Defining success in the love of art and life

Throw Pots Not People is a fortnightly column about life, creativity and the world we live in, written by Taranaki artist Marita Green.

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.

lisa_walker.jpg (2500×1667)
Lisa Walker, pendant, 2017. Credit: Creative NZ

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.