Wednesday, December 12, 2018

simple design is not simple work

I got this email a while back:

I'm looking for a ceramic artist that might be able to make me some christmas gifts. I recently discovered *well-known potter's goddess ware* and I'm looking for something similar (I'd buy directly from her but they sell out sooo fast). I love how body-positive and woman-positive her pieces are and I love the simplicity of the design. Would you consider making a sketch of a couple pieces inspired by her work? I really like your work too, I'm pretty interested to see what you might come up with. Thanks for considering!

I immediately put this email in the trash so I would not be tempted to answer it, but then was thinking about it in the middle of the night. The way you think about all the things that are bothering you in the middle of the night. I pulled it out of the trash the next morning and tried to compose the perfect email. One that was devoid of snark and drained of hostility while declining the opportunity, and perhaps giving a little education on how this thing of ordering custom pieces from artists is supposed to work. 30 minutes went by before I realized there are no words in the English language that I can string together in the right order that would say what I needed to say without being snarky and hostile. Into the trash it went again. Thankfully, I have you people to rant to.

There are so many things wrong with this email. For starters, do I look like a fucking clay elf, sitting around my workshop, making sketches of work to see if I can tempt a customer to order something?  I will turn cartwheels and somersaults while I wait to see if you are interested in what I come up with! I immediately looked at the other artist's work of course, and literally the only thing we have in common is that we both make functional things out of clay. 

This is the thing, and the educational bit I was trying to get across, but couldn't: Every artist out there who has been able to work long enough to have a recognizable style has had to work for years to get there, refining their processes to get a consistent result that satisfies them.  This artist's "simplicity of design" has been achieved not because it is simple, it's that she is so skilled at what she does and makes it look simple.  Simple design is not simple work. 

I get that this person did not have bad intentions or wanted to insult me, which is why I did not unload on them... I'm unloading here. They are just supremely ignorant about how artists work and what moves us to make things. Or, more precisely, what moves me to make things. 

I love that moment when I am inspired by what other artists have made, it's like a light going on inside me. I live for that moment. It cannot be forced or manufactured. And when I try to force or manufacture it, I'm never happy with the result. It's not me, but a poor derivative of what someone else made way better than I did. I can't work like that, especially on purpose. Almost no artist can.

Lastly, if you are in love with what an artist makes but they are always selling out, then write to them directly and ask them to make something for you. This artist who makes the goddess ware has a contact page with an email address! Any artist who is trying to make a living recognizes that the people who hold up their hands and ask for your work are the people who really support and grow your business, and most are happy to oblige these people. Don't ask another artist to do it.