The Birth of Art.

I am almost there!  New Designers is only days away, the work is packed, the shelves painted.  I think I am good to go.  Yesterday was spent with a lovely group of people at City Lit preparing the plinths for our graduation show at Candid Arts, which is the week after.  Who’s idea was it to have two shows in two weeks I wonder?

The space at the end of all this frantic preparation has got me feeling reflective.  I am beginning to identify the making sequence with which I develop a piece and, for all those artists out there who read and share my blog, I thought I might have a go at defining the different periods.

Gestation:  For me a period of agony!  In a recent issue of Ceramic Review (issue 273) Gareth Mason described the desire to achieve as an ‘ache’ which for him has a continual ‘tug of war’ with his inner critic.  He might feel that he has the upper hand here – a maker of considerable repute; a household name, a man with many years experience and skill.  So who am I to have the nerve to empathise with him? Well, I think he describes my feelings exactly.  The sleepless nights of ‘pot anxiety’ when you know that there is something going to happen.  It is almost like the tension before a thunder storm; that heavy feeling in the air.

First semester: Then comes the stage where ideas creep in.  You think you know where you are going, you are just not sure what route to take or what things will look like in the end.  There is a lot of trial and error.  I make a fast amount of rubbish at this stage.  The frustration is palpable.  I cannot work out what it is I want to express but I know there is something coming.

Second Semester: By now, I have started to narrow things down.  I enforce a bit of discipline into my work.  I make myself reject some ideas and follow about three or four.  I know that I am still not making the final pieces but I have to make this stuff in order to end up in the right place.

Third Semester: At last!  Some idea has hit a chord.  I can reject everything else – stop all house work, give up on cooking or shopping, think of little else.  There should be a big notice hung round my neck at this stage – unless the question involves the word clay, do not even bother to ask it.  Perhaps I should get a badge made!

Labour: Now I am flying – work churns out, a level of confidence seems to build, I know where I am going.  Make, Make, Make.

Birth: But suddenly another feeling seeps in.  I seem to take a step back and look at my work with a more critical, but less confident eye.  The work is almost done but is it any good?  Does it say what I wanted it too?  Is the message clear?  Does the work stand up to scrutiny?

This is where I am with my final work for the diploma at the moment.  Days away from the exhibitions, preparation all done and full of doubt.

Later: . . . Well what little experience I have of this stage has shown me that there is a very strange feeling once the work is on the plinth.  It looks good, doesn’t it?  But who else might think so?  And what if they buy it – what will they do with it?  Will it get the treatment that I thought it deserved?  Will it look good where they place it?  What will they say to their friends about it?  Will anyone buy it at all?

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Ready for the exhibition – but what if . . . . .

Gareth Mason describes this process extremely well. ‘Emotional impetus to begin is inspirational.  It feels optimistic – yet this rite-of-apprehension can wreck my day.  Getting started can be an act of frustration, anger, or even desperation’.  What I find most daunting of all is that I was sort of hoping the feeling might get easier to handle.  But if people like Mason are writing about it, I have to accept that this is the path which I have chosen.  It is not all about the clay – it is equally about the highs and lows of mood which accompany the resolving of the piece.

How much is that Doggie in the Window?

0[1]Pricing!  What is one supposed to do about it?  I have recently been wrestling with this a great deal.  I have two important events coming up – New Designers, which is a show case for arts graduates where I am looking forward to meeting all sorts of people and hoping that some of them might express an interest in my work, and City Lit Ceramics own graduation show at Candid Arts Gallery, Islington the following week to which some big galleries, collectors and ‘names’ from the world of ceramics have been invited.  It is important to get it right!

Too low and I am saying the wrong things about my work.  I am telling people that I do not value the effort, time and thought that has gone into it.  I also run the risk of devaluing the very course on which I have been studying for the past couple of years.  Too high and, once again, I am saying the wrong things.  I risk insulting those artists who have been in this game for may years.  Who are known in the world of ceramics and whose time and effort is valued at a particular price – way higher than I could dream of – by the world at large and which I should be wary of getting anywhere near.

So as a fledgling artist what does one do?  A year ago I sold a piece for £200.  I was over the moon.  I thought that I had arrived!  Shortly afterwards I was advised that this figure did not give my work sufficient credit, that no-one would take me seriously, that I should triple my prices.  I followed this advice with considerable trepidation.  £600 for a bit of fragile porcelain!!!  The result was that no-one was prepared to value my work at that price and I have sold little since.

My tutor’s advice is that I should be in the region of £150 to £480.  That doesn’t sound too far fetched to me.  I do value my work.  It has taken hours of thinking, puzzling, resolving, trying to work out how best to say what I want to say  That has got to be worth something.  Yet is it, really?  I woke up this morning with a sense of deep misgiving about what I am putting into the final show.  It is good.  Yes I really do believe that.  But it is not as good as it gets. I know that there is something missing – something that I haven’t made yet.  So how do I price a piece which is already being pushed to the back of my mind because another germ of an idea is already filling my head?  If only I had the time I could be putting something better into the show, something of real value!!

The best is yet to come . .
The best is yet to come . .

In the end I suppose it comes down to a couple of points. Firstly it has to be great news that the best is yet to come.  I have a direction in which to go after the course has ended for one thing.  Then there is the need to acknowledge the fact that I am showing in a group exhibition.  There will be work in that exhibition which I truly admire and which I would pay considerably more for than I would for my own pieces.  So perhaps I need to wait and see how the rest of my contemporaries price their work and then value mine accordingly.