During our trip to Tennessee, we toured the arts and crafts loop in Gatlinburg. I quickly started calling it the "marts and crap" loop.
Why? Two words sum it up: production pottery. Handmade pottery, made the same way cup after cup after cup, vase after vase after vase.
It wasn't like that when we visited 20 years ago, and it doesn't need to be like that now. For example, one shop pressed leaves into the clay before the firing; the leaves burn off and create a beautiful impression. Cool idea. BUT ... and this is a big BUT ... one cool idea isn't art. It isn't art without craft.
The pots were poorly thrown -- one wall thin, another thick. The glazes were beautiful, but flawed. They oozed. They bubbled. They ran over the leaf impressions, and not in a purposeful way. I'm guessing it was literal carelessness. The potters couldn't care less.
Nonetheless, people were buying the pots. And that's the danger. Those of us who make a living through creativity know that people will buy crap. People either don't know better or don't have time to find better.
That's no excuse for creating crap. It's our responsibility to do our best. Every day. With every pot. Every photo. Every word.
And that's what I learned on my summer vacation.
(I learned something else the day we got back: One of my favorite places in the universe is my own living room on a sunny afternoon when we're all home, doing our own thing. Separate but together. In sunshine.)