Dear John- I sent your saddle home!

John Craigborn of Tennessee wrote on my blog: "I want to continue to sell my work and I have only been at this for 10 years and I realize you are retired and so it doesn't matter at this point to you to have to earn a living-you worked hard to get to the point to retire, but I still have 25 years before I can retire, and I want to always make work, but I don't want to have to work till I die." Dear John: You're not going to like my answer. If I were an employer and a candidate for employment asked what his/her pension plan would look like in 25 years I wouldn't hire them. Pottery is not an easy way to a comfy retirement. I am not retired! I am lucky enough to live in Canada where I get an Old Age Pension and a Canada Pension Plan. This is not enough to keep me in the life style I am accustomed to. I will work till the day I die probably face first in a spinning ball of clay or propped up by my firing crew while rigamortus sets in before the last stoke of the firing. If a pension 25 years away is on your mind do something else! Work at the Ford Plant and make pots for the joy of it. I never once thought about retirement. I thought about making it through another month. I always thought retirement assumed you'd rather be doing something else. I love what I do. I love the people I hang with. I love the idea of making something that brings love to someone's life. John I am the wrong person to ask about the next 25 years. There are plenty of young hot shots making pots and doing amazing jobs of social media and marketing. I doubt any one of them has retirement plans. They are hanging on making art and living a life style that suits them. I wish I were young again and all full of piss and vinegar. Would I have done anything else- No! If you have any doubts at all about being a long term studio potter- do something else, make pots for fun and happy retirement. Written with all respect to you and your career. Best,T Getting ready for a wood firing.


Anonymous said…
Sad, there are a lot of potters out there that have made a living and saved. We think you do an injustice to many of them by postulating that there is no way to get ahead and make a living as a potter. Perhaps it is more difficult in Canada to make a living as a potter. If you look around the world, Europe, Korea, Japan and the USA, there are lots of people making pots, earning a living, saved money and living a good life and able to retire. Why do you feel that potters can't get ahead? You should go around the world (you have according to your blog-are they all poor in wealth) and the US and visit and see that there are many making a good living and getting ready to retire. There are professors and teachers with good pensions, there are savvy marketers that are supporting their families and then there are artists and potters determined to live the life and have made choices to save and plan and come out ahead. Maybe they know more about marketing themselves, some have made their way as working artists, others have supplemented income as teachers and so have that retirement fund. Seems that people should be able to live a life they choose and enjoy it, do you know any potters that don't have to work til they die? There must be some in your realm of reality. That would be a sad state of affairs to think all have toiled to make art and never get ahead monetarily. Art should be appreciated and lucky so many artists are and are making their living, living a good life and going forward. What a sad state it would be if all the potters and artists out there spent their lives creating and loving it, only to end up with nothing. Sure some will, but hopefully most are smarter and know how to plan for their future. Perhaps it is all in the mind of the creator. As a teacher though, we would hope to see you encouraging people to do their art, because it is possible.
Tony Clennell said…
Anonymous: A very thoughtful and encouraging response. Many potters have done well for a variety of reasons- married well, Bank of Mum and Dad, inheritances, hard work and good luck.
My experience is different. Never had a partner with another job, never inherited, and I moved potteries 3 times which probably set me back 10 years with each move.
My aunt and uncle worked till the day they died 84 and 94. They were rich in life not in money. As am I. We potters usually have nice homes full of fine craft, art and interesting spaces.
Canada may be harder to make a living than the US. We have 1/10 the population spread out across a vast country where most of the population live within 100 miles of the US border. We have a mere handful of college/university programs offering ceramics as a major. Actual studio pottery programs are teaching mostly sculpture and conceptual ceramics. I can think of 4 Universities offering an MFA in Clay. The US has hundreds. The Guilds and pottery centres are alive and well teaching pottery. Something I will address in my next blog- 2/3rds of Everything.
I was told I would never go to University (B.Comm, B.Ed, MFA, RCA). I was told not to be a potter (42Years now). Tell me I can't do it and I will.
Setting out to be a potter is like preparing for a wood firing. Never go in thinking it will be easy and always have respect for the hardships that will present themselves. If it were easy everyone would be doing it. Best, T
Anonymous said…
6 Health Benefits of Farting – Why You Should Just Let it Out!

5. The Smell is Good for You
it may prevent mitochondrial damage that can save you from heart attacks and strokes in the future. It also helps you from Dementia, by changing the way enzymes function in the disease.

So eat your baked beans and enjoy!
Anonymous said…
4. Isolation Helps Towards Becoming an Artist
Isolation can lead to revelation.

There's much to be said for temporary removal from the conventional thoughtmosphere.

Whatever you call it—clearing your head, getting some space, taking time off—some plain and honest looking at yourself clears the way for fundamental rewiring.

It’s hard to explain. The very nature of this type of learning makes it hard to talk about. After all, if it were easy, it’d be in a textbook. But I will say, that finding the right situation and environment for prolonged periods of time might turn out to be worth multiple art school degrees.
Anonymous said…
Your aunt and uncle left behind a legacy and beautiful property. And gave you the desire to make pots, so that was something you inherited, if nothing else. Hopefully new generations can make work and not have to cling to a mortgage or car payment and be able to send their kids off to college. As a collector, I see many people making it, but perhaps they are just scraping by and putting on a facade of having made it. I am in the USA so I have a narrower view.
Anonymous said…
Ever think about taking on apprentices?
Anonymous said…
Ever think about opening a pottery factory, you could be the head designer and have a production crew do all the work. You could be the new Blue Mountain Pottery!
Anonymous said…
Such a shame they worked so hard to end up with nothing except their love of working. From what I read about their pottery it sounded more successful than you portray. Certainly artists will work hard at their art, love what they do and always want to do it- it is a passion not a job. It is a shame though that they must work till death with nothing monetarily to show for it. Following Pinecroft I would not have expected that they too are living so close to the edge. Looks are deceiving. Perhaps pottery/ceramic people need to raise their prices. It’s one thing to love what you do and want to do it. Another to know you can never stop because you can’t make it day to day, god forbid something debilitating occurring. One has to hope the newer potters on the scene are thinking about their future. A lot of artists starve apparently, but must you? Making art does not mean you are making something irrelevant and it doesn’t have to be obscure to be meaningful. And if you are relevant you will make a living.perhaps that comes from attitude towards your craft. If you believe you can’t get ahead you won’t. A lifetime of devotion certainly should show something, seeing a lot of work in major ceramic galleries certainly seems many have gotten ahead. Are artists like Jack Troy, Cynthia Bringle, Jun Kaneko, the late Robbin Hopper, Jami Porter Lara, Ron Meyers starving? Me thinks you are doing a disservice in saying you cannot be successful financially in the ceramic world.
Anonymous said…
I want to know what's happening to young potters today, it seems to be all chiropratic and massage therapy visits and months and months of rest and not being able to work, and potting careers that end early. Whether sitting or standing, or having to switch production from throwing to hand building, what's seems to be going wrong with throwing these days?

Even 1st and 2nd year students at colleges seem to be running to the chiroprator between classes. Why aren't students being taught healthy habits to have long careers in ceramics and pottery?

What's the answer?
Tony Clennell said…
Anonymous: Thank you for proving my point. Jack Troy teacher. Ron Meyers teacher. Jun Kaneko teacher. Robin Hopper amazing author with a passive income that helped . Jack, Ron and Robin were rock stars of the workshop circuit which I am sure added to the family coffers. Ron has been retired for longer than he taught. I just read that John Bauman an amazingly successful and very marketable Indiana potter of 44 years has now taken a job with the post office. I hope you are rocking the ceramic world and accumulating a nice nest egg to retire on. Please prove me wrong with your career. T
Anonymous said…
It is interesting to read about your relatives. You say My aunt and uncle worked till the day they died 84 and 94. They were rich in life not in money. Yet it seems that their pottery lives on. Perhaps there was more than you thought as you did not gain anything monetarily from them, but it seems that someone may have as the pottery seems to be going still. But perhaps they have sunk their own money in with no help from the past. Who is to know? I find it interesting that you are claiming to be barely getting by, but yet you have made a name for yourself, as have all the people you mention above. Your point, they are all teachers so doing well. Do you purport to be a teacher as well? I believe I have read that you teach all over the world. Is your point proven as you mention? What is the outcome if you were to talk of the bank balances of all of them along with with you?

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