Mike Goldmark says he has been a “shopkeeper” for thirty years, showing pottery for the last five of them, in Uppingham in England, but he is no ordinary shopkeeper. In his gallery Modern Pots he focuses on showing British and Japanese ceramics primarily the work of Svend Bayer, Clive Bowen, Nic Collins, Mike Dodd, Lisa Hammond, Jim Malone, Ken Matsuzaki & Phil Rogers. Such a lineup would make his gallery stand out from others, but it’s how he shows the work that is so noteworthy.
His spacious physical gallery includes a printing operation run by Ian and Jan Wilkinson, bright exhibit space, and occasional poetry readings and musical performances. If you stop by at lunchtime you are welcome to join the table and conversation.
What sets Modern Pots apart though, is what Goldmark does online and how he combines his virtual presentations with his real presentations. For each of his potters, in addition to showing new works in the gallery space, including special exhibitions, he publishes a beautifully illustrated monograph. These can be read online in eBook form or purchased as a book you can hold in your hand. The eBooks are not downloadable but remain on the Modern Pots site and are produced using the powerful Issuu or something similar so that you have various viewing options. The monographs, with thoughtful essays and both informal in situ photographs and formal photographs, bring us into each artist’s life. We see their workshops and learn about their ideas on making. Even though the eBooks are a pleasure to behold, I find myself wanting to order the entire set of physical books. Oh for a fatter checkbook!
In addition, Goldmark has produced documentary films for each of his potters. Viewing them is like having a personal visit to the artist’s studio. The films average around twenty minutes and can be viewed online or ordered as a DVD. In addition, for Phil Rogers and Ken Matsuzaki, he has also made longer documentaries with trailers on the site. If you order a physical book, you get a DVD along with it.
This past Saturday, June 16, 2012, Modern Pots hosted an opening for Phil Rogers with an exhibition, a booksigning of the new monograph not yet shown online, a throwing demonstration in the gallery and an amazing online exhibit of one hundred new Rogers’ pots plus his etchings. For each pot, Goldmark made a short film of Rogers talking about making the work. In these clips, Rogers holds the pot in his hands in the way that only potters do, running his palms down the sides, touching the rim with his fingers, caressing the piece, and tells us something about the decoration, the fire, or how he made the shape. A short film for each pot – what an effective innovation. Why has no one thought of it before? It’s what potters do in their fair booths, their open studios, and in galleries – talk to people about the pots. Now we have it online. Perfect.
In addition to all this, Goldmark sends out a traditional e-newsletter. Modern Pots chooses some of the best potters working today and shows them in a most inviting way. Goldmark understands how best to use the Internet and how best to use bricks and mortar to work together to bring pots out into the world. I applaud him. I have not yet traveled the thousands of miles to Uppingham but one of these days I will. Meanwhile, I am thankful to be able to have such a rich experience on his website. We can all learn from him.