, but in general there is fantastic work being produced across the spectrum of ceramics and there has never been a better appreciation for the value of that work. In 1980 I was selling mugs for four bucks, for goodness sakes…we have come a long way, baby, and I think that it is a perfect time to become a maker.
I suppose that a question like “Where have all the Potters Gone” is more logical if you are only looking at the periodicals that represent us or observing the work produced in academia, but I know lots of people making some or all of their living from their pottery. They aren’t making a lot of noise…they just get on with the work, building a way of life that has rich rewards and deep fulfillment.
I still wish that I could have been there, but perhaps next year. I thought that I would be loading my kiln, but instead, I’m recovering from a hernia operation. That’s not a story I’m interested in telling.