Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Art vs Craft and Dollar Value, Again...

I'm Japanese, so it goes without saying I love ceramics as much as textiles. And Nelson is one of the hubs of New Zealand ceramics. My taste in ceramics is, again, utilitarian, so I love ceramicists/potters who stick with relatively inexpensive things I can use every day.

Yesterday, Trish, Ben and I had a wonderful lunch at the cafe inside Mapua camp ground, (we recommend the starter platter), then went to Bronte Gallery, which I believe has the finest art ceramics in Nelson, and McGlashen Pottery, which I consider to have the nicest usable ceramics in Nelson, though the Robertsons at Bronte has usable stuff and Royce McGlashen, beatiful art pieces as well.

We don't go see Daryl Robertson often enough, but when we do, we have a good natter, about aesthetics, art buyers, craft/art in Japan, and the adventures and misadventures of their sons. For the first time yesterday, though, (now that I have a couple of years of art-making behind me,) we were able to talk about, well, art-making, a little bit. We talked about the exactitude required to sell things to the Japanese market and how at this point I can't be bothered even thinking about it. It was a good natter. He and Lesley are doing more paintings now; in fact I have a story about how I came to buy one of her paintings but that's for another post. We have a few of their smaller ceramics, but not their main art pieces. It's not that I don't appreciate them, in fact some of the Daryl's work is beautifully crafted, but I am still bothered by ceramic pieces I can't eat off of or drink out of or stick flowers into, or can't give friends to wear. I don't put as much dollar value to them even though I fully realize they are far more ardurous, tough work.

Then we rushed into McGlashen's five minutes before closing, and we ooohed and aaahed and rushed around the shop space like headless chickens. Good thing Trish bought a few things, because we stayed far too long beyond their closing time. I get a little overwhelmed at McGlashen's because I love so many of his work and I become incapable of deciding, plus Ben and I like very different things. And that's just a quick look around his usable pieces. After the kitchen is finished (in Feb?) we might go and get a few pieces if we can. We might go for several visits before I make up my mind... And it's funny how I feel this is a semi-basic spending, though I tend to dismiss his art pieces, as attractive as they are, as frivolous spending on my part, and regrettably there are a few art/decorative pieces he used to do but no longer which I really wished we had considered more seriously.

So how does this relate to textiles as a collector? Well, as a collector, no matter how beautiful, I've never honestly been tempted to buy tapestry, even if they were made by dear friends; I've always felt they were overpriced, even though I know how much time and work goes into them and appreciate the artistry and skills. In contrast, I have a more studied relationship with the prices of shawls, scarves and the like. I find myself assessing calmly (even if I don't look it) if I see the same emotional/artistic/intrinsic value in a piece as shown on the price tag, and I have bought things out of my price range but where the pieces were worthwhile. As well, I know in handing and wearing a piece, one has far more chances to see/feel/smell and appreciate/experience the piece in comparison to looking at something hung stationary on the wall, no matter how many times and from how many angles I look.

What does it mean to me as a maker? I don't know. The only thing I've learned thus far, and I'm quite serious here, is if you want to let the world know a piece of your weaving is art rather than craft, put an outrageous price on it. I don't like this attitude; it feels dishonest and false. But I do know my wearable pieces are on the high end, and my only art piece was, according to others, ridiculously cheap and therefore the talk of the exhibition.

Gee, I've got to get off this computer now...

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