This is the trailer from the new movie Objectified by Gary Hustwit. Some of you may have seen his film Helvetica, which if you have Netflix, you can watch on their watch instantly feature. Unfortunately the trailer does not show any ceramics, but that is a minor squabble. If you live in or near a major city I believe this is already playing or may have come and gone. If you get a chance, go see it. Living out here in the hinterlands, I have not seen it yet, but I can't wait to.
Why I bring this up in a ceramics blog, is that I want to start a discussion, about objects. I think that the discourse in ceramics about objects is a little stagnant and honestly behind the times. For a long time notions of potter as crafts person and maker of functional ware has propagated the ceramics world. I say bullshit.
Now, let me premise, that I am not discounting pottery. I love pottery. I love the art of ceramics. I wouldn't be on this blog, or living in the town, if it wasn't for my love of pots. Where my disagreement is, is with the notion of the independent potter as maker of functional products for the user. I say that the potter is a designer, exploring the notions of the object, and how we use it and see it.
What I really care about is the ceramicist as designer. When I say that, what I mean is that modern pottery, is not functional in the way potters intend it to be. I'm sorry that is just the way it is, the bitching line starts in the comments section. We do not make "everyday objects" we make special objects. And we need to accept that fact.
So, by making special objects the onus of the relevancy of the object falls in the hand of the maker. Not the user, as is the case with truly functional objects (ie. plastic dinnerware). Now, I'm sure that some potters reading this have steam coming out of their ears; stay calm. What I am saying is that by accepting the notion of our objects being special is that we now take on the role of designer. It is our responsibility to consider the object in ways that are special. We consider the object, so that we may design something interesting and exciting. Yes, we happen to make said objects with our own hands, but to paraphrase the Communists, that is simply "the means of production."
I know that there are many people, who will say "But I sell my pottery!" "People use my mugs!" and yes, I am sure they do. But that does not make them an inherently functional object. I counter with this.
Consider the Lamborghini. My favorite car in the world.
A few questions.
Is it a car? Yes.
Can you drive it? Yes.
Is it "functional"? Of course.
Are you going to take it to do your groceries? No.
Would you let your teenage son drive it? I doubt it.
Is it accessible to anyone, can anyone buy one? Sure...if you have the money and consider it important to spend it on a car that you love, yet is inherently impractical because of cost and performance.
That is where we are with pottery. Yes we make objects that are inherently for use. That does not make the functional. But, what they are is special, they are kissed by you... the designer. With your eye and your ability.
We also fail to consider the "Functionality" is not just the notion of use, But it is also the notion of cost. We make those decisions every day, when we go to the store and buy the cheaper pens. Do they work as well? No, but are they in my budget right now? Yes. That is the functionality of cost.
You have an audience, which lets be honest. Is either well off, or is the small percentage of people who consider the special object to be important in their own economic perspective.
Making pottery is important, but if the discussion about what the objects are, remains out of touch, then the objects themselves, remain out of touch.