One week ago today, I was sitting in my booth at Chase Park in Chatham, sheltered in the corner of the tent from the bit of drizzle that came and went over the course of the second of three days of the Festival of the Arts there. This is a big show for Cape Cod, more than 100 people creating (and trying to sell) everything from copper garden fountains to first-rate watercolors and weavings to third-rate color photos of lighthouses.
The rain and clouds were a good thing. The day before had been hot and sunny and the weather drove people away from craft to the nearby beaches. Saturday was perfect - not a soaking downpour, simply an occasional passing shower from the clouds that never abandoned the elbow of Cape Cod. We craft show vendors love this kind of weather. It puts faces in front of the work, increasing the chance that there will be buyers among the hundreds of umbrellaed strollers and browsers.
And there were, indeed, buyers. Saturday was a good day, far better than the depression-inducing sunny Friday that preceded it. Pots didn't exactly fly off the shelves, but I sold several. Sales are good for the mood of this particular seller. I'm very cynical about these shows, lugging boxes of pots, tables, tent, tablecloths, chair, shelves, etc. early in the morning to the other end of the Cape. Dragging it from my truck to the designated spot in the park, doing all the necessary things to set up the tent, arrange the tables, unwrap a couple of hundred pots, arrange them on the tables and shelves, and so on. Not my favorite thing. All the time smiling and saying "Good morning" to people who sometimes seem not to notice that there's a human standing behind the table, ready to help them.
Still, I sold some pots. One woman who has bought from me in Chatham for three or four years came by and bought more pots, as did the friend who came with her. I love people like that. They know what they like and they carefully choose what they're going to take home with them. And if they don't buy, it's fine. I honestly don't mind if someone looks carefully at the work on offer and decides nothing there quite speaks to them. I want people to connect with my pots, and that's not always an easy thing to do. Susan, the woman who has bought from me before, is now doing mosaics from broken pots and the next day I brought her a box of (deservedly) destroyed pottery for her work next winter.
And then there was the woman, a pottery student in a local program, who came into the booth, looked a long time at the newly fired big Shino teabowls and said, looking thoughtful, "Are you a fan of Ken Matsuzaki?"
It took me a moment to understand what she meant. Then I got it. "Ummm ... I know his work. He's a terrific potter. I don't try to make his pots, though." (Why should I have to respond rationally and pleasantly to this kind of comment?)
She looked at my work, which apparently had something she remembered seeing in Matsuzaki's, and she figured that this guy must be trying to imitate the Japanese master. With that little bit of information, she'd decided she was going to share an "Aha!" moment with me and let me know she was in on our little secret.
I hate that. Really. Things like that piss me off for days.
At what point in a pot-making career (or a watercolor career, or woodworking or printmaking or photography or short story writing or anything creative ... ) have you synthesized all your teachers and your other influences and are simply making your own work? Take a look at the bio on the blog. I acknowledge some of my influences there - Kanzaki, Rogers, Nakazato, Finnegan, Hamada. We all take from the people who came before us and, if we are thinking and creative makers, our own work grows from what we've learned.
That was part of what generated my reaction to the commenting woman. The Shino teabowls - big, heavy, rough and deep with layered glazes, largely unlikely to be used for tea - that had just come out of the kiln a few days before were some of the best pots I've made. I know that, but there's no reason for anyone else to know. Or care.
Only four more craft shows before Christmas.