Wednesday, March 18, 2015

functional pottery in a small town

I've watched the lobs going back and forth on the question of the place of functional pottery in the art world. Lately, I've had a couple of personal experiences with this.  The one I'll mention here has to do with a gallery where I have some of my work.  I am one in a group of artists in the co-op gallery, Riverside Artists Gallery in Marietta, Ohio.  It was reviewed by someone on Yelp about a year ago, but I just recently came across the comments. This is what the author has to say-

This co-op gallery has a nice variety of artists and mediums, including fabric, wood and ornamental iron. Yet, like with most co-ops (and from what I was told) the variety usually changes monthly here, which I guess is sometimes bittersweet. I wouldn't consider myself an art critic but the majority of art found here would either be considered crafts and wall or "sofa art." Not a lot of modern, contemporary or global influences. There was some nice ornamental pottery pieces displayed by the front door (sorry, forgot to note the artist) but mostly utilitarian-mugs, vases, bowls.

Of course, I was struck by what he said about the pottery, since that is my work.  Its nice to read that he was taken with the "ornamental pottery pieces" but I puzzled about his bias against utilitarian ones.  Having my work in the gallery has pushed me to explore the non-functional side of ceramics more than I have in the past.  But I look at my functional work with the same eyes, give it the same consideration, as I do the purely decorative. 

In a way, I can understand where the art vs. function bias against pottery comes from.  Some pottery, including mine at times, falls into the crafty realm.  I have to admit, in the struggle to figure out what customers want, I occasionally cross that line. On the other hand there are many examples of functional pottery which show that form, balance, the play of color, and movement are all very important in it's making.  It sounds like I'm talking about a painting or sculpture, right?  Which is why it can be difficult to hear functional pottery being dismissed.  I'm drinking from a mug right now that I would think merits better treatment.

As for the rest of his critique of the gallery, I agree with one of his points.  There is not a lot of contemporary artwork in the gallery.  I would like to see more myself. Much of the artwork is representational, but I'm not sure what he meant by sofa art. The artwork in the gallery is very good quality. A large painting selling in the $400. to $600. range here would easily be double that in a larger town.   Speaking of demographics, Marietta, Ohio is a very small town, population around 14,000, mostly surrounded by rural area. Compare that to the author's town of approx. 822,500 with a much denser populated surrounding area. Do we rely a little too much on the lower priced items that this person describes as crafts?  Possibly.  At present, there are thirteen artists in the gallery and I think it's safe to say that there are a variety of opinions on that subject.  But, we have to pay the rent, and having items in the $50. and under range helps to do that.  This is not an area where people typically lay $500. or even $100. on artwork without a lot of thought.  As far as global influence- well no, there's not a lot, but it is there.  I guess he missed it, or expected more? This is not an area of great ethnic diversity, and we are a local co-op, not importers.

He ended his review on a positive note, which I am glad to share-
Art is relative. Everyone's style is different and it never hurts to explore such a gallery for you never know what you're going to find. If I return to Marietta I'll pop back in to see what's on display.


  1. interesting critique he gave; by sofa art he probably means something a person would put on your coffee table as an accent. I think if a gallery aims to carry a wide range of price points and styles then there can be something there for everyone's price range and artistic bent. Hope he didn't mean there should be imports in a gallery for global influence but rather the global influence in the work of the artist's carried there, i.e. the development of their style of art.

  2. I guess I failed to explain that a large amount of artwork in the gallery is 2-D. I was the only person doing ceramic work at the time of the review. By global influence, I thought he was referring to the ethnic background of the artists and wanted to see that influence in their work. There is quite a lot of artwork portraying scenes in Europe and South America, as one of the painters travelled extensively. That made me think he was looking at style, not content. Only he knows!


Blog Archive