On my website I have the tag line “pots that connect”. Over Christmas I had had several opportunities to re-discover just how true it is.
During November and December I was very pleased to have orders made and pots purchased by my mum, two of my aunts, one of my oldest friends as a gift for her mum and another friend from our home town also as a gift for their mum.
In early December I visited my oldest friend in Lewes and was told by her partner how much he enjoys his coffee mug I gave them a pair of last year and how he doesn’t drink out of anything else.
I also went for the annual christmas dinner at the housing coop where I used to live and saw several old pots of mine still in use. A number of the people there had bought / given / received pots last Christmas and commented on how much they were enjoying them, whilst others were looking forward to giving newly bought pots as gifts this year.
Initially I was a bit uncomfortable with some of these conversations, particularly about work from 2012 – when I see it again it just doesn’t look very good to me and I was embarrassed by the pots and felt rather squirmy in the moment of discovering that these things would be with me for many years to come. It doesn’t seem like any one else is feeling this embarrassment, rather they seem pleased to have the work, to give support and to be part of my journey. (Either that or they are very good actors!)
It is humbling to feel so well supported and to begin to see the social networks of my life fan out and made tangible in pots. Thank you to everyone out there in the network.
Knowing the people that pots are going to, either through these deep connections of old friends and family, or the newer but just as real connections with people who order commissions, changes my investment in a piece of work. I do try to do good work all the time, but when I know who will receive a piece of work I find that I am even more determined to do work that I can be proud of. When a bowl is going to pride of place on my mum’s dresser then it had better be the absolute best I can do!
This feeling is a great flip to the pre-christmas urge to churn out as much as possible without too much concern for quality in order to make as many sales as possible. It’s a great reminder of why quality matters and what will become of the pots after they leave my sight.
I am also reminded of The Gift by Lewis Hyde. One of the memorable sections of this book talks about the work of artists made with creativity and love and passed through connected transactions to a known person and contrasts it with the products of industry that are designed and made by largely nameless people with no emotional involvement in the item and sold through dispersonal financial transactions that create disconnections on a social scale. When I read that all seemed interesting and rather abstract. Now that I see this network of pot-owners-for-whom-I-wish-to-make-good-pots growing around me I can see that it is indeed the exact opposite to the anonymous relation of production for profit and sales maximisation. The work is still sold but the motivations for making it and the relationship between maker and new owner is one of personal trust and good will and ongoing connection.