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Appraiser should appreciate creator's skill

Harris Nathan probably still has my sculpting equipment. If so, he’s been dragging it around with him for about 25 years.

Occasionally, I will see him in the supermarket or out and about, but he stopped asking me when I was going to pick it up about 10 years ago.

I was never in a hurry for it because some wispy, artsy little thing came breezing in one night during the beginner’s pottery course I took with him those many years before, grabbed some clay and quickly created a whimsical platter. It was big and made to look like either the sun or a sunflower — I can’t remember which. She then gave a perky wave and disappeared like an elf, leaving her platter behind to be dried and fired.

I do remember filing over to it with my fellow potters to look at it in dumbfounded disbelief, comparing it to my attempt at a hand-built pot, then squishing mine into oblivion. It was obvious I was never going to be an Auguste Rodin or a Harriet Frishmuth. I was just going to be Beth Kinstler, torturer of clay.

In short, it was a humbling experience.

But it was also a learning experience.

I learned, for instance, the difference between hand-built and wheel-built. I learned about low firing and drying in before firing. I learned not to look in the garbage can when the straw was lit for the raku process so as to retain my eyebrows, lashes and bangs.

Trying to raise a pot on a wheel is a study in grace and agility. Maybe in my head I looked like Demi Moore in the movie “Ghost,” but I imagine in reality it was more like “Maud Learns to Mud Wrestle.”

I tell you all this because like that pot rising on the wheel, my consciousness about working with clay was raised. No more can I look at a piece of salt-glazed pottery or the exquisite Chinese porcelains I occasionally have the opportunity to view without thinking about what it took to make them.

In short, I developed a new respect for this delicate art because I had tried to walk a mile in the moccasins of the artists.

I think it is important for an appraiser to have an appreciation of the skill it took to create the work she is trying to value because skill adds to value, too. Having knowledge of that skill makes the appraiser more respectful of the time and effort it took to make the work of art.

So, being mindful of that, I have signed up for a weekend fresco class at the Telfair. Will I be the next Michelangelo? Will I be asked to redo the Sistine Chapel? I think not, but stay tuned for further developments.

Beth A. Kinstler, ISA-CAPP is president of Avalon Appraisals and a partner in Cents & $ensibility, a fine furnishings and decorative accessories consignment shop on Wilmington Island. She may be reached at 912-238-1211, 912-659-2900 or at www.avalonappraisalssavannah.com.

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In Case You Missed It