Pots of money

12th October 2009 | Daily Life, Musings | 0 comments

Japanese tea bowl

Japanese tea bowl

At the weekend we visited lots of different artists’ studios under an ‘Open House’ scheme run by the borough of Wandsworth. We’ve been attending this event for years and always enjoy the chance to see artists in their home settings, often with their art displayed for sale in the midst of their own possessions. I always feel the artists must be so trusting to let strangers come and wander round their homes.

One of the artists was a potter whose work was really beautiful. We got chatting about the difficulty of earning a living as a potter (which he didn’t). He said sadly that in general, pots don’t command the kind of prices that would enable one to give up the day job and devote oneself to pottery. It had always puzzled him, he said, that people are willing to pay hundreds of pounds for a painting even after a casual viewing, but would draw the line at paying hundreds of pounds for a piece of pottery. And yet, as we know, there can be at least as much work and skill in the making of a beautiful bowl. Furthermore, a bowl can last for hundreds or even thousands of years, as archaeologists keep discovering.

We speculated that people’s reluctance to spend money on pottery was perhaps because everyone knows you can drop a beautiful bowl on the floor and shatter it, whereas a painting is far less accident-prone. And because pots can be used domestically, they may seem to belong in the category of mundane objects, not the realm of fine art. Although as I write the words, I imagine how horrified a Japanese or Chinese lover of ceramics would be to hear such blasphemy.

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