Sunday 28 September 2008

Crunching Credit, Ceramics in the City, Confrontational Ceramics, and the Collapse of global Capitalism.

Jackpot!!! A veritable treasure chest of C words to add to the ever-expanding list. Ceramics in the City is now affectionately known at C in the C and Confrontational Ceramics, a vast glossy tome, was sent to me by Ceramic Review, with a request to review the book in 1000 words. With this request I have gladly complied, and I can let you know, in advance of publication, that my review is almost 900 words longer than the text of the book. Ok, slight exaggeration, but suffice to say, it’s yet another of those unspeakable survey books, packed to eaves with hideously glossy pictures and littered with ‘artists’ statements,’ each more turgid than the Journal of Psychiatry.

American Acronyms

So, lets get back to the Credit Crunch. Now it seems that this phenomenon has not yet hit Hackney. Almost everywhere else in the world in now affected: 11 banks in the USA have gone bust, 2 in the UK, President Bush will henceforth be known as the Supreme Leader of the Union of Soviet Socialist States of America, and Maggie May and Donald Duck are building a straw-bale barn somewhere near you where they will swim in the local WAMU and lay AIGs. I’m sure I shouldn’t be so flippant but what else can one do?

Ceramics in the City

Getting back to Hackney, this is where the Geffrye Museum is located, in Kingsland rd, and where the eighth outing of Ceramics in the City bustled with buyers who did, by all accounts, buy. I didn’t get there this year, but I have this information on good authority. All the makers I’ve asked so far have told me it was very well attended and business was brisk. Although results varied for each maker, all have said it was better than most other years. This event took place on the 19th, 20th and 21st of September, the weekend after the announcement of the take over of HBOS by Lloydstsb, which will result in the loss of at least 140,000 jobs and an almost complete collapse of the stock market. Add to that the nationalisation of Northern Rock, near collapse of Bradford and Bingley, rescued by nationalisation, the loss of thousands of jobs when Lehman’s went under and you wonder how it is we’re still selling anything at all. So, encouraging though C in the C’s results obviously are, I am wondering if we shouldn’t all be diversifying – into what I haven’t quite decided, but all imaginative suggestions will be considered.
Just checked google for the spelling of Lehman’s, and found a site, also called Lehman’s in Ohio, which sells butter lamps (ok, oil lamps, but they can easily be converted) and wood burning stoves. I think we might be on to something here.

Lasting vs Disposable
So why are people cheerfully buying handmade pottery at this time, when most of us are facing a winter without heating because we can’t afford the bills, a great may people will be losing their jobs, still more are paying higher interest on their mortgages, others paying higher rents because of competition in the private rented sector because, if you’re on a modest income, you haven’t got a hope in hell of getting a mortgage, and so on? Perhaps longevity is suddenly appealing. Hand made tableware is the very embodiment of the polar opposite of both disposable and conspicuous consumerism. I emphasise handmade tableware because this is what C in the C showcases, arguably, better than any other event I can think of. It also showcases the domestic side of craft, immensely elegantly. The Geffrye is the Museum of the domestic interior, so domestic pottery sits particularly well here.

Terraced Industries

C in the C is a nest of urban potters, many of whom are Londoners. They are experts in ‘old fashioned’ skills such as throwing, (colloquial pottery expression: it means making pots using a potters wheel) and this in itself is unusual these days. Many work full time as potters. They are running what used to be called ‘cottage industries.’ These have now migrated to the city and become ‘terraced industries.’ I suspect such industry could not survive economically in rural areas. Caveat here – Nick Membery is bucking this trend. He has a sophisticated internet selling mechanism, which none of the terraced industry potters do, as far as I know. So I guess his is really, ‘small industry.’ So, in our upside down world of Socialist America with its nationalised banks we can add smart terraced industry migrating to the country, to rural Wales in fact, and peasant industries thriving in Stoke Newington. Now all we need is Serbia to become the world leader in Islamic banking and England to win the world cup. Then I’ll have to go out and buy a new brain, the old one isn’t going to cope.

And Finally...

So, just to acknowledge the last C in the title of this post, are we witnessing the Collapse of global Capitalism? It’s got to be a change in the old world order, surely. I have a feeling it’s not going to be a very comfortable one. I’ve got used to my creature comforts. I’m getting the shed tarted up this week. Just in case a proliferation of C words is the only jackpot I’m going to win.