Polly Wellford throwing a bowl on her potter’s wheel.
I was talking with one of our artists several weeks ago. We were making plans for the Holidays. She brought up a very valid issue and wanted me to discuss it with the friends of the gallery. There is a phrase in our world called “being Walmartized”. For me, it means that consumers are always concerned with one thing – getting the lowest price possible. Walmart’s vender relationships have changed Corporate America. Every industry is affected – demanding the lowest price possible. I have heard that this demand has tightened margins to making it almost impossible to show a profit.
Polly’s slip-trailed work to make interesting patterns in her bowls after being glazed.
As we get closer to Black Friday and Small Business Saturday, I have to consider how this phenomenon affects artists and galleries. At C2C, I try hard to offer affordable art by local artists. I work hard to offer variety in many forms. Initially this morning, I almost jumped on the bandwagon of offering 15% off storewide, just like my neighbors. Many of you know, I am quick on the keyboard. Sometimes, too quick. But, I paused.
Mike Taylor at work
Did you know that every artist at C2C is a professional? What does this mean, really? It means that they have spent decades learning their craft. Not just years, decades. Many have formal education and some selective courses taken over the years. Then, they have thousands of hours in their studios. Thousands of minutes looking at the world around them. Some artists gain their style from a particular point in history. Some in nature. Some via industry. However, the item that you look at today, when you visit C2C, is a culmination of many days, weeks, and years observing, studying, and then practicing one skill. Many times, one finished item has several techniques incorporated to give you the final product.
Often, I am asked how long did that pot take to make? Usually, I answer with a long description of the many steps to make a bowl or mug. What I don’t mention is the years of practice to get to this point in time. I am including a video that Bob Walma produced of me in 2010. It is still relevant today. It only takes minutes to watch because we produced it over a few weeks. Bob edited the boring parts – things that take time, like a pot drying slowly so it doesn’t crack,the smoothing of edges, or the 12 plus hours of vigilantly watching a kiln as it is fired.
(click on the title to see the video)
As you can see, there is a lot of time in making just one vase. Nothing at C2C is made with a machine. Each item was made with two hands and hours of work. It can not be duplicated exactly a second time. The item that you take home is unique and one of a kind.
So, to circle around to where I started with this line of thought, we will not be offering a discount on Black Friday. You will receive a $10 credit on your American Express account Saturday as a gift from them for shopping with small businesses. I hope that you can see value in purchasing handmade items from local artisans, knowing that we have wrestled with the correct pricing for the time and materials necessary to make that one beautiful handmade piece of art.
Over the next five weeks, I hope to see you in the gallery. I can package your gifts to be ready for gifting. There will be ways to combine items to make nice teacher or hostess gifts. My artists and I thank you for your purchases. Happy Thanksgiving.
Tonya Rund’s clay work
Maggie Neale in her studio
Bob Walma and Lee Brown working on the Tipple
The Green Daffodil Girls making Candles
Julie Devers and Michael Kifer displaying their work.
Mary Kuilema in her studio.