||> Garth Clark, Galerist, New York City
Keramikgruppe Grenzhausen is a model for a number of principles; camaraderie in
a speciality medium, smart use of resources, marketing savvy and the
encouragement to each hold each others feet to the fire of high aesthetic
standards. I have long argued at conferences and other events that the
collaborative pottery is the way of the future. Ceramics is such an arduous
discipline in its complexity of materials, its sophistication of equipment,
its long and vulnerable process from mud to fired art, that to establish all
of this infrastructure, gather all the tools and machines for just one maker
is poor use of capital (human and fiscal) and is energy inefficient and
ecologically unsound. When we look back twenty years from now at the luxury
of the one potter/one studio approach, we will remember the path blazed by
this group of five artists who have worked together, shared a working space
and common kilns, survived romances and aesthetic dispute for X years now
and are still amongst Germany's most innovative ceramists.
This direction is not without precedent. In medieval times pottery
collaborative were common. Admittedly, then the motivation was different.
The so-called "cuppers" for instance rallied together in groups to make
green glazed cups that we fired in common kiln. The cups or chalices were
for the London guilds who were then replacing wooden drinking vessels with
ceramic ones causing a massive demand. In order to make enough cups, and at
the right price, collaboration was essential to keep down production costs
and speed up production.
Of course Keramikgruppe Grenzhausen is not a production facility churning
thousand of cups a week (even though their home is in the history-rich
environment of one of the oldest and most productive early salt-glazed
pottery centres in Europe). But they do work in a tough marketplace, the
market for ceramic art while growing has not been buoyant for over a decade
now. So they can keep down their costs and stay productive when some others cannot.
However, it is my guess that while the economics of collaboration are
attractive, what holds this group together is not anything as objective or
simple as efficiency and economy but it is the succor of like-minded artists
trying to move the agenda of ceramics into the 21st century, tilting against
the odds of marginalization and winning.