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Studio: international art — 15.1899

Seite: 74
DOI Heft: DOI Artikel: DOI Seite: Zitierlink: i
Lizenz: Creative Commons - Namensnennung - Weitergabe unter gleichen Bedingungen Nutzung / Bestellung
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The Lay Figure


A. X. "Our gossip on pottery has pro-
voked a reply," said the Lay Figure. " I will read
it you," and he did. " Well! were we in error ? "

" Let us take the letter clause by clause," said the
Man with a Clay Pipe. " Read it in paragraphs."

" It begins with a graceful allusion to our con-
versation," said the Lay Figure, and goes on :

" ' I am engaged in a large manufactory of porcelain of
what is generally considered the best class, and have the super-
vision and control of all the designing and decorating depart-
ments. May I take your chatty article piecemeal ? First
you ask, Why is it that the great industries of the Silversmith
and Potter seem almost unaffected by the new movement in
design 1 I can honestly assert that, so far as my own firm is
concerned, and I believe the- same applies to many others,
it is not the manufacturer that is unaffected by the new
movement but the great mass of the people for whom the
manufacturer is bound to cater if he expects to carry on his
business at a profit. The Lay Figure retorts that it is pre-
posterous that one man should be expected to create-

"to create, mark you," the Lay Figure interjected,

a beautiful form for another to decorate.'

" Here my correspondent goes on to point out
that Sevres porcelain and the like was never
executed by one man, but that certain workpeople
made the piece, and certain others decorated it.
It is true I spoke only of the silversmith, but I
chanced to use the word 'create.' If I were gifted
to 'create' a poem, I would not care who type-wrote,
set it up, or printed it; but I should refuse to
fill up a set of rhyme-endings supplied by another,
or to dovetail pretty phrases and jewelled cadences
into another person's rough draft. But let us
proceed. He goes on to explain :

" ' As far as our own manufactory is concerned, we do try
when we design a new form to decorate it in true taste and
style .... but we can only have our own way in a few things,
in the many we have to do what is required of us. We are
in the hands of " the trade." The retailer will buy that which
he can sell easiest, and that which sells easiest is that which
appeals to the mass of the public and not to the dilettante few.
Art, after all, is not a religion, though some seem to treat it as
such, anda manufacturer has to put humanitarianism first.'

" Stop ! stop ! " said the Man with a Clay Pipe.
The Lay Figure did not stop, but finished his

" ' Were we manufacturers to adopt such suggestions as are
made in your last page, it would mean that many hundreds
—nay, thousands—of. artisans would be deprived of an
opportunity of earning a livelihood in an intellectual and
elevating employment.' "

" Intellectual! elevating! " the Man with a Clay

Pipe exclaimed. " Have you ever encountered the
deadly dull routine of a pottery ? "

" That is beside the point," said the Lay Figure;
" let us forget these matters and go to the root of
the protest. Makers of carpets, wall-papers, and
a dozen other goods, have dared to attempt better
things and made it profitable. I do not ask that
the creator of the design should undertake the me-
chanical portions, any more than I wish a sculptor
to attack a rough piece of marble; but he who
invented the shape (even if another wrought it)
should add such decoration as it requires; or if the
decoration can be applied mechanically, it suffices
that he should design it, and pass the complete
work afterwards. Art and Commerce are not neces-
sarily foes ; many a common industry untainted by
other influences, even to-day, keeps a fine tradition
—a stable lantern proves as much. What I ask is
that tea services, dinner services, chamber-ware,
jugs, and all the common objects we use should be
made innocuous, if not positively beautiful. I don't
want more ' exhibition pieces ' of Sevres, Derby, or
Worcester, but I do want more cheap but comely
earthenware and porcelain. If the manufacturer
is so bound to. the. bad ...taste of his travellers and
the retail trade, that he cannot afford to make an
effort—let him go ! Many a halfpenny newspaper
employs first-rate draughtsmen. When a cheap
draper shows you good designs for cretonne as well
as bad; when in almost every trade better ideals
prevail, why should the potter whine and plead that
his workpeople would starve ? I only conclude that
he is behind his time—a worthy object of pity,
perhaps, but unluckily a self-confessed failure, one
who owns that the bad taste of his employees and
customers are too much for him. Art to-day is
not the pastime of dilettanti, and those who have
not grasped the situation must suffer. I am sorry
for their ineptness, but the weakest go to the wall,
and if the case be as my courteous correspondent
has put it, the strong man of yesterday has become
weak, that is all! "

" I agree," said the Man with a Clay Pipe, "that
he is arguing in a circle—confusing also the public
of one sort, and a fairly large sort too, with the
masses who look only for cheapness, and might not
resent better art if it cost no more."

" I fear so," the Lay Figure replied. " Our
demand is for well-designed and well-decorated
pottery ; but such decoration may consist of a few
touches of colour, or be a matter of form and
glaze. It is not more ornament but better taste that
we need."

The Lay Figure,
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