Artist Q&A: Meet Ayumi Horie

Ceramics Monthly: How do you think people’s experience of something perceived as precious changes their awareness around use? How does that affect their expectations of cost and value? How has this changed your sales over the course of your career?

Ayumi Horie: The word precious gives me the shivers. When applied to objects, it brings to mind either the obsession of Gollum or the prissy untouchability of a china cabinet, neither of which I want my work associated with. Yet, I welcome the notion of a precious memory of an object; it is the experience of an object that is precious, rather than the thing itself. How we value objects not only has to do with cost, but also the circumstance of its acquisition, its history in our lives, and the way it’s served us. Despite the anxiety of losing something treasured, the pleasure in the experience of using it may be heightened because we are cognizant of the liminal space it occupies between the every day and the locked away. We excuse its brittle lightness or its leaden bottom, and its sharp edge may instead become endearing, rather than annoying. We may even create occasions to celebrate expressly so that we use the pots we love (think little girls with tea parties).

The function of pots is generally binary; they’re either working or not working. I love that their demise is often so dramatic. An audible crack, rather than a tepid wearing out over time like an old sweater with holey elbows. This experience of sudden and permanent* loss reinforces the metaphorical nature of ceramics. Just like everything in life, we ought to enjoy the moment, because they’re here until they’re not.

My imperative is not so much to make something cheap, but to make something cheap enough and more than good. More than that, if I’m charging more for an object, it better be good and unique in the way handmade things are. I will let the factories do the work of making affordable work, because I want to make something really beautiful even if it means me putting more time and effort into it. There’s a place for all price ranges and my responsibility is to be efficient in the studio and to make quality work. Over the years, my customers have stuck by me, because they appreciate this fact about me. I want to make a living wage and use what I pay my carpenter for his craftsmanship as my benchmark. Luckily, as my prices have increased, so have sales. I spend an enormous amount of time on social media sharing my life as a maker and a Mainer. With every pot comes a little bit of my story and I hope that the animals I draw can nurture a little precious memory for someone.

*Exception: Check out historical examples of repaired pots on Andrew Baseman’s blog, Past Imperfect.

Comments
  • Janet S.

    A passage from C. S. Lewis’ Out of the Silent Planet is called to mind:

    “A pleasure is full grown only when it is remembered. You are speaking Hman, as if the pleasure were one thing and the memory another. It is all one thing. . . What you call remembering is the last part of the pleasure. . . When you and I met, the meeting was over very shortly, it was nothing. Now it is growing something as we remember it. But still we know very little about it. What it will be when I remember it as I lie down to die, what it makes in me all my days till then–that is the real meeting. The other is only the beginning of it. ”

    The interaction of art and artist and personal experiences of both give meaning far beyond the actual “value.” It does indeed become precious in the very true meaning of the word. (And, in the loss of the broken, the memory, the real meaning, may only then be revealed.)

    I appreciate your tying your wage to that of your carpenter, also, no doubt, a worthy craftsman/artist. It ties the artist’s value to the “real world.”

  • Wonderful piece of writing! My wife and I are potters with a small studio and shop. We love to make our creations and want them used and loved. We price reasonably so our sales can be robust enough to continue to produce while encouraging use. It is a fine line we walk between selling our wares and earning a living. I like the way you have explained the transitory nature of “things”.
    Regards, from two fishes pottery.

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