There is a difference between art and craft, that I am certain of. What’s up for discussion is what that difference actually is. Ceramic artists seem to straddle an uncomfortable middle-ground between the two.
Coming from an entrepreneurial immigrant family, and a work background in the Navy, my values and culture are deeply rooted in the pragmatic and real.
Perhaps unsurprisingly then, I aspire most to be a craftsperson, because it embodies the authenticity and usefulness that I try to bring to my work.
But 10 years ago, when I first started in clay, I thought that being a ceramic artist meant I had to belong to the Capital-A-artist elite.
I’ve observed highbrow art and the people who make it. It seems to be a very serious and cerebral pursuit.
I once asked Lisa Walker (Capital-A jewellery artist) during a floor talk if she thought a self-taught ceramicist from provincial NZ could be successful, and she answered with another (suitably intellectual) question: How do you define success?
She said if success were peer recognition and academic esteem, then no, my pursuit would not bear fruit.
I’ve found, in the years since then, Lisa’s doom-filled prediction has been 100 per cent accurate.
Regardless of where you position ceramics on the art-craft continuum, without the calling cards of a formal art education, time spent as artist-in-residence, or the right kind of authoritative connections, I am a 100 per cent failure when it comes to any sort of highbrow art-world cred.
I’ve done my time in (non-art) academic institutions, learning the rules and following them. But my practise in clay is something that doesn’t come from my head. I make pots because I love clay, I love the lessons the process of making teaches me, I love the freedom of getting my hands dirty and following my own agenda. I love knowing that people just like me are using my cups to drink their morning coffee out of.
And if that means I go through life without the highbrow art-world tick of approval?
Well I’m just fine with that.
Throw Pots Not People is a fortnightly column by Taranaki artist Marita Green. You can follow Marita and her creations on Instagram.