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Phil Oliver

25 July 2011

 

 

 

          An Historical Review of Art, Commerce and Craftsmanship

 


 

The following is the text of a lecture given by Harry Davis between 1968 and 1970 at the:-

Commonwealth Institute, London.
Den Permanente, Copenhagen.
Suter Art Gallery, Nelson.
The University of New South Wales, Sydney.


An Historical Review of Art, Commerce and Craftsmanship

It may be wondered why I, as a potter, have chosen a title which obviously has more to do with sociology than pottery. The reason is that the history of the relationship between these three explains the peculiar position of pottery today, and also explains the need which people seem to feel to differentiate between artists and craftsmen in the arbitrary way in which they do. This distinction has much more to do with prestige than with creative talent, and is very much bound up with social status. The history of this relationship also explains the peculiar fact that pottery has "made the grade"-that a generation ago potters managed to insinuate themselves into the world of Fine Art, while cabinet makers, musical instrument makers and blacksmiths, etc., did not.

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Walter Gropius, the well-known architect and founder of the Bauhaus, spoke somewhere of the "fatal legacy from a generation which arbitrarily elevated some branches of art above the rest, as Fine Art, and in so doing robbed all arts of their basic identity and common life." This strikes me as a wonderfully vivid and concise statement about a social malaise which lies at the back of the whole of Western culture. The generation to which Gropius is referring is of course the one which lived in the first half of the 16th century, and to which Leonardo Da Vinci and Michael Angelo belonged, as did also Giorgio Vasari the painter and author, whose writings had, I believe, a considerable influence on the growth of this legacy. In actual fact the arts and the crafts are parts of a continuous sequence, extending from spheres of activity where the imaginative is maximal and craftsmanship is subordinate, to those where craftsmanship is dominant and imagination has no place at all. In this context one must remember that a lathe worker machining parts for engines, or a pottery worker tending a jigger, are both craftsmen at the non-imaginative end of the sequence. Clearly one can have craftsmanship without what we call Art, but one cannot have art without craftsmanship. Somewhere in this sequence there is, one might say, a frontier zone where art becomes craft in the non-imaginative sense. It is unfortunate that this is thought of as a fixed line, arbitrarily located, instead of as a zone with room to manoeuver. The creation of a work of art involves the artist in innumerable movements back and forth across this zone. He switches between the purely manual and the purely imaginative, and the two merge continuously. It is perhaps even more unfortunate that people find themselves, or so they think, located on one side or the other of this imaginary line. In consequence you get people who, in certain situations will proclaim indignantly, or even concietedly "I am an Artist" and thereby put paid to any further argument, and others who when brought into contact with what they think is art proclaim pathetically "Of course I am no Artist" and venture no comment. The probability is that in fact neither of them is uttering the truth. These arbitrary divisions are a post-renaissance phenomenon. One might say post-renaissance social irritants, because before the 15th century these distinctions were not made. Men and their occupations were distinguished on the basis of the physical tasks they performed. Painters made pictures.

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Image makers carved in stone and wood. Potters made pots, and although they made some exceedingly fine things - beautiful things - significant things - exciting things-whichever adjective happens to be fashionable, yet none of these people were called artists. The interesting thing is that their languages had no such word, and the thing we call art was liable to emerge in almost any artifact that craftsmen made. In consequence-and with an absence of bally-hoo-a cultural something, a human something, permeated the entire social environment. One should note that the question of the relationship between artist and craftsman did not arise as they were one and the same person. This spontaneous creativity in the human make-up is as old as the record of man's works. There is no escaping the extraordinary beauty of the tools and artifacts of stone age man, and the work of the Maoris and the Aborigines is full of fine examples. Graham dark, the eminent archeologist, points out what an ancient characteristic of man this is. In a reference to hand-axes of the mid-pleistocene, i.e. 300,000 years ago he says: "It would be perverse to account for the finest hand-axes in terms of their function alone since they were better made than large numbers which must presumably have been adequate. The cult of excellence, the determination to make things as perfect as they could be made, even if, at a purely utilitarian level, perfection might seem excessive, is something which began this early in the history of man." It is sobering to reflect on the magnificent things that have been done outside what we like to think of as civilisation, and to remember that the acme of barbarity can also be found within it.

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I am stressing an aspect of social history because it also helps to explain the peculiar light in which potters tend to see themselves today. One might think that with all this interest in pottery and with numerous magazines apparently devoted solely to this subject, that the potters vocation was an up and coming thing; that his self esteem and his social standing was at a high level. There is, however, something misleading about all this because in the Anglo Saxon world as a whole this new-found eminence is based on something else. For instance when I was shown round the ceramic department of the University of Hawaii, by Claud Horan, he showed me the work of his students, and explained apologetically that none of his students wanted to make pots anymore. This was evident from the fact that all the work was what is called ceramic sculpture, and no hollow object was classifiable as a functional pot. Woven into all this is a preoccupation with status, and I want to record an experience of mine of some 30 years ago which illustrates this. When I was engaged by the Crown Agents for the Colonies to work at Achimota College in the Gold Coast, I thought I was being engaged as a potter. The officials in London flinched visibly at this but they recorded it so. Quite soon after my arrival in West Africa it was explained that the title Ceramist would be more suitable-what they meant of course was more prestigeous. I was duly referred to as the Ceramist, although many Europeans in the area admitted that they didn't know what such a one did for a crust. Being young and perhaps a little flattered by all this status-padding, I accepted it and made no protest. Five years later, when I resigned from the job, Michael Cardew accepted the position, and of course when negotiating with the Crown Agents in London he encountered this terminology. He too thought of himself as a potter and being 15 years older than I was when I took on the job, he had the necessary self-confidence to make a public issue of it. I was present when Michael Cardew made it known to the assembled staff that he wasn't having any truck with this nonsense; he was a potter and that was what he expected to be called. I felt an awful worm because at that point it looked as though I had introduced the whole snobby idea. I had tolerated it and that was bad enough. Twenty-seven years later I see that this little bit of status-padding is still contributing to the irri-tation. I am sure this stems from the publisher straining every nerve to advertise his product, but there it is, explained on the dust cover of Cardew's recently published book, that he held the post of Ceramist to the Institute of Arts and Industrial and Social Sciences at Achimota. It is obvious from this impressive title what important tasks we were engaged upon, and how necessary it must have seemed that we should appear as earnest ceramists and not just common potters. In North America, and in some quarters in New Zealand too, it is astonishing how much energy goes into splitting hairs over the classification of potters. Anything to avoid the simple title potter. This is all port of the "fatal legacy" as Gropius calls it and is mostly confined to those who think of themselves as the elite, arid it is interesting that most European languages include these hair-splitting distinctions between straight potters and other potters. I have already referred to the fact that potters have managed to insinuate themselves into the world of Fine Art. We need to face the fact that they are holding their position in that world largely by not making pots-by not being potters. The Canadian potter Tarn Irving once remarked aptly that "there is nothing wrong with making ceramic neck ties if people want them, but they do also want pots." He was saying of course that sculpture is a three-dimensional art-form just as valid in burnt clay as in wood or stone or metal. Pottery is another three-dimensional art-form which happens still to have links with the business of eating and drinking. The fact that sculpture has largely lost its social role as a means of commemorating heroes and saints is no reason for potters to abandon the social role which they still have. My plea is that pottery is a valid and viable art-form in its own right, and that potters should have the courage to be potters. The business of making useful pots does present several rather formidable hurdles, besides the one of giving expression to creative talent. One wonders how much the hurdle of acquiring skill, and the hurdle of mastering technological expertise, is the explanation for all this. It could also be explained by the fact that it is coming to be accepted that the time-cycle between the first lesson at night school and the first "one man show", as the phrase goes, should not exceed six months flat! Joking aside, this last can of course be accounted for in part by the extraordinary multiplication of commercial galleries. Some see this as a cultural blossoming, but one should remember the vested interest which lies behind such premature promotion of exhibitions and the preoccupation with status which makes them so tempting.

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There is an aspect of the growth of the English language which throws some interesting light on the distinctions made in Anglo-Saxon thinking with regard to the words Art and Craft. "Art" and "artist" derive. from the Latin "Ars" meaning skill. "Craft" derives from the teutonic, an old German and Norse word also meaning skill. Both words have had infinitive forms. It was possible at one time to "art" something, as it is now to "craft" it, which gives us the revolting phrase "hand Grafted". Both words expose social shortcomings in the related words "artful" and "crafty". The word "craft" came into the language with the first Saxon and Danish invasions after the departure of the Romans. After the Norman conquest England, as is well known, was a land with two languages. The Normans, the ruling class, spoke French, and the Saxons, the ruled, spoke a Germanic dialect. There are many examples to show how, when the two languages merged, Saxon words remained attached to the menial aspects of life while the French was attached to the more privileged and dignified aspects. Take the classic example of the words "sheep" and "mouton", "sheep" being what the underprivileged Saxon called the beast he tended, and "mouton" (mutton) being what the privileged Norman called it when he got it served up on the table. The point here is that 500 years before the Italian Renaissance, English was already equipped with explicit linguistic distinctions denoting what were to become the menial and what the dignified aspects of the visual arts. Remember that in 1066 there were still no "Artists".

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The association of these two words with the idea of skill has another interesting lesson to offer. Art was interpreted as skill right up to the late 19th century and for many people this is still how it is used. An artist is an able draughtsman, and he who is not an able draughtsman is obviously no artist. It is astonishing how much relief and satisfaction people will often reveal when, after considering a modern painting in non-representational mood, they are able to point to some early drawing of a more conventional sort by the same artist. The reaction is to say "You see he can draw," or "It isn't that he can't draw." Few people seem to realise that the purpose of drawing in an artist's training is not only to develop skilled draughtsmanship, but more important to develop sensitivity to form and powers of perception. It is interesting that the Oxford dictionary takes the inter-pretation of art as skill right up to Matthew Arnold. Quite apart from the discovery of primitive art, which began in this century, it had already become obvious that machines and cameras were getting altogether too clever, so that if we were to continue to pay homage to art it became imperative to find something else in it besides skill. This is an example of the way value judgements swing violently from one extreme to another. We have jumped from Victorian prudery to the almost totally permissive in less than a century. Art has somersaulted in a similar way, until now signs of skill are sufficient grounds for derogatory comment, and nowhere more so than in the world of craft revivalism. If the craft in question happens to involve a function it is difficult to dispense with skill altogether, but the status value of being associated with Art, rather than Craft, is so great that function is often gladly dispensed with.

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I was very thrilled to read recently a statement by Gio Ponti, the well known Italian architect, in which he records his gratitude to the organisers of certain museums in America. He was referring to the fact that in that country what he called conventional art (nice phrase) was exhibited alongside the work of primitive peoples and simple craftsmen, and he rejoiced in the fact that this presented the creative genius of man as a single whole. He pointed out that in Italy what he called conventional art would be found in an Art Gallery, and the rest in an ethnographical museum. This applies of course to museums and galleries in most parts of the world. I was excited to discover this passage because it reminded me of an experience of mine in 1935. I was in Paris enlarging my knowledge of the visual arts, looking at the Louvre and the Luxembourg with an eye preconditioned by the conventional concepts of what is called Art. One saw there an overwhelming mass of material, some immensely moving, and some equally depressing, and one felt relieved that one did not have to live with so much bombast created to natter the egos of princes. Later while sightseeing in the vicinity of the Eifel Tower I came upon a building called the Trocadero (since pulled down). It was some sort of theatre built in the round and had immense circular galleries which contained a vast ethnographical museum. This, for me, was a discovery. Here was another side of man, displayed through a collection of the works of primitive peoples, an uninhibited side uninfluenced by the egos of princes and patrons. Those familiar with that remarkable little carving called the Wiilandorf Venus, will know that this was the work of an unknown Aurignacian who lived deep back in the last ice age, some 20,000 years ago. It is in a museum in Vienna, and it is a classic example of the sort of work of art which is normally classified as an ethnographical or archaeological exhibit. If one were to put the Wiilandorf Venus alongside a Henry Moore or an Alberto Giocameti, a pot or two from neolithic China, or contemporary West Africa, with perhaps a Van Gogh or a bronze from Benin and a few stone age implements, one would begin to see our heritage as Gio Ponti does in its true perspective. I must say I felt saddened and sorry for all those generations of young artists referred to by Sir Kenneth dark in his recent lectures on civilisation. He was happy to think of them having, generation by generation, padded back and forth across the Pont des Arts, between the Ecole des Beaux Arts and The Louvre as they strove to equal the classic tradition enshrined in that gallery. I was sad to think that the ethnographical museum had not been on their itinerary. Thinking also of the universality of the arts of man I felt there was something significant, and very symbolic, in the fact that the Ecole des Beaux Arts is situated at the extreme end of the Rue de 1'Universite. If one follows the Rue de l'Universite to its other extreme, which is quite a long walk, one arrives at a point just opposite where that famous ethnographical museum used to be.

An event which first opened my eyes on the matter of what is Art and what is not Art, and of status in the arts, occurred when I was an art student aged 17. I had taken a job as a decorator in a pottery. My parents were happy about this as it meant that I was associated with something which they thought of as Art, though nothing could have been farther from the truth, because as I now see it, the pots were appalling. I was very intrigued with the whole potting process and pleased to be able to earn a living this way. I had also learnt to throw and it seemed I was fairly good at it. One day the owners asked me if I would like to leave the decorating and learn the throwing side properly from an old man who worked there. I was delighted and agreed, but when I told my parents about this they were quite crest-fallen. I had failed them on the academic front and the vision of my plodding up the ladder in the local council offices to the eventual pension had been abandoned. Art seemed to them to be a presentable alternative, and who knows there was always the possibility that I might do something "original" but there I was, about to learn to be a thrower. To my mother this was a terrible come-down. She was reduced to tears, and I was perplexed and unable to understand the reason for this reaction. Many years were to elapse before I was able to see how events in social history could lead to such a distortion of values. There is a greater clarity today about the forces that influence value judgements, but I was recently reminded how much this kind of thinking about relative status still persists. This came about in the process of collecting data about the house we live in, and about its former occupants. The list included a retired gentleman, a builder, a vicar, etc., but one name had no occupation. In answer to our query about him we were told "Oh-he didn't do anything, he was only a labourer."

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The dividing element which caused the Fine Arts to separate from the other arts was of course money- money, the medium by which commerce has become the dominant and all pervading motivating force of society. With regard to the status obsessions I won't say it was the cause, but it certainly was, and is, a prime factor in the fostering of false concepts of status. Someone has said very aptly that money is like manure. When you pile it up in a heap it stinks, but when you spread it out thinly it has a wonderfully stimulating-a fertilising, effect. The rise of commerce out of ages with, so to speak, no commerce at all, has twice had this stimulating effect in Europe. Gordon Child has traced the fascinating story of the first of these in the late bronze age. The growth of the period known as the middle ages is the other example with which I am concerned here. This was preceded by the system of regional subsistance economies called feudalism which spread all over Europe after the fall of Rome. Then came the Crusades, provoked by the spread of Islam, which in turn brought into being the Order of Templars. This order began by assuming the role of pious protectors of pilgrims to the Holy Land, but soon it was involved in trading and money exchange as well. The Templars therefore became the founders of a primitive banking and credit organisation which extended all over Europe and which was accompanied by very considerable trading activity within Europe, and also between Europe and the Arab World. The result was the fantastic cultural stimulation of the middle ages and the birth of the great spate of cathedral building. It is no coincidence that the first Gothic cathedral was built in Paris when the Templars were at the height of their power with their banking headquarters also in Paris. By the year 1300 the Templars no longer dominated the banking scene. Banking in Paris was already a private merchant adventurer's field, and Florence already had its famous banking names. By the Renaissance the manure heap stage had been reached and the diffused culture of the common people began the long slow withering with which we are all familiar. Only in the vicinity of the manure heap of the great banker merchant princes did the arts flourish like giant over-nourished docks. To some this may seem a very irreverent way to speak about something which has been eulogised for 400 years as a pinnacle of Art and Culture. However, this is the point in history referred to by Walter Gropius as having left us that fatal legacy, as he calls it, and it isn't the only misshapen bit of inheritance it has left us. I think it behoves us to try and see all this in its true perspective. Remarkable as some aspects of this cultural peak undoubtedly were, one should not lose sight of the fact that it was also the point in history when two similarly remarkable civilisations were destroyed by Renaissance Europeans. The Inca and the Aztec civilisations were both wrecked at that time, and one should also remember that it was the same generation which revived the sale of slaves. Africans were first sold into slavery in the West Indies at that time. Ever since the fall of Rome, slavery had been slowly on the way out. Feudal Europe had its serfs it is true, but at least the buying and selling of slaves had stopped, and freedom was on the increase everywhere in medieval Europe. The great wave of city charters is the evidence, and it was the free men of those cities who formed the guilds and built the cathedrals to which I have been referring.

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The essayist Professor Lionel Trilling has commented adversely on the claim by Dr. Leavis that the basis of poetic genius is the "moral conscience" and says "This gives nothing like adequate recognition to those aspects of Art which are gratuitous, and which arise from high people was astonishingly varied and vigorous, and it is also known that they were in trading contact with their neighbours, the Chinese and the Persians. Their trading activity was intermittent and obviously spaced out at irregular intervals, and in consequence their commercial motives were kept separate from their creative motives.

If we now take a look at a very different sort of society, which thrived 1500 years later we see a rather anomalous situation. I am referring to the cathedral builders of northern Europe. Here we have a theocratic society, a settled economy, and the use of money, but nevertheless a tremendous artistic vitality. It is worth noting that anonymity is almost as complete here as in the caves of the Dordogne. One very interesting thing about this epoch was the loud and long opposition of the theocratic leadership to mammon in general and to usury in particular. As already noted the system of banking and credit was operated by a very austere religious order. This was an actively anti-commercial leadership in a society which was however considerably involved in commerce. This was the period, incidentally, which produced one of the most vigorous periods of creative potting. I shall have occasion to refer to the English branch of this activity again later. In these three widely separated periods in our history there are two interesting things to note-both points that I have already touched on, but they are worth repeating. One is the fact that one can safely say that in none of them would one have found that their languages included a word for Art. They had sculptors, painters, potters, metal founders, all with appropriate names no doubt, but no "Artists". The other thing is that the spirit of the thing we call commerce touched them very lightly.

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If we now move on another 400 years (to use round figures) we come to the beginning of our own era in Renaissance Italy. This was a truly remarkable period- the period in which modern science was born. It was both forward looking and backward looking, and although it was in direct line of descent from the cathedral builders of the Middle Ages, the transition to the age of commerce was completed at this time. The backward glance was towards Rome, which was in itself very mercenary, but the general revival of interest in classical antiquity was stimulated by the fact that Italy became a sort of refugee reception area for victims of the final overthrow of Byzan-time Rome by the Turks. This was the period when the principles of modern banking and double entry bookkeeping were established. It also produced the first tycoons. The long struggle of the Church against usury was lost at this time. The Church was slow to give up this struggle, but the new commercial class had subtle techniques, lavish donations of works of art to the Church, was one, care being taken to see that there should be no doubt about who donated what, the cash value of the gift being inscribed on the gift, together with the name of the donor-a thing utterly in contrast to the mood of the cathedral builders of a few centuries earlier. There can be little doubt that the motive here was to soften the churchman's resolve in his censure of the links with mammon, and to acquire kudos and prestige at the same time. This was the beginning of the era of patronage, when the painters and sculptors began to come into the social orbit of the merchant princes. In their quest for kudos and prestige it must have been obvious that this was best served by commissioning the most gifted and renowned sculptors and painters. In the process a very interesting and a very significant relationship came about: the sculptors and painters were drawn into an atmosphere of social intimacy with the ruling elite. The tycoons and the artists began to bask, as it were, in each other's glory, and both acquired kudos from the other's eminence. A familiar pattern.

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In 1563 an event took place which has had its effect on the visual arts ever since. Cosimo Medici the second sanctioned the foundation of an academy which was to give distinction to his "artist" friends, and absolve them from the obligations previously imposed on them by their guilds. Although this was no doubt justifiable on grounds of talent as well as for practical considerations, the prestige and distinction which it conferred set the chosen painters and sculptors-they were not yet called artists -in a class apart. This permanent separation from other craftsmen created a temptation to snobbery which was perhaps without equal, and amounted to giving official sanction to an attitude among painters and sculptors which had been developing gradually over a considerable period. The element of snobbish exclusiveness which was thus confirmed in high places is traceable in the writings of Vasari who was a founder member and prime mover in the birth of this, the first of the academies of Art. An academy is precisely a fellowship of the elect, and fits perfectly into Andre Maurios' classic definition of snobbery. He has expressed this with such telling alliteration, playing on the words "Elus" and "Exclus", that I must quote the original. "Les exclus souhaient devenir des elus; les elus defendent leurs privileges et meprisent les exclus" (The outsiders long to become members of the elect; the elect-or elite-defend their privileges and despise the outsiders.) One has to grasp that this transition was a long, slow process. The change from a society dominated by religion to one dominated by commerce took something like 400 years. There is a wealth of documentary material from which the stages of the change can be followed, and I am going to quote one or two which interest me very much as a potter. There is a famous document preserved in the files of a Genoese merchant banker which indicates a point when God and Mammon were exerting forces of about equal strength. The man's name was Datini, and his account books are dedicated, "To the Glory of God and Profit". Lorenzo Giberti who was at his prime at the turn of the century in 1400 could see the way things were going. His much quoted remark to the effect that he had "chosen art in order to avoid the chase after money" rings a bell which many artists have heard toll in more recent centuries. By the year 1500 Mammon was well and truly in the saddle, a more mercenary era there possibly never was. Anything could be had for money-cardinals' hats and papal throwns included.

Everything was for sale, so why boggle at the sale of slaves? A safe conduct to heaven, called an indulgence, could be had for a modest fee, and they were sold in their thousands to finance the building of St. Peter's and much else besides. This was the last straw which provoked Martin Luther to make his famous protest just 17 years later.

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Guild records for the late 13th century in London show very interesting details regarding the ratio of master craftsmen to journeymen. The ratio was 1 to 1, so that allowing for apprentices, the numbers of which were also controlled on a strict ratio basis, this meant that the overall ratio of employees to employers was at a level highly conducive to creative effort. It is very interesting to note in this connection, that this is the period which produced the spate of "medieval pottery" which is such a remarkable tribute to the creative vitality of England at that time. The range and subtlety and individual character of the pots of that period never ceases to amaze me, and what is so interesting about these pots is that they are all essentially functional, useful, pots. Another record, this time from Paris for the year 1292 is a tax list from which the relative wealth of various citizens can be gauged. This is a very revealing document. Taxes were based on property and significantly enough the highest tax was paid by the banker merchants. These were Lombards, be it noted, and not the order of Templars. They topped the list with a tax of 114 livres a year. The next highest tax paid is a very interesting item of 19 livres paid by two potters. This might seem a big drop from the banker's 114, but it is astonishingly high when one comes to consider the rest of the list. A jeweller or dealer in precious stones paid 10 livres a year. Then come several trades paying between 5 livres and 10 livres. There is a painter at 6 livres and an image maker (sculptor) at 1 livre. Paris at this time was a much bigger city than London and it is clear from these records that commerce was developing at tempos relative to their size. The creative qualities of the work of the potters in the two cities seems to be an obvious reflection of this, and it is significant that the Guild Hall in London has a large collection of magnificent pots from medieval London, but the Cluny museum in Paris has nothing comparable to offer. With the business prosperity of the potters in Paris standing second only to that of the bankers it is perhaps not surprising that nothing very noteworthy survives.

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Human institutions are prone like many other things to growth and flowering, fruition and decay. The Guild systems were no exception. They always had a monopolistic streak in their makeup, but at their best, they were very admirable institutions. In their prime they were not only concerned to protect their privileges and monopolies, their ordinances also covered the craftsman's obligations to the consumer with regard to quality of work, and embraced their obligations to each other. These obligations included help in times of sickness and old age, and of course civic responsibility and elaborate ceremony. This, alas, did not last. The monopolistic element became the ascendant one. Commercial expansion, plus greed and nepotism within the guilds, finally changed the ratio of masters to journeymen and apprentices, and transformed the role and habits of masters out of all recognition. They became employers pure and simple, controlling large numbers of workers, and they were actively involved in politics. For example, in 16th century Florence anti-strike legislation soon became their concern and in this they were even able to call upon Ecclesiastical backing in the form of threats of excommunication for restive workers. This was a pattern which at that time was confined to centres of commerce like Florence and the cities of the Netherlands, but it was a pattern which was to spread to the smallest provincial towns as the industrial revolution later came to augment it. The tre-mendous prestige and the extravagant exaltation of those who practised the "Fine Arts" was founded on wealth amassed by exploitation which entailed a loss of freedom and dignity among those who followed the "other arts".

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It is very important to grasp that at the very point in history when fine art, that is to say painting and sculpture and architecture, was being used as a status symbol by the new class of wealthy bankers and merchants-and of course as a power symbol for princes and popes-those who followed the other arts, i.e. the craftsmen or artigani, were losing their freedom and their dignity in the interests of commerce. Furthermore one must keep in mind the effect of repetition under orders from an employer, with the added circumstance of subdivision of tasks, which had an inevitably dire impact on the element of creative sparkle in work done. All this took root within the renaissance period, and the painters and sculptors, having aligned themselves with the upper class, also began to voice their contempt for lesser mortals. This arbitrary division between fine art and other art has remained a feature of western society ever since.

The fashion in neo-classical ideas which began in this period was to determine taste in the arts for several centuries. It created an exaggerated respect for polish and outward refinement, and a contempt for primitive and elemental vitality which took a very long time to subside. This was of course a product of the split which I have described. Two hundred and fifty years later at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, when Josiah Wedge-wood came on the scene, this was still the case. One should remember that at this period there were in England a great many rural potters whose tradition and technique had come down in an unbroken line from the time of the cathedral builders, but the days of this tradition were numbered. I have already referred to the craftsman losing his freedom and his dignity as he was turned into a proletarian during the birth of capitalism in Renaissance Italy. There has been a lot written about Josiah Wedgewood. Those who have read William Cook-worthy's Diary will know what an astute business man he was. The name of Josiah Wedgewood still commands tremendous respect, and he is spoken of as the father of English potters, but he was not really a potter at all. He was an eminent industrialist-a manufacturer-and one of his most conspicuous achievements was perhaps his exploration of the idea of subdivision of labour. He developed the idea of the factory in the modern sense, and he was also responsible for some very impressive technological developments. Artistically speaking he merely reflected the neo-classical tastes of the upper classes, and perpetuated the Greek and Roman ideas which had percolated down from Florence. The success of these developments was the beginning of the end, in the pottery field, of that precious freedom among simple men to exercise the impulse to play creatively. No such play can take place when the material advantages of subdivision of labour are being exploited. In accounts of the period the pre-industrial craftsmen are hardly mentioned and their work is seen as the "crude antecedent" of the new industrial pottery. From then on the independent craftsman was slowly eliminated, and his creative zest withered as his self-esteem declined. All this was accepted as the price of progress; Art as understood by the establishment, still flourished in places called academies. It had the backing of royalty and was essentially something for gentlemen.

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From the mid 18th century to the late 19th century the independent craftsman went steadily down hill. Then the craft revival movement, under the inspiration of William Morris, sought to recapture the creative scope which was once the birthright of any craftsman, and to allow him to regain his self-esteem and dignity. These were qualities once enjoyed by unselfconscious and illiterate men. The new craftsmen of the revivalist movement were middle class intellectuals, some were even university graduates and some were trained "artists". Some outstanding personalities brought the dignity and respect, which society already accorded them as graduates, to bear upon their new-found vocation, and did so in all humility and without false dignity. Others repeated the rather ignominious scramble for status vis-a-vis the "Fine Arts" which the painters and sculptors of the 16th century had indulged in with regard to the liberal arts and the social elite who enjoyed them.

As with all social maladies diagnosis is easy. Remedy is another matter. The malady I have been stressing here is related to intrinsic values. The vital aspects of art are dependent on satisfactory value scales in relation to living and the world around us. A society almost totally dominated by monetary values-commercial values-is at an extreme disadvantage when it tries to accommodate other values in its thinking. It doesn't try of course, individuals in it try, but all they can do is to modify their personal behaviour in relation to their values. One looks to education for signs of hope, but it is committed to training young people to man the social order as it exists, and although it pays lip-service to the idea that things should be done for the right reasons, only its rebels seem in fact to succeed in this respect. The truly simple and adequate reasons for making pots disappear from view when any gimmick is worth a try as an indication of originality, and any publicity is worth chasing as a means to fame. To do something in order to appear to be original; to adopt mannerisms and play the eccentric in order to appear to be an artist; to pursue fame as a conscious objective are all symptoms of sickness and examples of actions taken for the wrong reasons. In saying that potters should have the courage to be potters, one is merely saying that they should have the courage to do things for the right reasons.

Harry Davis
Crewenna 1968