Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Shiny Boots Crowd

87. The Shiny Boots Crowd

Praise can be a difficult subject in our culture. Some people give out very little and others gush out so much it becomes both worthless and irritating. In our daily lives we have to endure unrelenting waves of compliments for this product or that, this person or that. At home, we often forget to give our loved ones specific expressions of our heartfelt appreciation and mistakenly let them think us indifferent to their virtues.
My mother-in-law is a particularly praiseworthy woman. In her seventies now, I actually can’t think of a time in her life when I’d rather have known her. The version I see today really is the best version so far, and that’s saying a lot.
Among her other accomplishments, she was the first woman to earn a graduate degree in Ceramics from Angelo Garzio, at Kansas State University. His background was Old World and chauvinist. She was born and raised in Texas and had too much sand to be ground down or driven off.
She has since retired from ceramics, and I think finds it amusing to have her daughter bring a potter son-in-law into the family. We’ve talked about pots a time or two and I’ve invited her to come to NCECA with me, just for old times’ sake. But she’s not interested. You see, she remembers how it used to be, and long ago got disgusted by the gradual takeover of “the shiny boots crowd.”
The “shiny boots” are the god potters, the super heroic deluxe aren’t-you-just-thrilled-to-be-in-their-presence potters. They may not have started that way and they may not have wanted such attention, but it’s been good for business and prices are up. It’s just not why she got into ceramics, nor what she values at a clay conference.
We’re not in ceramics to have our boots polished or to spend time on our knees polishing our betters’ boots. We’re here to make good pots, great ones, when we’re able. And if we can help each other achieve that goal then it’s been a good year and a good conference. I still hope to get her to come with me sometime, but it’s a thin hope. She’s a marvelously busy woman.
She still enjoys heroic pots, she just has no stomach for ‘heroic’ potters and their adoring fan clubs. I find it hard to blame her. In the meantime, our profession is weaker for her absence.

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