05 July 2006

Unique? Not so much

A couple days ago, I went to an art fair. Having been to several, I recognized many of the works, but this show had a good crop of new artists and craftspeople as well; the quality throughout was high.

My dad gravitated towards some pottery with imprints of ferns and other plants. As the artist described her unique process using actual plants, it started to sound familiar to me. For a good stretch, I watched Crafters Coast to Coast (annoyingly renamed That's Clever!), a show where artisans demonstrate how they make their stuff. I blanked on the show's name, so I just asked, "Have you been on tv before?"

"No, not that I know of," she said, somewhat surprised and possibly a bit flattered. I'd seen someone else use the process she described on the show with very similar results, but I opted not to tell her that. No one wants to hear that their unique thing or process isn't.

At the end of the row, my first glimpse of the framed images in the final booth made me say, "Wow," under my breath. I just instinctually liked what I was seeing. A woman approached and asked, "Did you see the demonstration?"

"No," I replied.

"Ah, then you don't know what you're looking at. My husband, the artist," she pointed to a man a few feet away talking to some other people, "takes paper, sometimes applying watercolors, and holds it over fire to achieve the effect. He also uses gunpowder on some." She pointed to some images further down the display. "You won't see anything like this anywhere else," she concluded.

Gunpowder triggered recognition for me. Within the past year, I'd seen a larger scale image made with ignited gunpowder at a contemporary art museum. Wondering if it was his, I asked, "Has he exhibited in the area?"

"No, this is our first time exhibiting here. We're from Pennsylvania."

"Oh," I nodded. 0 for 2, I thought to myself.

Doesn't seem like there's much of anything that's unique anymore. It may have just been part of their sales pitches, but I think they really believe that they are doing something no one else is, and when it comes to their individual execution of their techniques, they are. Sometimes, often even, that has to be good enough.

One year ago at TTaT: Audioblog #5
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  1. Didn't I read this post somewhere? Have you written a book?

  2. Ummm... here? Given the post, I wouldn't be surpised if something similar had been said elsewhere. If you saw this exact post somewhere else without attribution to me, I'd like to know if you come across it again.

    I wish I could say I've written a book (and that it'd been published), but I haven't.

  3. Actually, I was kidding.

    You know keeping it in the nature of the post. ;-)

  4. lol. duh. Some days (probably most) my brain is too literal for my own good. :)