Ceramic Industry

Preaching to the Choir

October 20, 2010
More students, artists, and working potters are joining the ceramics community, but the marketplace of buyers and collectors does not seem to be growing at the same rate.

I’ve been wondering lately what truly constitutes the “ceramics community.” I find myself using that term from time to time, and it really makes very little sense. There is no mayor, no geographic boundary, and no traffic signals…only kidding. Seriously, though…

I think the primary ceramics community is a diverse group of students, working potters, ceramic artists, vendors, suppliers, manufacturers, and educators. A secondary group includes a very small number of people who are aficionados of ceramics, those who buy and collect, those who write, or own galleries, and perhaps some others whom I can’t quantify right now.

The primary ceramics community essentially drives the secondary group. Unfortunately, the first group is growing, and the second is not. There is something seriously wrong with this equation. It appears that the first group is preaching to the choir. Makers of ceramics are in a greater proportion than those who consume what we make.

Academic institutions are spewing forth more students with degrees in ceramics. Teaching positions are very few, and the market for ceramics is just not quite there. Where does all the pottery go? Unless the marketplace increases with the same ferocity by which ceramic arts and potters are entering the field (and by which those already in it are continuing to produce ware), a serious imbalance will continue.

We need to grow that second part of our ceramics community. Seriously. Without a viable marketplace, many in the first part of that ceramic community will not be able to sustain themselves.

I do not question the validity of a degree in ceramics or of following one’s muse and dream. I do not question the need for arts education or the need for arts in our culture. But how are to we to grow a marketplace that is shrinking?

I am open to suggestions. But we really need to stop preaching to the choir.