Thursday, August 21, 2014

Who Cares for Handcraft?

A few weeks ago, I spent a weekend with extreme contrasts in interest in craft work. On Sunday I took my pots to the Chula Vista Lemon Festival. It is a lively, friendly street fair, plenty of people (and dogs) of all ages, very few handmade objects offered for sale and very little interest in my pots. I just thought clearly I don't belong here, at least to sell pottery.

The day before, I went on a bus trip to LA with CASD, Clay Artists of San Diego. We stopped at Aardvark, which sells a great variety of tempting ceramic supplies; the LA County Art Museum (LACMA); the Craft and Art Museum; and the Freehand Gallery. All these places are wonderfully devoted to the individual products of individual craftpeople and artists. The art museum was busy with people full of interest and opinions, kids, students, old people, an ethnic mix as wide as the Chula Vista Festival, everyone. The Craft and Folk Art Museum focuses on exhibits of a few artists, a wideranging gift shop and events encouraging local people to make it themselves, with their hands. And the Freehand Gallery is plain inspiring. Gorgeous handmade "functional craft", as they describe their choice. And Carol Sauvion, the founder and owner, also produced Craft in America, an ongoing marvelous TV series, traveling exhibit, book, and more coming. I'm a fan. Have a look:, and

What a contrast. I'm still thinking about it. At least, there is a substantial subset of people who love the process and products of hand work, who want to make and to see and use them. Some of them go into art museums. Others (defined by the medium evidently) are folk art, craft, do-it-yourself. What about Stoney Lamar's fascinating wood sculptures at the Craft and Folk Art Museum?

He describes himself as a wood turner, using machine tools, but clearly making art, not just beautiful bowls and the like.

 So, it doesn't have to be hand-without-machine work. Perhaps I really mean self-and-body work in the making of things, so that the results are individual and personal. That's art I suppose, even if the products also have some other function.

I've been struggling with the meanings of art and craft and the purpose of making pottery by hand in  the industrialized world. Except in a few barely industrialized places, nobody needs handmade pots for practical reasons. I seem to need to make them, to live in my hands. And people who like and choose handmade things maybe share this.