Evelyn LaMer

Evelyn LaMer

Craft or Art?


The debate over craft versus art was hot in 1967. For Evelyn LaMer, it came down to making “pottery” versus creating “ceramic art”. Points of view about working in clay were changing, The long established barriers between hobbyist, craftsman and fine artist seemed to be in flux.

Which path would Evelyn pursue? Through her liberal arts coursework at Antioch College, she had taken classes with ceramics art professor Cindy Metcalf. The focus of Metcalf’s courses had been on teaching any students interested in learning the craft of pottery. This included both serious artists and hobbyist. Evelyn saw her own pottery “more like a carpenter, doing aesthetic work….not such a cerebral activity like painting. “ She realized that she had chosen Antioch college because of the co-op program and its appealed to very practical people who wanted to do “real hands on activity.”

During Evelyn’s third year, the Antioch College art department began a shift. Jan Jones was hired as the ceramics art professor. Under her direction, emphasis was placed on a more narrow focus of professional art aspirations. Jones started a four-year program devoted to developing students for professional art exhibition or as art professors. She taught talented students who she could mold and develop over four years. The discourse and social underpinnings of this shift in the ceramics department during Evelyn’s time at Antioch had a lasting impact on her career as an artist and businesswoman.

After graduating from Antioch with a Business Major, she continued her study of ceramics at Penland School of Crafts. With her artistic skills and passion for entrepreneurship, Evelyn decided to begin her own ceramics business. LaMer’s pottery continues to be retailed successfully in Yellow Springs.

In 1973, Evelyn was part of a group of artist who founded Yellow Springs Pottery. They based the retail shop on a co-op model. Evelyn feels the greatest strength of the YS Pottery has been the sense of communal effort and respect for artists at all stages and skill levels in their art. The format promoted cooperative, consensus building, and a non-hierarchical business model. “Throughout all our years of business, there has been a large range of talent, interpersonal skills, and productivity levels, but YS Pottery has not allowed the more powerful personalities or talents to have a larger say. All contributors have had an equal share, everyone’s ideas given consideration. There is a deep underlying belief that the strength of the store is the strength of the group.”

Evelyn stated that this communal sense is a common thread of successful endeavors in Yellow Springs, and that it came from the legacy of the Quaker community. She went on to say, “the YS News perpetuates and reinforces a similar vision and practice. It profiles cooperative organizations. The people it highlights are very balanced. Articles are very human and not written just about award winners, but about so many small things that make the village unique and valuable. “

After more than forty years as a successful potter and businesswoman, crafting beautiful, useful ceramic pieces, Evelyn may have found her answer. In her pottery, clean lines, interesting shapes and beautiful colors were and continue to be her vision. But is the fundamental vision or art for Yellow Springs craft or is it fine art?
Perhaps it’s both, whatever you make it. There is something here for every artist and art appreciator who comes to Yellow Springs to create, purchase or to experience art.

Posted by ysartsadmin