Thursday, October 8, 2009

Crafting a Lifestyle

Recently, our local PBS station ran the series Craft in America. It's a wonderfully diverse program with all of the artists reflecting on what draws them to a life of creativity. It got me thinking about a copy of a letter that I had gotten from John Leach many years ago at a functional ceramics workshop and in that letter Bernard Leach wrote to his grandson, John, encouraging him to come to work at his pottery studio in St. Ives, Cornwall. In it he describes what it really takes to be a potter. This letter has stuck with me for over 25 years and continues to ring true today.

"This is the day of the artist craftsman not of the journeyman potter. That means that any young person taking up a craft today as a vocation only justifies himself or herself by finding something to voice or say. That is his life , or true character, extends into his pots. Formerly this was not the case but today it is. We want from the potter the same sort of quality which we expect from a good author, poet, painter or composer. The journeyman potter's place has been taken by the factory. Thus your main objective should be aesthetic - to know good pot from bad pot and to be able to find your way with your own clear convictions amidst all the good and bad pots of past and present to making good sincere and honest pots of your own."

Bernard Leach
The Leach Pottery, 1960