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clayart gallery? (was) plus megrims (long rant)

updated fri 18 jan 02


Janet Kaiser on thu 17 jan 02

Yes, the STRICTLY UNOFFICIAL CLAY ART WEB SITE (also known as S.U.C.A.W.S.) was originally set up to make IMAGES of
ANYTHING (within reason) under discussion available to everyone.

It was my way of making a more meaningful contribution, beyond my areas of
expertise as an ex-potter, artist, pedagogue and mere gallerist (= person
who owns/runs gallery). E-mail me a jpeg or gif image less than 20 Kb in
body of the e-mail in good time BEFORE you start "talking" about it on clay
art. I set up a page (html) and I tell you as soon as it is accessible via
SUCAWS. Then you can start referring to it/asking for input... Gives more
scope when discussing aesthetics, designs, shapes, etc. etc. Or should do.

Not only that, but it was also designed to provide individual subscribers
who do not have a personal www site and/or necessary programming skills
with a simple information page (i.e. internet exposure) at no cost. They
send the images, information, etc. they want on their page and I post it
for them. Depends on the number of times I have to ask for confirmation,
details, text, etc., how quickly it all gets/got done.

However, I have not been doing justice to SUCAWS recently, due (partly) to
lack of input from individual subscribers and lack of TIME to keep up to
date. It is not an all bells-and-whistles site and therefore people tend
not to take it too seriously... I need to find a new counter (xoom has
failed) and when my PC crashed last November, I lost a lot of up-to-date
files, including the SUCAWS html files. (Actually I wrote over new files
with old, but I hate to admit that to anyone).

Certainly there has been little reference to the images on the site from
the first kilns (Kurt W. and Hank M.), pots etc. to other stuff like Ivor
Lewis's eutectics chart/graph or Frank Gaydos's cockroach catcher... Cindy
Strad's page has been looked at/referred to, but in general, there has been
little true debate or interaction unless it has been off-list. Shame

I am therefore seriously thinking that S.U.C.A.W.S should close and/or
become just a ceramic links page. I don't really know at this point and to
be perfectly honest, I just do not honestly care... Yes, well. Someone has
already mentioned the winter megrims this year...

BTW megrim is an old-fashioned word (1. headache 2. vertigo 3. figurative)
which appears in pre Victorian writing a great deal and as MEGRIMS (plural
form) it means "the vapours", blue devils or low spirits (in humans) and
the staggers or vertigo (in animals).

Although the days are getting longer here in the northern hemisphere, it is
the first time in my life I have ever suffered from anything approaching a
depression. Always thought a kick up the backside would stop any
self-indulgent, self-pity. "Depression" was invented by neurotic US
psychologists and is nothing which a good pull-yourself-together scold
would not cure. Yes, well, I stand corrected. Hiding away not talking to
anyone, feeling miserable and lethargic, eating lots of fatty, fattening
food, feeling weepy... And more than anything else, feeling totally
worthless, ugly and of no use to either man nor beast.

Yes, even started crying whenever potters I have never met, who don't know
me or The Chapel of Art, some of whom live on different continents the
other side of the world, talked of how bad all galleries are and how they
would never dream of trusting any of them... Yes, well, up yours too
sweeties! So glad non of you are anywhere nearby! The Arts deserve better
than that around here... We need more good, strong, affordable work,
readily accessible to the public who are slowly beginning to appreciate
that they do not have to buy antique Meissen Shepherdess candlesticks and
contemporary garden statues look just as good as mock-Renaissance dolphins,
made in China...

OK it is worse this week... I wrote about "body language" as soon as I got
home last week, but once the morphine wore off, I hit my bed and stayed
there. I am now newly up and although very colourful (blues, purples,
yellows) at least I can now talk. Cannot laugh or smile, but you cannot
have everything and I don't feel like it anyway. It is also my 7th day
without a blast of nicotine into the lungs, so life feels pretty bleak. But
like I said, it has been a pretty rough year for all artists, makers and
galleries throughout the UK. This recent surgery has just been the last
straw for me, tipping me over the edge... Add it to Christmas which was 60%
down on visitors and 80% down on sales from last year (which was barely
break-even), having to cancel our 7th New Year's Concert (sold 3 tickets
for an international pianist/recording artist who filled 3000+ seats 100
miles away, two nights before) and only enough money in the kitty to pay
the utility bills but not ourselves. Indeed, celebrating Christmas was
beyond our means, but thanks to an artist who only realised our plight on
Christmas Eve we had a lovely day after all... Strange it was one of those
people we apparently rip off all year... I must remember to warn them...
They must be as mad as we are...

We have no income October-April, yet we also have to increase spending in
the winter. This year, we will be spending several hundred/couple of
thousand pounds repairing the roof, replacing coping stones on The Chapel
of Art to stop water coming in... We also have another section of The
International Potters' Path to lay and with 10,000 visitors per annum
walking over the old wood floors, well of course Eckhard will be sanding
and re-sealing them over the next couple of weeks. He is in bed today. One
of his reoccurring migraines. Stress induced. At least he will rest his
bony knees, because unlike me (who puts on huge amount of weight when
stressed... known as Kummerspeck or "worry fat" in German) Eckhard turns
into a galloping hair-pin.

Yes, we both work, work, work all the hours god sends, all year round and
what is the result? We cannot even afford the luxury of Christmas dinner.
Ha! Rip off galleries? Getting rich off the poor artists/makers? Lazy sods
"who do nothing for me"..."stand around drinking coffee"... You have to be
joking! In fact, it is pretty damn insulting to think, never mind say stuff
like that. How would you like me to say, "You only need to bake a bit of
clay and clay is cheaper than flour, so how come your pots cost more than a
bread roll?" "Your profits are 5000% minimum, so how come you think a
gallery taking 30% of the selling price is so outrageous?"

For example I am told profit margins are currently 600% plus in the
catering industry... Our laughable and lamentable 30% commission covers all
overheads and costs. What is the profit you ask? There actually is no
overall profit, although I am remunerated around 25 pence per hour (3.55
less than the statutory minimum wage). Yes, no wonder we are grimly holding
on by the skin of our teeth. We are not the only ones... If we don't watch
out, all galleries will go belly up and then what will happen? No one
promoting contemporary
art by real artists/makers... Hand-made will fall out of fashion and only
the "big boys" like Wedgwood, Doulton, Royal Copenhagen, Villeroy & Boch,
etc. etc. will do well through department stores and advertising. Buyers
will only be informed and find work they like thanks to "product placement"
in magazines and the media (films, TV, etc). No one will covert individual
work, because they have no way of knowing if it is socially acceptable or
not... Unlike their new car, dress, perfume or other consumer product. Yes,
art is a consumer product like any other. If you don't accept that, you are
either living on another planet or suffering from delusions of grandeur.

As a matter of interest, why exactly do (some) artists/makers think gallery
commission is so unfair? How does the self-delusion "Galleries get
something for nothing" work? And the really rich one: "Galleries take all
my hard-earned profit". These people are totally out of touch with the real
world... It is how commerce works and has done through several millennia. I
doubt if any large companies are going to tell us what their average
mark-up is on their retail goods, but you can bet your bottom dollar that
it is a great deal more than 45% (that is what you add to the maker's price
to arrive at a selling price inc. 30%commission). If artists/makers
themselves only have 45% mark-up, they feel very hard done by. Why are
galleries immune from this economic reality in the eyes of artists? It is a
blind spot I have never understood, even when I was a practising artist
myself. Farmers do not market directly to the public... They recognise that
the butcher, the baker, the greengrocer and the supermarket do that better
than they do. With each step along the food-chain working in their area of
expertise, the producer, the middlemen and the end consumer are all happy.

I am sure most farmers would look at gallery bashing artists/makers with
some degree of understanding (after all their produce retails for way more
than they get), but they would soon point out that it is in their own
interest to stick to production. "Schuster bleib bei deine Leisten" is a
German expression, meaning keep to your own strengths and abilities. You
cannot do it all by yourself and do it WELL. Something gets left behind or
not done...

You also get what you pay for through life. One really good gallery working
for and with you, is worth much more than what you feel you are "paying"
for. The spin-offs of gallery exposure are going to be much wider and far
reaching than any tupenny craft fair, which also costs more than the stall
fee. But long-term, forward planning and thinking always seem to be bottom
of the list around here.

It is also not good that people with alternative incomes (teaching,
pension, partners, trust funds, parents, day job/business, etc.) go
preaching to stand-alone artists and makers who have to pay the mortgage
and the bills. To make sure they are working on a sound financial footing,
they have to concentrate on their product first. Once it "sells itself"
they can ease up, but to establish themselves and their work they have to
make sure their profits cover their costs plus some. Selling through
galleries/shops either wholesale or on consignment allows the artist/maker
to concentrate on their product. I never had a problem with that and simply
do not understand people who do. I certainly do not understand why they
have to slag off people like me, who put a great deal of thought, effort
and energy into promoting the work of developing artists/makers as well as
the tried and tested... Why do I, when this negative attitude towards
galleries is still alive and kicking?

Ach! What the hell!? I am going back to bed... At least I can lie listening
to the waves breaking gently on the shore... As they have for millennia...
And it will continue forever more, however much we screw things up in this
world, this time around... Singly and collectively. SO WHY WORRY ABOUT
ANYTHING AT ALL? Yes, indeed...

Janet Kaiser
The Chapel of Art . Capel Celfyddyd
Marine Crescent . Criccieth LL52 0EA . GB-Wales . UK
TEL: (++44) 01766-523570
Home of The International Potters' Path