Today, I attended our local 2019 ClayFest here in Eugene, OR. Last year, I attended as well, but as I had only just started my journey with mud, I was lost and overwhelmed by the work I saw. It was incredible. The demo's were mind blowing...how would I ever learn to do what they were doing?
Today, when I attended my thought process was much more critical. I looked at pieces in detail. I could tell (in many cases) how the piece had been made and in some cases, what types of glazes had been used, how they had embellished the piece to achieve a specific look or design. That is not to say that I can replicate them all and I am not sure that I ever will be able to do so, but I know understand way more than I did this time last year and I anticipate that this time next year will be a similar scenario as the learning process never truly ends.
I can also say that while my pieces may not be as good as some that I saw today, some of my pieces were as good as at least a few that I saw today. For me, that is HUGE! I know one of my biggest issues is handles. I need to really spend time on learning how to create handles using different methodologies from pulling, to slab, to extruding and variations on each of those. That will be my personal challenge for the coming year and I hope that this time next year I can honestly report that I have succeeded in achieving that goal. Not that they will be perfect, or mind blowing, or anything other than a nicely formed, easy to grasp handle that fits the form of the mug or whatever.
My last observation is likely one that will raise a few eyebrows (if anyone reads this) and that is how little potters actually charge for their work given the amount of time they put in to create it. Yes, I know...that $28 mug or $50 vase may seem steep, but it likely results in something close to minimum wage when you take into consideration the effort, time and expertise needed to create it (not to mention the cost of materials, firings, etc.). I didn't go into this to make money (darn good thing too), but I do know potters that are trying to make a living at this and it is a struggle for many. I can only encourage people to support your local artist, recognize that their work is worth more than a piece you would buy at your local pottery barn (made in China or elsewhere). Take it home, use it, enjoy it and know that it is truly one of a kind!