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bowling and fast food

updated fri 6 jul 01


David Hendley on wed 4 jul 01

I really had a hard time with Michael Sowers essay about what
a disadvantage we, as American potters, face.
Not that I want to get up an wave the stars and stripes or anything.
Well, maybe I will, since today is Independence Day.

Of course we have a pottery tradition. If you want to include
Native Americans, it goes back for more than a thousand years.
If you want to start with white Europeans, it goes back farther
that the birth of the country.

The truth is, any where in the world with a free economy, no great
effort will be made to promote something unless money can be made
off of it. 'Pottery Agents' in Japan do not promote their potters
as a hobby, for personal aesthetic satisfaction, just as music promoters
do not try to book jobs just because they like to listen to music.
It's hard work. Sure, a love of the art can be a factor, but a professional
promoter works for money.

As for the assertion that Americans have no culture except 'bowling and
fast food', well, that is so absurd that it hardly warrants a response.
I'll just mention musical theater and jazz as American born art forms that
are enjoyed around the world.
The statement that our society 'has little regard for the individual' really
has me scratching my head. The individual is king in the U.S.A., and
quite the contrary, we often hear commentary from people concerned
about our lack of community. In fact, just a few lines later, Michael
laments the pace of change in the U.S., compared to what he saw
in Germany. Well, individual freedom is the driving force behind change.
It is in rigid societies that generation after generation will follow the
same career path and things stay static.

Sure there are lots of people who don't value pottery very highly in
the U.S., but there are a lot who do.
Which would you rather be, the potter in America who sells to the
segment of the population that appreciates it, or the potter in Thailand
who supplies Pier 1?
Long-time Clayart readers know the working conditions and pay scale
of the potters in Thailand, thanks to Eddie McGrath's reports, and
they sure ain't good.
Listen to a few reports from some Potters for Peace volunteers if you
want to know how potters are valued in most societies, and if you
want to hear some real stories about potters 'swimming upstream
against a very hard current'.
We are at such an advantage compared to most of the world that it
smacks of whining to even mention any difficulties we may have.

David Hendley
Maydelle, Texas

----- Original Message -----
From: "Michael Sowers"
Sent: Monday, July 02, 2001 5:15 PM
Subject: Re: hamada/ prices

> Thanks Mel for the insight. I would like to see more information on
> how they work and how you get one in this country if there is such a
> It is unfortunate that in the USA there is so little regard and respect
> potters. Our country has no pottery tradition, being in its infancy when
> industrial revolution hit, there were no centers for pottery with
> and schools of thought but instead great industrial centers based entirely
> on capitalism. The sad fact is if it wasn't for bowling and fast food we
> wouldn't have any culture, ours is a transitory society with little regard
> for the individual. Values here seem to be given to us via advertising and
> no great effort will be applied to promoting something by people who
> make a profit from it.
> When I began building my current studio my next-door neighbor asked in all
> honesty and sincerity why anyone would buy my pottery when they could go
> Pier 1 (a chain of stores selling cheap imports for those who live
> elsewhere) and buy pottery for less. How do you sell to that market? You
> can't. I give them a cup and hope that through using it they will feel
> "intangible" something and come to respect the intrinsic value rather than
> the monetary one. I have had a few converts but not many doing this.
> The difference in American society versus European became clear to me
> stay in Germany in the mid "70s. I saw shops that had been family owned
> since the 1500's, in this country if you leave town for six months you
> not be able to find your way around when you come back. Streets will be
> changed/added, buildings built and destroyed, and landmarks missing.
> Quality and craftsmanship mean little, if it doesn't have a popular name
> brand seen on TV and print advertising it is dismissed as being
> inconsequential and inferior. If it were any good surely they would have
> seen something on TV about it, right? When kids in New York City think
> comes from a factory like Coca Cola we have a problem and it is this
> disassociation and unreality that in my opinion is the basis of a lot of
> social ills. As artist/craftsman we are swimming upstream against a very
> hard current.
> Don't get me wrong, I am not anti-american it is just in this regard we
> at somewhat of a disadvantage compared to a lot of other cultures. The
> holds true for teaching, a highly respected profession in a lot of
> Here we are taught from childhood that "those that can do and those who
> can't teach", I know I am not the only one who heard that as a child.
> Hopefully there will be a social shift swinging back from the
> de-humanization to the point where evidence of the human hand is not seen
> a defect.
> Classic Lines Pottery
> Michael Sowers
> Email:
> Web:

Katheleen Nez on thu 5 jul 01

Sorry, hit the SEND button too fast, Amen to Janet
Kaiser,also...Happy belated birthday to all those born
on the Fourth of July, not Independence Day...NEZBAH
Sign/Don't Sign, of the Tuba City Sign/Don't Signs...

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Janet Kaiser on thu 5 jul 01

Every July 4th I think of my erstwhile roomy,
Mary-Jane. She was about 10 years old before she
realised all the fireworks and fun were not really just
in celebration of her birthday... What a let down for
the poor little thing. Probably much worse than being
told Father Christmas or the Tooth Fairy don't exist.

Anyway, David H. is quite right to point out how
everyone who subscribes to clay art is one of the
privileged few. We are all in the top 5% of the world's
population... We take homes, food, heating, lighting, a
car, telephone, access to medical care, education for
ourselves and our children, etc. etc. for granted. We
may struggle financially, but only because most of us
WANT bigger, better and more all the time. We do not
NEED more.

We all have access to a computer and the necessary
skills to use it, which takes us into the top 0.5% of
the global population. When we moan and groan, it is
only because we think we are relatively "unsuccessful",
"unacknowledged", "unappreciated" or "unrecognised" in
our own society. I do not think it is fruitful to
compare life in one country to another. Even within one
country or region there are huge differences. Take
Europe as an example. Albania to the south is one of
the ten poorest countries in the whole world, whilst to
the north countries like the UK and Germany are in the
top ten.

Within the UK, there is also a north-south divide. The
politicians deny it, but you only have to look at
prices, the job market, the cost of homes, the
percentage of unemployed... Criccieth is in one of the
poorest regions within the European Union. An
economically and socially deprived area. But compared
to 95% of the world, we are rich. Our tax man and bank
manager still need convincing of this, but given

Janet Kaiser - Unable to "Ami-bash" on Independence
Day... Y'all have a good time. It cannot be worse that
1976... A bad year for all visiting Limies!!

The Chapel of Art . Capel Celfyddyd
Criccieth LL52 0EA, GB-Wales Tel: (01766) 523570