Clay Craft

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Re: virtuosity vs. ideas

Sorry if you read this twice, but I wanted to share this with folks
here. I first wrote about this at ClayArt in 1999:

Seems like we are overlooking a huge part of the creative territory
that exists between the conceptual and craft skill. Intuition and
the creative "eye" fall in this huge gap somewhere. "The eye" is the
ability to discern, while intuition is related to Hamada's "joyful
heart." It is where the feeling of the work comes from.

I think Hamada's Joyful Heart is so important, that I should
tell the full story about where I heard it. It was at a panel
discussion between MacKenzie, Shimaoka and Sori Yanagi (Soetsu Yanagi's
son, who is in his 90s.) MacKenzie told the story of how when Hamada
visited St. Ives when he and Alix were apprenticing there, after touring
the pottery he said to Leach (all this is as best as I can remember)
"The best thing that could happen to your workshop is if a fire burnt
it all down." This criticism of Leach by Hamada visibly stunned the
audience. (I had heard MacKenzie tell the story before, so when I
heard what was coming, I made sure to look around and see how folks
reacted to the Japanese translation.) Hamada didn't like the catalog
production work. It is important to understand the context of this
story: MacKenzie has great admiration and respect for Bearnard Leach.

MacKenzie then said to Shimaoka, "Your production work seems to keep
life in it. What is your secret that allows this to happen?"

Shimaoka replied, "I don't know." Then after some silence (silence
is not so unbearable in Japanese culture), Shimaoka added.

"Hamada told me that it is important to keep joy in your heart while
you are working. Maybe this helps keep life in the work."

So, there is a huge territory between the conceptual and
virtuosity of craftskil. Creatively speaking, it is what is more
important than ideas or skill.

Lee Love
in Mashiko, Japan My Photo Logs

"The way we are, we are members of each other. All of us. Everything.
The difference ain't in who is a member and who is not, but in who knows
it and who don't."

-- Burley Coulter (Wendell Berry)