Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Crap and a Handmade Pledge

Well another Christmas has come and gone. And one thing I've noticed growing over the past several years is that this holiday more than others, makes me more and more depressed.

Don't worry. It's nothing serious. It only seems to last a short while, as everything I've witnessed over the frenzied holiday season helps me become more and more passionate about what I do.

But I'm finally beginning to understand what it is that really bothers me about this holiday.

It's all the crap. And by crap, I mean landfill. And I'm not just talking about the wrapping paper, the plastic packaging, the cardboard boxes, the bows and all of that rubbish. I'm talking about the presents themselves. Have any of you noticed how much of that stuff is just crap?

I have young nieces and nephews and I sit quietly in the background and watch them tackle all their new loot. Some of it was broken before it even left the factory/store. Some of it breaks trying to put it together. Some of it is broken after the first attempt at using it. Some of it breaks by the end of day one. And then what? It's off to the landfill. Garbage. Petroleum based products, made in China and elsewhere by people who work far too long for far too little. It's packed in container ships fuelled by more petroleum and shipped half way around the world, to sit in energy-hungry stores, filled with workers who again, work for far too little. And for what? So kids can have 'stuff' to open on Christmas morning?

What's the point of having 'stuff' anyways? Especially if it's just crap that's broken before it can even really be enjoyed? Do the benefits of all of this 'stuff' really outweigh all the negative consequences?

I guess I'm growing cynical.

I Took The Handmade Pledge!

For me, I take comfort in the fact that many of the presents from me to my loved ones this year were handmade and/or upcycled. Being a strong believer in 'what goes around comes around' I have made a conscious effort over the past few years to support my fellow artists and craftspersons. And while my reasons for doing so started out as perhaps a little selfish, I can see it has much further reaching consequences.

I understand that I have no control over what my loved ones actually DO with the gifts they get from me (and I'll admit it, some of them may even head to the landfill). But I hope that it sparks something in them, no matter how small, about the importance of handmade. I hope it brings to their attention just what it means to have quality made things, to support your communities. I am very aware that handmade work is expensive. But there's a reason for that, and surely LESS of BETTER stuff is way more important than MORE of CRAPPY stuff.

I hope everyone enjoyed their holidays this season, and that the gifts you received are ones that will be cherished (and functioning) for a long time to come! And to those of you who took the time and made to effort to buy handmade, thank you, for the consequences are far and reaching in ways that you cannot even imagine.


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Feltware 2.0

Nothing like the thrill of a contest to light a fire under my feet.

Every year the One of a Kind Christmas Show has a contest. This year the theme was teapots. Each vendor was asked to make a teapot in the medium they work in. How could I resist?

During my last year in school, I focused on sculptural teapots, so this was an opportunity to go back to my roots, so to speak. And while I was excited and up for the challenge, it was terrifying.

Even I was surprised at how much pressure I was feeling over this silly little contest! Having gone to a high-profile art institute, I felt a lot of pressure to produce a spectacular piece. This was an opportunity for me to show my peers that I was capable of more than just production pottery - (though notably, some of my customers may not view my work as 'just production pottery', I can't help but feel that sometimes my potter friends view it as such, but that's a whole other issue, and no doubt mostly in my head, anywaaaays...)

Where was I? Oh yes. Pressure. Yup. Lots of it.

One of the ways I like to work out new pieces, is to throw the idea to my subconscious and let it stew there while my conscious forgets about it. A few days/weeks/months later, it usually spits something out that surprises and delights me and I can get busy manifesting that idea. This time was no exception. I knew I wanted something in feltware and let my subconscious do the rest.

Here's what I came up with:

The teapot is fully functional. And while it may not be the spectacular piece I was hoping for, over all I'm pretty pleased with it. It didn't win any awards at the show, but I did sell it (yay!) and I even had an order for another, smaller version.

And while I was finally getting back to the feltware I had started in the spring, I also made these:

No doubt now that my biggest show of the year is over and I finally have some much needed time to myself, I'll rework these pieces. My subconscious is still spitting out ideas (I can't seem to find that off switch!) so I've got all kinds of ideas I'm anxious to work out.

And all that pressure? It was pretty weird at the show to see people's reaction to the new feltware. Those familiar with my functional work were quite surprised, and those who saw the teapot before the functional stuff were surprised as well. After a few days of digesting people's reactions, the pressure melted away and I became excited about this new creative outlet that I've been looking for.

Now, if only I can manage a balance between the work pots and the play pots...