Thursday, April 27, 2006

Jane Jacobs dies at 90

Susan Witt wrote this very personal obit about the great urban visionary, Jane Jacobs.

Jane Jacobs died on Tuesday, just short of her ninetieth birthday, her son by her side.

The 1983 Annual E. F. Schumacher Lecture program was my first introduction to the extraordinary intellect of Jane Jacobs. In her talk "The Economy of Regions," she argued for regional economic diversity, complexity, and interdependence. She imagined a myriad of small industries producing for regional markets ­ small industries that depended on local materials, local labor, local capital, local transport systems, and appropriately-scaled technology to conduct business. She pictured the fruits of this regional industry spilling over to support a rich cultural life in the city at the hub of the region. This bustling creative energy would then foster new innovation and industry, filling in the "niches" of the economy.

"Cities don't work like perpetual-motion machines. They require constant new inputs in the form of innovations based on human insights. And if they are to generate [vibrant] city regions, they require repeated, exuberant episodes of import-replacing, which are manifestations of the human ability to make adaptive imitations . . . "

In the question period following the talk, Jane Jacobs was asked how best to foster these regional economies. Her answer was "regional currencies." She called regional currencies one of the most elegant tools for stimulating and regulating production and trade in a region.

Bob Swann's eyes flashed and his knees trembled. He was a staunch advocate for local currencies. Was Jane Jacobs a partner with him in this advocacy? He could not wait to query her more.

He had his chance on the drive back to the airport after the lecture, talking eagerly about the role of regional currencies in shaping regional economies. We described the SHARE micro-credit program that the Schumacher Society had helped to launch in Great Barrington as a way for a citizen group to gain experience in making productive loans to small businesses.
SHARE was our first step in an initiative to launch a local currency.

As she got out of the car, Jane Jacobs turned to Bob and to me and said, "You know that $500 honorarium for speaking? Would you take it and open a SHARE account for me? I want to participate and so stay informed about what you are doing." She said it with a twinkle. She knew how it would delight us.

That was when I first experienced the great warmth of spirit of Jane Jacobs. She championed the "ideas that matter," but she also championed the people putting the ideas into practice. In her book "Systems of Survival" one of her characters describes the details of the SHARE program, and in "Dark Age Ahead" she points to the E. F. Schumacher Society's work with community land trusts as one of the positive indicators of the renewal of American culture.

During Bob Swann's last years, as he struggled with his health, hand written notes from Jane Jacobs cheered him on. And unexpected phone calls have cheered and encouraged me.

The world has lost a great intellect. At the Schumacher Society, in addition, we have lost an advisory board member and a dear friend. I can think of no finer way to honor her than for us all to foster "exuberant episodes of import-replacing" in our local communities.

Susan Witt
For the Board of Directors and Staff
E. F. Schumacher Society

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Shamelessly Marketing Handmade Pottery

I am shamelessy marketing my pottery this week. (month, year, my whole life?) Tomorrow I leave for New York with some snappy new plastic containers, lime green. Their stylishnes gives me confidence and a bit of aplomb. Don't ask why.

I am nervous about all this. This is a very independent move, nobody else is marketing this thing for me. I have had wonderful help, don't get me wrong. From the brilliant designers at Opto, to my incredible office mate, Sandy Beer, who helped put together 500 plus catalogs and mailed them from here and DC. In fact, she got Quakers to help put them together, which elicited a thunderstruck "$42. for a coffee cup??" (ended up in a Quaker minute).

Making pottery in the US is an amazing challenge. Making and expecting to make a living is, well, quite possibly insane. Or, maybe if Seth is correct, if my story is consistent, authentic and meaningful, I'll make it. I have been working at this for too many years to mention. What I won't do is give into somebody else's idea of what is proper, what is appropriate, what is possible, even. As an artist, it is my obligation to invent my own reality and if my ideas are a bit outside the box, well, I plug away. But, if I love what I do and I do and I am unhappy with what the market has to offer and I think I can do better, then I am going to persist. I persist because I believe in what I am doing and I think what I do and how I do it might just inspire others to take up the torch. The torch of the independent artist, making work that speaks to a deeper part of the self, a deeper part of humanity that is tied to making and process and invention and a slowness in becoming. This is slow, let me tell you. But, in its slowness, if I do finally breakthrough, I won't ever have to compromise. Because my success did not come prematuely. It came in my maturity. I didn't settle. I waited.

Sorry to be so self absorbed lately, but there you have it. Narcissism in its unadulturated authenticity. The narcissistic artist. Not a new concept...

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Monday, April 24, 2006

Spring/Summer Collection in New York

This Friday I am going to New York City to show new work Rihga Royal Hotel, for a "trunk show". An unusual move for a potter, trunk shows tend to be the perview of jewlers and fashion designers. Well, what the heck! Here goes. If you are in town, do stop by, 11am - 5 pm Saturay April 29 and Sunday, April 30th. I will be at the Rihga Royal Hotel at 151 West 54th St. (between 6th and 7th Avenues).

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Friday, April 21, 2006

My birthday

Today's my birthday. Here's a view from my studio. Spring has definately sprung! It's been an amazing 48 years getting more amazing by the minute....

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Earth logo

Earth logo, originally uploaded by madpotter1.

I created this logo for the International Day of Peace, September 21st. It can be used freely to advocate the Day.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

New York City Trunk Show

White 6 piece, originally uploaded by madpotter1.

Getting ready to come to New York next week for my first ever trunk show at the Rihga Royal Hotel on 54th and 7th Ave. I'll be there Saturday and Sunday, April 29-30, from 11-5PM. I am working on lots of new things. I'll be posting more new work as I get closer to the day.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Artstream Studios

An amazing, more connected world, by the day. Susan Schwake-Larochelle and I met here in blogsphere. She asked me for some seed vases, and off they went last week. Today, I looked at her blog, and there is my pottery, in the window of her gallery in New Hampshire, part a huge, wonderful opening and fashion show she hosted this past weekend. Check it out - Art Esprit

Susan is getting a lot done! Whew!

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Thursday, April 13, 2006

Kiln Opening

New work here-

Stories that can Save the World

Seth Godin has a great article in this month's Ode Magazine, Stories the Shake the World. It is part of the cover story, The Greatest Story Never Told; How Marketing can Save the World. Ode is an edgy, save the world type magazine, a bit low key and cool, very hip and clearly open. Published in Dutch, originally in 1995 and English since 2004, it seems to have quite a mission. I started subscribing a couple of months ago and Seth's article really piqued my interest.

His premise, as you may know, is the telling of authentic stories to sell whatever. Linking story telling to marketing as a strategy and also as a relationship builder. Building relationships with clients and people in general is good for business. Being authentic (honest), acting with integrity, keeping your word - all points of honest business that matter.

Seth's been telling us this for years. Why do I care that it is in Ode? Ode will likely reach a whole new audience for Seth. Guess what? His story is spreading. And his story is a positive one. His story is that there is a lot more cool, good stuff going on in the world than yucky bad stuff. He says if we tell these cool, good stories in compelling, thoughtful ways, people might just start to feel a little less threatened by terrosism (actually, I'm extrapolating. He didn't quite say that). Is that possible?

The point is, there IS an amazing amount of really powerful, positive shifts in the way we live and the way we do business. These shifts, if well told, can change and quite possibly save the world. Marketers, according to Seth, have a huge resposibility to craft their stories well and have the business and products which are worth selling and worth buying. He reflects that bad marketing has killed way more people than nuclear weapons.

Check out the article. There's a positive tide countering the sometimes overwhelming negativity being spewed forth from traditional media...

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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Free Culture

I just finished listening to Lawerence Lessig's book, as a free MP3 download, Free Culture. As an artist, I am interested in ideas about intellectual property and ownership, based on making a living as an artist. From his book, I see more clearly how the rights of artists, living artists, are an imperitive for creativity and sustainable production in the studio. Sustainable creativity, making art that builds upon our culture's traditions and heritage, is a necessary component of cultural evolution. Lessig very clearly articulates, in distinct shades of grey, the difference between paying an artist and the danger of extended copyrights in the hands of private corporate interests, even foundations of individual artists, long dead.
I have been long running up against a myth in our culture that an artist cannot make a living. An artist's gifts must be given, as art is above money. This is so false, it makes me want to scream. Many people DO get that the artist must not only be paid, and must also have control of their creative output. The financial pressures of life in the good old USA require that artists do all that they can to make a living. Where does that mean selling out? Is selling out even possible, if an artist is working for herself?
From Lessig's book, I am even more convinced that free culture, while not free in the sense of not paying, is about freedom. Freedom of expression, freedom of speech, freedom to have an idea, expressing it and putting it into the world to see how it flies. As a visual artist, copyrights and ownership are even less clear and more complex than say a musician or author. If I produce work which has a visual affect on my fellows, and artists are suddenly experiencing an influence of my ideas, isn't this part of the point of being a visual artist? To have an affect and be a member of a culture, some sort of sharing is necessary to the advance of thought, ideas and quite possibly a new reality.
A story can be told visually. If it is a compelling story and spreads, then the artist has had an impact on society, hopefully for the better. If the work is owned, say, by Disney, and any derivitive works are doomed to costly lawsuits, then the advance of culture is stifled.
As I mentioned, Lessig paints his picture in shades of grey, with many fine lines and balances to consider. The artist must be paid for her work. The artist needs to understand their studio production is a business, not sullying thir output, but as an expression of the freedom and justice for an artist to sustain free thought. Remaining independent is the option I have chosen to continue to produce work which is not beholden to a large, private interest.

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Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Seed and Pod Vases

I unloaded the kiln yesterday. Here are some seed and pod vases from that firing. Some are going to the Fabric Workshop in Philadelphia for Lonnie Graham's Conversation at the Table. Some are going to Art Esprit in New Hampshire next week. I love showing these here hot out of the kiln! Check out the process at my blog, Kiln Opening.

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