I was a terrible potter. I signed up for a ceramics class my junior year because I hadn”t taken an art class since middle school. By the second week I realized that I had no flair for clay work and not much patience either. I made lumpy asymmetrical bowls and doubtful representative sculptures. In the middle of the semester I got mono and missed three weeks of school, which meant that I had to finish my ceramics class up the following fall.

Paul Wong
Katie Mulcrone

Unfortunately, I didn”t do any better the second time around: My bowls were still lumpy, just bigger. One of them actually exploded in the kiln because the bottom was too heavy. I was a terrible, terrible potter.

For our final exam we had to comment on aesthetics in relation to our own work. I wrote something about the value of the unconscious in art, i.e. my stuff doesn”t look like anything because it somehow represents what can”t be represented. Sure, my pots were ugly. Really ugly. But maybe their ugliness was somehow cultivated.

Ah, but it wasn”t. They were ugly because they were ugly. Still, I couldn”t quite bring myself to throw them away when the class ended, so my friend Bert and I loaded them into his car and took them back to my apartment. I haven”t used them since.

Art Fair seemed like the perfect opportunity to finally get rid of my pottery. Even though it was about ninety degrees out and my agoraphobic heart was begging to stay in my apartment and watch TV on my only day off from work I had to lug my pottery down to the fair. I mean, I write a newspaper column about pranks and I have quite a lot of ugly art. Perfect. Maybe I”d even make some money.

I packed up some of the smaller pieces misshapen mugs, mostly down State Street past the Union where the not-quite-legit artisans peddle their wares.

I set my mugs up on the grass next to two Rasta-looking guys selling metal jewelry. I think I heard them making fun of my pottery, but I”m not quite sure. Of course that meant that hardly anyone came to look at my doubtful goods. I sat cross-legged behind my six mugs, rearranged them periodically and watched women in hats walk by with Art-on-a-Stick. Ah, Art Fair!

I really feel the need to stress how ugly these cups are. They”re not only poorly molded but poorly glazed. Two of the six leak. They”re extremely heavy and yet hold no more than half a cup of liquid each. But you never know. After about ten minutes some passerby slow down to look and I smile expectantly. Nope. They keep walking.

At one point I think I have an interested customer, but he just wants directions to Dominick”s. A guy in a car stops in front of me and rolls down his passenger window. He leans over. “Hey, um, do you live here? Can I park here?”

Darn. Lots of women in hats walk by, sometimes with their husbands. At least half of them are carrying Art-on-a-Stick. (Art-on-a-Stick is a staple of the Ann Arbor Art Fair. Basically you”ve got a small, flat metal sculpture animals, flowers, whatever on a stick. There”s a different theme every year, so they”re somewhat collectible. I guess people must put them in their gardens.)

Anyway, I sat out on State Street for about an hour and in that time absolutely no one stopped to look at my mugs. Maybe I should have tried grafting them to sticks. I got some funny looks and that was it. So eventually I packed all of the mugs back into my plastic bucket and trudged up the hill. You may be wondering why I didn”t throw them out at that point. I am too.

Well, I guess I could try unconscious-on-a-stick next July.

Katie Mulcrone”s column runs every other Monday. She can be reached via e-mail at kmulcron@umich.edu.

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