Monday, June 22, 2009

Interview: potter John Bauman

This is the second Monday of the new weekly ceramic artists survey. If you're a potter or ceramic artist & you'd like to fill out the survey, see this post for the questions individually.

Vital statistics (name, age, location, link to website)?
John Bauman, 52 , Warsaw, Indiana,

Where do you work in clay?
In my studio – three pole buildings on an acre in the industrial park in Warsaw, Indiana

Do you have another job?
Nope. Not yet, anyway. 30 years of self-employment. 30 years of every single household dollar being earned with my hands in clay.

Are your studio and occupation decisions made by choice or necessity? Please explain.
Odd question. Being a potter was my choice. It continues to be. But I’m a realist, and I’m just responsible enough to realize how much the choice of being a potter has cost me in the ability to make choices. In other words, my potter’s income means that I don’t get too much of what I want. I mostly get only what I need.

How do you budget your time (in the studio and out - family, errands, etc)?
I try to get as much time with my hands in clay as possible. But marketing is a necessary evil so I’m wearing that hat much of the time as well. I have several other passions (guitar and running with my dogs) that take my time too. And then there’s filling out internet surveys.

Why do you make pots?
I guess I could answer that in two ways:

Practically, I make pots because I started to make my living in pottery when I was very young and simply continued. So the simplest answer to "why do you make pots?" is: So I can eat, have a roof over my head, gas up my car, and feed the dogs. (Ask the dogs. They'll tell you that hands down, the last answer is the best).

But I could also answer your question more philosophically (or maybe more romantically, as I've never, in 34 years of making pots, lost my passion for the work) with a bit I wrote out a few years ago [*see end of survey for extended answer]...

How concerned are you about environmental issues? Does this affect your work?
Concerned from both angles. I’m concerned enough to be careful with my own business – how I might affect the environment. And I am concerned that environmental concerns may soon be making pottery -- as a livelihood or hobby – not possible.

What do you do when you're having a bad day in the studio?
Type the word “whine” into your internet free thesaurus and you’ll get the complete list.

Do you create art in other mediums?
Music. Don’t laugh. You haven’t even heard me yet. Okay, go ahead. Laugh.

Where do you sell your work?
Art fairs, etsy, one gallery

How did you approach those venues about selling your work?
Type “beg/grovel” into your internet free thesaurus and you will the the complete list.

Actually, I just jury for the art fairs like anyone else. Etsy – I was a reluctant joiner and experientially convinced. The gallery asked for my pottery for about ten years. I finally gave in.

Do you have any questions you're dying to ask other ceramic artists, or artists in general?
Are potters actually a more highly and completely evolved species, or does it just seem that way?

If you could change one property of clay, what would it be? (for me it would be George Costanza’s embarrassing predicament: shrinkage. I would love it if clay didn’t shrink)

*Why do you make pots? -The philosophical answer-

It’s that wire that no one sees but draws us to the magician’s hand.
It’s the true north that mysteriously keeps our needle pointing one way.

One day we saw something-out-of-nothing spin into existence beneath a practiced hand. What we once thought solid as concrete suddenly appeared as flexible as fabric.
Or maybe in our youth, on a late evening walk past the college art department, we chanced upon a firing -- a glowing kiln. It caught our attention as fire has since…since forever. We were imprinted.

We notice everything pottery. In the background scenery of a movie set, in a commercial on TV, we'll notice the pots.
If we walk into a strange place and there happens to be a hand-thrown piece in the room, little else occupies our mind – at least until we’ve had the chance to pick that piece up, feel its heft, and look beneath it. It calls our attention like an overheard conversation that sounds more interesting than the one in which we’re currently engaged...
"Oh, excuse me. Did you say something?”

Now even the wares we use everyday take on new meaning. We’ve glimpsed behind the curtain and what was once a mystery – the “I-wonder-how-they-did-that?” – becomes de-mystified one discovery at a time. And, in turn, it is answered with a satisfying life of pursuing new “how-to-do” mysteries to put back into the world.

So, perhaps it’s the process that hooks us at first. But almost simultaneously we’re drawn to these objects that we’re making. On the one hand we observe the component parts of glaze, form, function. And often times, especially at the beginning of our lives in clay, we see the parts in spite of the whole…
...but then, as we grow with the clay and the process, we start to direct our attention to the objective end in form and function. We begin to see the whole becoming greater than the sum of those parts.
Add the fire that takes so much of the end result out of our hands – out of our control -- and we can be utterly surprised by that new whole that somehow managed to exceed our imagination. Upon opening the kiln, it’s like meeting and being charmed by a stranger.

Proof? -- the kiln opening dance. You know the one. You’ve done it. With mitted hands you hold the still hot pot by rim and base, and slowly rotate it in that graceful 360 degree pirouette – attempting to take in the whole of it. Then you set it down and turn, as if to leave – only to echo the pirouette yourself. You spin on your heel, return to the pot and pick it back up for that second look…
…Fred, meet Ginger.


Judith Frederick said...

nice interview. I can totally relate to the philosophical answer of why we make pots! nice to meet you, so to speak.

Mostly Art said...

His work is absolutely gorgeous! Thank you for this article, very good read.

ang said...

JB you funny...thanks for the excellent read..

how appropriate, word verification 'aussie'...

Anonymous said...

john... nicely written and apt philosophical description at the end, great interview

lomaprietapottery said...

terrific interview. Totally relate to the philosophic answer to why make pots.

John Bauman said...

Thanks for the kind words, all. It's a fun project (the survey) to be part of. I encourage all potters to do the same! Then I can get to know you all.

John B said...

Great interview, great guy, great artist. Great guitarist, too, even though he won't admit it. Also, as my mother said after meeting him at the gallery who carries his art, "My, what a HANDSOME young man!"

I'm a proud owner of a bowl and a mug, and have enjoyed giving John's art as gifts. I look forward to having much more Bauman Stoneware in my house in the future.

Docks-Pottery said...

thanks very much Erin for your blog, I will come back to visit you often from Torino Italy, your comments on our work we would be pleased.Ciao

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