As an artist (using that term since it seems to be what others perceive as a convenient term to describe what i do) I am searching like many people are to find answers on how to best create a sustainable and practical lifestyle doing what I do (which is making things by hand and selling them- very non-artsy by many artists’ definition). Toward that end I take in many things and most recently two things come to mind- one, the current show at the American Museum for Ceramic Art now showing the first comprehensive review of Harrison McIntosh’s nearly 60 year career as a ceramic artist and two, recent writings by Charles Hugh Smith (Survival+) on understanding our puzzling economic times and how one might perceive it if one dares. (thanks to one of my pocket square customers who is a professional economist & FB friend) Often I am accused of over-thinking but nonetheless sometimes the juxtaposition of certain things that cross my path, while seemingly unrelated, just scream out for me to make certain connections.
Harrison McIntoshes are not created every day. Only when stars fall into certain alignment and a person is wise (or dumb) enough to follow along the path steadfastly do artists of this nature arise and endure. I think the one thing I find myself admiring most about this man and his work is his desire and ability to stick to a narrow focus, cultivating his studio methods and techniques to near perfection day by day for nearly 60 years! Much like Ichiku Kubota, he surrounded himself with beauty and design and allowed it to inform his work. Unlike Kubota, he focused on simple and classic design rather than the ornate and highly decorative. These days our desire for instant success and recognition often gets in the way of allowing for artists to create and develop slowly- as is necessary to achieve such a body of work presented here in this retrospective showing of Harrison McIntosh’s work. Much like he did on his potters wheel on a daily basis, Harrison reminded me that becoming centered is key and that a main component to a successful pot is in the treatment and execution of it’s footing. A good lesson for any artist to make note of. Beautifully displayed in a gallery with lots of natural light, I just wanted to move into a corner of the room and take up residence with his work for a while just to really breath it in. Seriously, if you are in So Cal or plan to be, consider a visit just to bask in the simple beauty of this exhibit. It’s on through January, I believe. Plenty of time to make time. I plan to go back on Oct. 10 for a book signing- my guy Phil bought me the catalog which is excellent. Thank you Phil!
Now on to number two. Definitely less fun but very thought provoking as well. Charles Hugh Smith runs a blog/website called Of Two Minds and is a very compelling writer of both fiction, weblogs and essays covering topics such as “Marketing in Crisis”
In the end, I discover he’s also a closet musician! His writing on the economy (Survival+) is very brave considering I think it is what we all really know and think yet feel helpless to change. He has a knack for clarity and lays out a plan that points in a refreshing direction (truthfulness)- it’s the difficulty in actually getting there that gives pause and makes me wonder if we actually have the guts to do it. As he points out, we most likely will not have a choice. We aren’t really making our own choices anyway-that is unless you are in the 1% that either owns or controls the 2/3 productive assets of the nation.
So, now you may be wondering how and why I come to connect these two things not only to each other but to my own work as well. As a maker, I strive to work with my materials, repeating a process over and over until it becomes second nature to me. Until I reach a point with it that no longer requires me to think, freeing me to allow for the work to flow and guide me instead of the other way around. That is what I aspire to. It gives me a sense of well being for some reason. I suppose that is why I have always been drawn to a process and a production method as it is in this type of repetition that I find mastery. At the same time, producing objects for sale means considering my role in our consumer driven culture and economy. I find myself teaching more and encouraging others to experience the same sense of well being through creating and exploring art and craft as opposed to finding it through mindless consumerism that really only serves to oppress us into debt-serfdom. This doesn’t mean that I will abandon making and selling- as I too am just one of the masses with bills to pay.