Chris has a long running blog in which he reflects on economics, theology, sociology and drops in bits of poetry. This is a piece from there. 
We are just back from a trip down to East Anglia, where we were exhibitors at the first ever Potfest at Haughley Park. It was a trip full of sunshine, friendship (with the community of potters who come together for these events) and thankfully, sales which paid for the trip and will pay our bills for a month or so to come. I came home with this magnificent object, made by one of my favourite potters on the site, Sara Budzik. She makes things that make me smile and challenge me to rethink my place in things, most notably, giant slugs. I don’t know Sara well, having only met her a couple of times, but her work tells me that she thinks deeply and differently, an all-too rare quality that we need more now than ever.
Anyway, each Potfest event, the organisers arrange for a mass ‘mug swap’, which involves all the potters standing in a massive circle with one of their vessels in hand. Potfest Matt then calls out a series of instructions (three to the right, seventeen to the left, twenty to the right and so on.) It is impossible not to see the lovely pots passing through your hands and not to hope this or that one will finish up with you. This time, I watched a fantastic great big slug mug going around the circle, made by the aforementioned Sara, and I wanted it. Imagine my delight to actually have it when the passing-round had been completed? Thanks Sara! May your creativity continue to expand… It is good to be home, but we loved our trip away. We spent a few precious days afterwards on the Suffolk coast then called in for an overnight trip seeing family. The opportunity to stop working is rare when every hour spent away means that you are not able to work.
This is the life we have chosen, and we love it, but it does not come without challenges. If you are thinking about taking the leap into the creative unknown, then I would encourage you to do it, but do so with your eyes wide open. Make your plans carefully, find your community of support and expect times when your move forward and times when you seem to be getting nowhere. In our current times, in these fading western economies, what does ‘good life’ look like? This seems to me to be an ever more important question given the shift in culture that will be required if we are to finally come to terms with the damage we are doing to our environment and our enveloping ecosystems. The prevailing answers emerging from our culture seem to be about lifestyle. Particularly the sort of lifestyle that can be digitised and displayed. It seems to me to be a constant attempt to display meaning, albeit in a way that often seems entirely manufactured.
I do not mean to be entirely disparaging about this phenomenon however because in the instagram mix we see other strands of idealising, often concerned with creativity, crafting and a return to some kind of modern day arts and crafts ideal. We see this too within the ceramics world. Perhaps due to the enduring popularity of programmes like ‘The Great Pottery Throwdown’, pottery has never been so popular. Courses are all full, second hand equipment is impossible to find, gardens around the land have kilns in sheds. Perhaps all of us are on a mission in search of creative authenticity because in a meaning vacuum, what else is real? But if this search for authenticity is real, it has to be more than a carefully applied instagram beauty filter and it is here that the hard work begins. We have to let go of perfection because success is always nuanced and partial. If it is to be more than just a lifestyle change, it must also be about hard economics. We have to live; there has to be a safe space in which to create. Probably, we will have to live with less, even much less. This is easier for some than others depending on where we are start and we count ourselves as deeply fortunate for all sorts of reasons.
So, do I feel free? Sometimes, and that is mostly enough. At other times I long for more, for deeper, but I am not sure I would have it any other way.