Thursday, May 11, 2017

Blame it on Mac


Another one of my former students wrote the following in response to my last two blogs on the Mudpie Dilemma.
Gracia Isabel wrote: Dear Tony I don’t remember where I read or heard that a potter should never charge more than the teacher. When I see your prizes or Bruce’s (both my teachers and hero-potters) I cannot be mad with you both, so I direct my bad feelings to W. Mackenzie. Yes, functional work should be affordable but our work is valuable and thanks to that sweet old man there is the idea of pricing modestly and new generations struggle making a living. As a newbie it is what I see.

Dear Gracia(Mexico’s loss and Canada’s gain) : Potters in Minnesota and the middle part of America have been blaming Warren Mac for decades for their low prices of pots. Did anyone ever believe he could supply the entire state or mid west of the US with pots? Everyone needs a scapegoat for their predicament. They picked Mac when they should have looked at DEMOGRAPHICS.
Here is my take on it. I have been a student of economic demography since first year university. At a lecture by author Dr. David Foote author of Boom, Bust and Echo Dr. Foote said that 2/3 of everything can be explained by demography. Why did I own Harley’s in my 40’s? Because I always wanted one as a teen and now I could. Do I want one now at my age- no. Too dangerous! DEMOGRAPHICS!
Mac was born during the depression and making pots post WW2. Pots were cheap. Pots were needed. Potters were not college/university educated. They were kids that didn’t finish school and went to work in the labours of the pottery. Not a beautiful place with a view.
After WW2 there was a boom in the population. Bruce and I are the boomers that arrived shortly after our fathers came home from the war. Families were larger, colleges sprang up to educate us and pottery became a studio art not a labour’s job. Mac got a good paying professors job.  Times were good and pots sold. I remember making sets of dishes for 12 and selling cups by the half dozen. DEMOGRAPHICS!
Now families are smaller, and my generation(the boomers) are downsizing their already full to the  brim homes. It is my belief they are still buying but buying more selectively. The problem I have had all of my pottery career has been a production problem and not a marketing problem. There is a HUGE market out there for all of our work.  It boils down to making enough pots to make enough money. I remember the handle you made for a jug at Sheridan. I was going out for a dinner date and so I left class to have a shower, shave and change of clothes. I came back and you were still working on the handle. If you are going to make affordable functional ware and you don’t have independent means you had better learn to make quickly. If that is not you make it beautiful and expensive. Work with your amazing talent and not your back.    All the very best, t


PS: I worked at my aunt and uncle’s old studio today. I had forgotten how much a view makes your day!

2 comments:

John Bauman said...

Good post, Tony.

Thom Wirt said...

I'm with you Tony. And you have to remember that Mac subscribes to the philosophy described in Soetsu's book "Unknown Potter". Pots that are made for use and not filled with ego. Warrne has a large number of protege's who still live and work not to far from where Mac does. They sell at living wages, so I don't buy the argument that "Mac ruined the Minnesota market." Au contraire, he helped make the market. Popularized everyday ceramics. As you said Tony, learn to make it well, quickly, simply and a lot of it.I'd recommend people take a look at Simon Leach's video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9u_pF6U9Vak