My mother was a fairly prominent potter using raku and primitive firing techniques well before they were popular in contemporary ceramics. She came to pottery when I was 11 years old and announced that she was leaving her job as a microbiologist and was planning to study ceramics- a good move since she was pretty successful and was much more self-fulfilled. Also fortuitous as she often sympathizes with my tales of the ups and downs of being an artist. She has been there and she knows what I am talking about and has been a great support.
I recently turned 60, and for my birthday present she gave me one of her pots that for as long as I can remember has proudly sat in a display case in the house where I grew up. It is not one of her biggest pots or her flashiest pots (I already own some of these from prior birthdays and anniversaries- lucky me!) but for my mom, it is one of her most important pots.
As I unwrapped the pot she told me this story: This pot was one of the first pieces of raku pottery that she created and she decided to enter it into a national competition. Raku was a fairly unknown technique at the time. She waited, as I often do, to hear of a decision when she got the shipping box back with a letter apologizing that the pot must have been damaged in shipping. Her heart sank as she unwrapped the box fearing the worst. She was delighted to see that the pot was in tact and realized that the veins and crackled effect in the glaze that she worked so hard to achieve were mistaken for a broken piece.
Mom shared that story with me to let me know that often artists' intents are not understood. Not getting in a show is not the mark of a piece being either good or bad.
She also told me of being thrilled after one of her shows to be contacted by some prominent collectors that wanted to buy one of her best pots. She was not ready to part with this show piece and told them that she would be in contact when she was ready to sell it. After several years she contacted the collectors and they were thrilled that they would finally own the pot. When the couple came to pick it up, the woman exclaimed that she was so excited to finally own this piece of art and that she could not wait to put her favorite plant in it! Now this is akin to someone buying one of my pieces and saying what a lovely baby blanket it will be!
But it is a teaching moment. My mom's piece of art held a plant, and one of my pieces might end up as a sofa throw. We can not determine how people will look at our art or how they will use our art when it leaves our possession.
Over the years my mother has taught me many life lessons. These stories helped me understand that I will not be able to control how my art is viewed or used, and I have to be fine with that. The other choice is to have them hidden from sight. And that is not alternative.