Friday, August 20, 2010

What an Honest Critique Can Accomplish

Don Pilcher does have a point. By now, everyone has read one or both posts, and whether or not you've engaged in the controversy or lurked as a bystander, you've got to admit that he is on to something when he writes about the lack of frank, honest discussion about pottery. But are blogs the place to find that?

While Pilcher might not be interested in reading snippets about a certain potter's daily life, I am. I like seeing pictures of your kids and pets, and I like posting about my own. I like that I can rant and rave about the weather, current events and our latest home project turned nightmare. I care if you read, but I am not offended in the slightest if you pass on a post.
Honest discussion of pottery does happen here in the blogosphere but not in any linear, organized way. In recent weeks, Tracey Broome has used her blog as a sounding board for some true soul-searching and the direction her work is taking. While any critique of her work is generally positive, and accolades make us feel good, I'm not sure her point was to seek out approval or support. Maybe it was just to get it out of her head. What difference does it make?

Our Clay Club meets once a month. Last year sometime, we had a critique. Several of us novice potters brought work to be critiqued by the likes of Michael Kline and Linda McFarling, among others. I plopped the basket (pictured above) up on the banding wheel in the center of the room and stepped back. What I received was a true gift: honest, informed critique from potters who know their craft well. There were a few folks who loved the pot as is (and were appalled that anyone could find anything wrong with it), and I was grateful for the compliments. The difference was being able to view the pot on its own merits versus being able to see the potential the pot held. I returned to my studio with an armload of ideas and my work improved dramatically.
I guess what I'm tring to say is that if Potsapalooza were meant to be a manifesto on my current ceramic work, I probably would have far fewer readers. And I would have named it something more serious.


  1. I've never had an honest critque, or any critique for that matter, I hope to some day. My ceramics classroom study didn't include that format even though I suggested it.

    I was almost ready to submit some work in the pottery guild I belonged to on the West Coast when we sold our home. There aren't any pottery guilds close by here for me to join. I wish I had someone close who was experienced to help me along. I realize pots can't be critiqued from a photo.

    I might not agree with all that was said on the posts at MK's but it sure has stimulated some good topics on several blogs and in my mind and for that I am grateful.

  2. Kari -- great post and great addition to the ongoing discussion. I agree that you can't really critique a 3 dimensional object on a flat plane. I sometimes really wonder why I enter juried shows -- but that's a whole other blog post - lol.

    When you receive a true critique that really sees the pots potential -- that is a rare gift -- even in a classroom.

    But I don't think I want a blog critique of my work --

  3. Hi Kari, thanks for the comment, and yes I have to get that stuff out of my head or I will explode! I do use the blog a lot of times for that, it's also a place I go when I may have had a few too many glasses of wine, a place I go when I can't sleep which is frequently and a place I have found some really good friends. I have had to pretty much tie my hands to keep from expressing how I truly feel about some of the DP comments and all I can say here is the word CRONIES, (is that how you spell that?) has rattled around in my head all week. Anyway I know this road well, dealt with it in the furniture industry, the outdoor industry when I was in sales and it's not too different. Alpha male syndrome I think... well, I got way off path, but I love your blog, love reading it, you have a crazy sense of humor and I think you would be great fun to be around! I welcome critiques of anything I do and if you want to disagree with me that's fine too. It may cause me to go off a bit, but I try not to hurt feelings. I wake up every day and try to remember to treat others as I would like to be treated. It's the best we all can do I think! And yes, I like babies, cats, dogs, chickens, children, everything! Bring it on

  4. Hey- I for one have enjoyed your post that include your famil,.last winter's snow and the look at you strange home problems.
    We are so much more then pots.
    I enjoy talking and looking at pots but there are days all I want is some down time a beer, some talk about your family- a glimps into your life.
    Pottery is my life and has been for about 30 years- even the Pope needs a day off.
    Let's keep the blogs real- if it was only about the pots..... I think I would have to find another way to relax.

  5. I agree, while I understand DP's desire for more "serious" conversation about ceramics, I don't really think blogs are the place for it. Blog posts work better as short casual updates and conversations.

    And the two baskets-- wow! You are right, a good critique took a promising idea and allowed you to expand and improve it.

    Just found your blog and am enjoying it, nice post!