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defining a professional / production potter

updated mon 31 mar 97


Don Jung on tue 11 mar 97

Spring is upon us and there is a question that has been posed that I
have difficulty answering...

What's your definition of professional or production pottery vs
recreational pottery? Does it qualify as professional or production if
you make pots to supplement your income?

We're using these terms to try to define what is appropriate in our
studio (non-profit club in a parks & recreation community center...).
No sense in using the words if you don't know what they mean or how to
recognize them. We've been pretty relaxed...what you do with your pot
is up to you, but the higher ups feel it's an inappropriate use of
community facilities for people who are there to make a buck. Sort of
like amateur and pro status in sports. This is an amateur only club I
guess. We do have pottery sales and promo/charity events where the club
gets a cut, so there is some sanctioned 'selling' if you will. Is
anyone else in a similar situation?
Well, if you have a feel for this, I'd appreciate hearing from you .

thx Don Jung
in spring like Vancouver BC on fri 14 mar 97

All potters (or ceramic artists), if they do the work for any time at all are
forced to become "professional" potters. The objects we make are
more-or-less permanent and both take up space and cost some money to make.
You can only give so many to your mother, there are only so many surfaces in
the house-/garage-/studio, your friends will only take so much, and so,
eventually, you must either throw it away or sell it. Since the materials
and firing energy cost money, selling is much more attractive than throwing
away. One alternative here is to invest really large amounts of time in the
creation of a single object, like the scarab vase or other highly refined
object. Since I am not capable of doing that, I don t consider it an option.

The real problem you (or someone) is having is an issue of fairness. Should
the ordinary student support the firing and materials costs of some
individual who makes lots of stuff? Probably not, but there are other issues
like to costs to the spirit of the organization when the changes to prevent
cheating are instituted.

I have seen different reactions to this problem. Two studios measured the
volume of each piece fired and charged according to a set formula. Another
studio sold (at a higher price) the majority of the clay that was used in the
studio and only fired for people enrolled in current classes. Another studio
sold clay and class time but didn t seem overly concerned with some obviously
"production" oriented efforts. This studio had a large enrollment and a
large kiln that might have found the "production" material useful to lower
the cycle time for the kiln. I did note that the "production" pieces didn t
necessarily make it into the kiln loads as fast as otherwise might have

If the other students see the "production" activities as a problem then it is
a problem. If the costs of a single person s activities threaten the
existence of the program then it is a problem. If the problem is the
activities of just one person, why make a global rule? Work out a payment
schedule with them, require them to help with kiln loading and glaze mixing,
sell their stuff in your gallery with the usual percentage division. Selling
doesn t violate the purity of the craft, it can t really exist otherwise -
just make sure the "production potter" isn t cheating the other students of
their storage space, access to equipment, firing space, etc.

My mother hasn't yet asked me to stop sending her things, but she has started
"sharing" them with relatives and friends. I'm sure she is proud of me, but
I also know she lives in a relatively small house. I'm making yard art now
but her yard isn't that large either.

Joseph Herbert