Monday, May 11, 2009

Making an unexpected connection



Those of us who sell pots at craft shows and fairs spend a lot of time whining to each other about the mercurial habits of the buying public. Or, perhaps more accurately, the looking public. We sit behind our shelves of pots and smile at everyone who comes by, even if they determinedly don't make eye contact. We explain our work, our clay, our glazes, our firing methods, that "no, it's not raku" ... over and over again. "Beautiful work," they say, and move on down the aisle to the next jeweler or potter or card-maker or ... or ... or ...
I spend a great deal of time waiting for the one or two people who truly make a connection with the pots. With my pots. Or, really, with anyone's pots. There are people who are truly interested in clay and in the making process and in the thought that goes into the whole thing. I love those people. I love it when they buy, but buying is a secondary concern when you meet someone who knows something about clay or genuinely wants to know something about clay.
This comes up because I met a Chinese woman named Ji Jin two days ago at Coffee Obsession, the best coffee shop in Falmouth and the place I am usually found early in the morning before starting the day in the studio. I was leaving in a moment, it was a crowded morning there and I offered Ji Jin and her friends my table. She sat down immediately and began asking about my mug. She wanted to know about the clay, about the color of the glaze, about the overlap of copper red over temmoku. She told me a few things she knew about pot-making in China. I told her a couple of stories I know about pot-making in Korea and Japan. When her friends sat down, I got one of my business cards and a small Shino cup from the shelf display nearby and gave her both. That kind of interest should be encouraged.
Today she sent me an e-mail: "I hope you know how much it warmed me when you put the small beautiful pot in front of me and smiled, “It’s a gift.” It brightened up my day! Thank you so very much! After you left, for a very long time, my friends and I passed around the pot and admired everything about it: the design, your signature, the color, the thoughtful dip on the side, the texture.... I particularly loved the crystal like green at the bottom of the pot. It reminds of the green tea leaves lingering at the bottom of a tea cup. I’m now using it as a teacup, and every time I sip the tea, I think of the spring time in Coffee O.
"You changed my view of pottery too. I opted for a career in science but I’ve always been drawn towards arts. I started white and black ink drawing many years ago and later painting. I traveled about the world and by luck came across a few friends and each of them directed me to a path further down in the art world. But pottery has never been intimate to me. It has always been distant and cold, although beautiful. You brought me the personality of the pottery. This is something that truly made me happy. Thank you!
"Have a lovely spring day.. "
Jin

We should all get such lovely thank-you notes. Made my day.

14 comments:

Mike said...

Very nice story. The coffee shop sounds great!

Ron said...

A special meeting indeed. I like the look of the clay on those turned cups.

Hollis Engley said...

Thanks, guys. Ron, that clay is a very yellow native clay dug from a friend's back yard on Martha's Vineyard. Lots of iron in it. It fires to cone 10 and takes Shinos really well. Unfortunately, I don't get a lot of it. But it's nice and funky when I do.

tsbroome said...

These are the things that make us get up in the mornings! What a great moment in your life to share. Ready to see some pots!

Hollis Engley said...

Yes, Tracey, me too. I'm about to start glazing to fire later this week.

barb jensen said...

Wonderful story, how lucky that you had a cup at hand to gift her with and the instinct to do it.
I love seeing the raw clay on the feet of those cups, beautiful photo.

paul jessop said...

Great story Hollis, but don't forget your part in the story, it was your generosity of time and work that made the moment for those ladies, thats what I like most about being a potter, meeting nice people and talking about the pots. it enriches peoples lives and ours. Rock On Hollis.

doug Fitch said...

That's a lovely tale. I feel just the same way, if somebody 'gets it', it's the best feeling

Joy Tanner said...

That is special. I love it when that happens. It feels like people "get" me and what my work is about when that connection is made. It feels so rewarding. Thanks for sharing!

Dan Finnegan said...

The legend of 'Coffee Obsession' continues...I can see it all happening in my minds eye.

Hollis Engley said...

Yeah, you can go on a long time on one thing like that. And yes, Dan, you know that place pretty well now.

jimgottuso said...

very nice encounter... her thoughtful words about your gift are inspiring

cookingwithgas said...

Thanks for sharing such a warm and thoughtful moment.
It goes to show that potters make it important for people to connect with their work.
And the connection back- how warm that is for her to give a gift back of words.

wabi sabi said...

Hey Hollis I recommend looking at this 14th generation oribe potter Kato Yasukage.