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potters guilds

updated wed 14 dec 05


Cleo on thu 12 oct 00

Thanks for the good information. I went to the ink peoples site, and =
sent them an e-mail. The information you all gave me was great, now I =
know there is a ceramics community there and am anxious to become a part =
of it. Thanks again. Cleo.

noel on sat 2 feb 02

We have a new Arts Center in Canton GA. and we became interested in =
forming a potters guild for the NW Georgia are after our first clay =
show. Please put us on your list if you want to share start up ideas.
I did start a potters guild in Titusville, FL in the 70's. I will try =
to find notes from that group.

The Arts Center
Canton, GA

Ms Noel Gilliam

primalmommy on mon 12 dec 05

I am not sure one can generalize about guilds. I have visited some that
were exemplary, professional, supportive, run like a business but with
the heart of an artist's club -- potters simultaneously raising the bar
for each other and helping each other up another rung on the ladder.

Every organization has its egotists, naysayers and control freaks, but
there are some guilds (like, IMO, the one in Ann Arbor, Michigan) which
have so carefully worked out the details of money and usage,
apprenticeship and cooperative use, teaching/learning and the business
of selling, that they could be a model for other organizations. When
there is a street fair, you know the quality of the guild show work will
meet or surpass the work surrounding it. Ann Arbor is a hip town with a
history of art/craft, a nice mix of college town culture and two income
cash flow, natural food stores and birkenstocks among the enviro-hybrid
spendy cars and mini-mansion suburban sprawl. It's a very good place for
potters and artists. It's where the pottery I grew up using always came
from -- Bunny McBride and Richard Aerni and Ann Tubbs and Edith Franklin
pots from the Ann Arbor Street fair.

I like my own smaller guild here in Toledo. I am just home from the
official guild holiday party potluck, and what a nice bunch of people
they are. Like extended family, we get used to each others' oddities and
quirks, and the little tensions that can surface over issues or
territory at the guild just kind of dissolve when we get together to
sell pots, or eat and party.

Membership in our guild is juried, but there are two categories.
Provisional members have access to the space, wheels, kilns, glaze
materials and equipment, but are not allowed to participate in sales. As
they grow as potters (some are students in my classes, many attend our
workshops and/or work at other places like 577 or the museum) their work
improves, and they can reapply for full membership.

Some members (like me) have their own studio space. Others work
exclusively at the guild. I love having a pedestrian key to the gate and
the guild, so if I run out of Cobalt Carb at 2am I can ride my bike over
and get some, but I do all my work/firing from home. I have heard
stories from many guilds about arguments over space, use of materials,
and it seems there is always the who-left-a-mess issue no matter where
you are (office, classroom, etc.).

I do not find it useful, especially, to categorize guild membership into
groups like 'hobbyists" or "pros", retirees or college kids, etc.
because the quality of the work can come from all those directions. I do
a see a problem, though, with any organization led by volunteers in our
modern world.

When I was a kid, everybody's dad had a job outside the home and
everybody's mom ran the PTA and the church and the charity organization
and cub scout dens and neighborhood clubs. Well, Donna Reed doesn't live
here any more. Few are willing to come home from a day job and put in
hours serving on a committee or volunteering to organize some event,
much less pop by and mop the guild -- especially if it means not
spending what time you DO have with your kids.

So often the volunteer run organizations are led by the same folks --
retired, often, with grown kids, and financially comfortable enough not
to have to weigh dollars against time. But you can't rely on the same
people year after year, and keep going back to the same well, without
burning people out. it can be a thankless jobs to boot. (Remember
Douglas Adams' assertion that anyone willing to run for public office
should be disqualified on that basis alone? As I recall he suggested
that our presidents be drafted, to avoid the power trip factor.)

So who will step up as officer, organizer, volunteer? Not me.

At least not much. I handle the website and the yahoo group and pull my
weight during sales and events, but extra committees are just not on my
list. No matter how loyal I feel to my guild, if I pay a sitter to watch
my kids for several hours, it's because I am getting paid to teach, or
making pots that I can sell. Time is money. I know there will be a point
in my life when I have more time than I need, and maybe even more money
-- but it ain't now.

But Tony, there is nothing limiting about a guild, that I can identify.
It's like a school -- if it's decent, some kids will get by, some kids
will fade out and quit, some kids will rocket to the top and end up with
brilliant educations. It's more about the hunger of individual potters
than about what a guild can provide, or can't.

Some really good, nationally known potters have come out of our guild.
What I wonder sometimes is why they "come out" of it at all. Maybe the
studio took off and their hands were full, business to run, and they
didn't have time to be a contributing member anymore. Maybe they moved
elsewhere, or had to weigh time against money -- and the committees

Maybe they finally had all the skills, equipment, supplies and space
they needed, and no longer felt like they wanted the moral support of a
guild or group. (I am reaching that point with homeschool organizations.
At first I wanted information and moral support. Then I felt a need to
provide that info/support to newbies. Now, after 7 years of
homeschooling/mentoring, I feel like it's somebody else's turn -- I have
kids to teach, I'm busy.) I suppose that kind of thing happens with
potters. If you are looking for people to teach you, inspire you, raise
the bar, then maybe those who "moved on" from our guild had BECOME the
bar and went to look elsewhere (or inquire within.)

John Hesselberth's excellent post is a reminder, though, that we're not
in a horse race. Some people just want to play with clay and don't care
a bit about making a dime, building a reputation or setting the bar for
themselves higher and higher. And others could out-shoot, out-spit,
out-rope and out-ride the rest of us, but simply prefer not to. Which
shouldn't bother anyone in the least -- as long as nobody is getting
hurt, and it doesn't startle the livestock. (apologies to Oscar Wilde.)

And now, it's off to bed for me. My home thermostat is on a timer, which
assumes that when the kids are all asleep under their duvets it's time
to turn down the heat until morning. If I type much longer they will
find my frozen body hunched over the keyboard in the morning with an
icicle hanging off my nose. So I am off to thaw. That's what they made
warm sleeping husbands for ;0)

Kelly in Ohio

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