Sunday, December 01, 2013

The Berkeley Potter's Guild

We go to their show every fall.  We might miss a "sit-down Thanksgiving", but we do not miss the Guild opening the Saturday after.

They were inspired this year. Very productive, with outstanding artistic quality and craftsmanship. Their best show in years. Certainly some of the potters have been distracted by things like child care for the last few years, but this show reminds us that they have great talent and great skill.

An artist cannot maintain such skill unless they put in a lot of hours. Only a professional can afford to put in those hours. And, the potters at BPG make a living making pottery.  They have the time to perfect their art and craft.

Now there are weavers that make a living by their weaving, but mostly they work with mill spun yarn.  However, a hand spinner can make yarns that mills cannot,and therefor hand weavers working with hand spun can make fabrics that hand weavers working with mill spun cannot.

When I started spinning, a lot of spinners told me that I could not spin 5-ply gansey yarn. They shouted that it had never been done. (Later, a few whispered to me, that they had actually done it.)  It took me 6 months from the time I got my wheel, until I had my first kilo of  gansey yarn, and it went pig tail on me as I tried to block it after dying it. This taught me not to trust the shouting crowd.

Hand spun gansey yarn from long wool is very different from modern mill spun gansey yarn. It does a better job of handling moisture and it is much more durable. One cannot estimate the performance of a sailor's sweater knit from hand-spun long wool from the performance of a sweater made of modern mill spun. To somebody doing historical research, this kind of thing is important.

Likewise, I expect that fabrics woven from handspun will be different from fabrics woven from mill spun. War en-actors frequently end up sleeping outdoors. The fabric used for the clothing can make this more or less comfortably. Fabrics woven from hand spun can make this more comfortable.  Fabrics woven from hand spun can make living in authentic older architecture more comfortable.


Anonymous said...

Why do you assume that every member of the Berkeley Potters Guild are all professional potters? There are many talented crafts people in the Bay Area that cannot support themselves through their craft. I do not understand why you essentially insist that only those who spent full-time at their craft are worthy. Can one produce exceptional handcrafted goods without devoting every waking minute to said craft? Finally, why do you assume that child rearing interferes with the pursuit of one's craft and the ability to excel at it?

Anonymous said...

The child-rearing part is especially funny. Have you read ANY modern research on ancient textiles? Anything? Bueller? Bueller?

Aaron said...

I count the work spaces, and the displays of work for sale. Whether or not ceramics is the primary support for the family, BPG is space for professional potters.

A couple of the potters have told me how they have taken time off from potting for child care. We knew the kids as toddlers. Now, the kids help set up and restock the displays.

I assert that being the best at a craft requires great effort. I agree that performing a craft at a a good amateur level can be achieved with only moderate effort. This level of performance is not unworthy, but it is not first class professional performance. If one is producing "exceptional" objects, then everything must be about the art. Others have great talent. Others put in great efforts. Exceptional objects are produced by exceptional talent putting in exceptional effort because the artist has the elan that fills the artist with visions of what can be. When the artist has visions, they do not rest. An artist that can rest does not have the visions, and will not produce the exceptional objects.

Read Outlier by Gladwell.

Aaron said...

There is a copy of Peck on the dinning room table right now.

However, consider what I think of say, Rutt's work on knitting. (See earlier posts.)

Do you actually think critically about what you read? Or, do you just assume that if it is in a big expensive text book, it must be correct.