Are you a collector or a maker?
A corner at Kettle's Yard in Cambridge with objects "in conversation" with each other.

Are you a collector or a maker?

Gianfranco Chicco
I'm what you guys call a User. - Kevin Flynn, Tron (1982)

'Are you a collector or a maker?' a chatty chap asked me during a ceramics exhibition a few months ago. He then went on to tell me how proud he was of his Japanese collection. 'I’m a user' I uttered without too much thought, and my answer has been lingering in the back of my mind ever since.

If you have more than one item of anything that’s non-essential (to you), you're a collector. It could be pebbles, records, stamps, anything really. In that sense, I should have said that I was indeed a collector, even if I don't identify as one. I have more cameras, fountain pens and tea bowls than I need. Not that many mind you, and I use most of them regularly.

At the start of 2022 I signed up to a pottery course to learn how to make things on the potter's wheel (I'm not very good at it). Even then, I wouldn’t call myself a maker but rather a curator. I like putting together objects and ideas of different nature, in conversation with each other just as Jim and Helen Ede did at Kettle's Yard, alas with less good taste.

The snobbishness of my answer aside, how we think about craft is plagued with false dichotomies. Is it art or utilitarian? By a renowned maker or an unknown craftsperson? Cheap or expensive? Collecting, making, using… labels don't really matter.  Instead, craft is akin to a state of mind where all these characteristics can coexist in harmony. Maker, user, collector and curator. They are all interrelated. Oh and by the way, some of the cups I made in the ceramics course came out just alright and bring me lots of joy whenever I pour tea or coffee in them.

Display of the ceramics collection at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.
A bowl by Lucie Rie at Kettle's Yard in Cambridge.
Drinking tea in a cup I made myself.