Wednesday, May 27, 2009

My Thoughts on Molds

I use no molds in my artwork, yet I see nothing wrong with molds. I made many molds when I worked at Round Tree Pottery. It is good business. It reduces the amount of labor involved in creating products to sell and in business a new design is seen not as art work but as a way to make money. Molds simply increase the supply of the design so more people can buy and enjoy it, but as economics tells us with an increase in supply a decrease in price follows. In a pottery business, most of the time, you can get about the same amount of money for the item whether it was molded or hand-made. With art pottery, one-of-a-kind pieces always bring larger amounts of money initially, but a lifetime of copies will bring far more wealth. The same is true with original paintings with their Giclee or lithograph copies. The artist will always make more money from a lifetime of copies than from just selling the original once. From a purely business point of view, molding is a good direction to go, but there is a price to pay if an artist jumps into molds or copies too soon. Nobody is ever trained to be a great potter from working with molds, or becomes a great painter by working with Giclees. The very act of making and selling molded copies is an enemy to the skill development and creativity of the artist. The artist ceases being creative and passes into the business realm of just turning a profit. The mind does not think anymore about the next great creation, it only thinks of how do I make the payroll or pay the rent or sell or market the products better. The knowledge is never passed on either. It is a one-generational process. I was fortunate enough to work as a production potter for 12 years before I learned anything about molds and to learn to make pottery from one of the greatest, Bruce Odell. I never became wealthy and most of the time I was in survival mode. But it created a set of skills in me that I will use for the rest of my life. I wouldn’t give this up for anything. Bruce Odell was, and still is, avidly against molds. That was not great for his business but it was great for me in my process of learning pottery and sculpting. It takes a lot of repetition to develop the skills of a master potter. Once mastery of the material is accomplished – molds become OK. That is good business. But too much business too soon in a field of art will choke out creativity which is the very thing that makes the business possible. I use no molds in my artwork. I may one day again use molds in my business.

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