Artistic Ceramists, “Satellites” of the Artistic Field

Negotiated Heteronomy, Group Autonomization, and Renewal of the Field

Les céramistes d’art, “satellites” du champ artistique. Hétéronomie négociée, autonomisation du groupe et renouvellement du champ

Los ceramistas artísticos, “satélites” del campo artístico. Heteronomía negociada, autonomización del grupo y renovación del campo

Flora Bajard

Traduction de Daniela Ginsburg

Traduit de :
Les céramistes d’art, « satellites » du champ artistique

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Référence électronique

Flora Bajard, « Artistic Ceramists, “Satellites” of the Artistic Field », Biens symboliques / Symbolic Goods [En ligne], 4 | 2019, mis en ligne le 27 juin 2019, consulté le 21 novembre 2019. URL : https://revue.biens-symboliques.net/338

By studying a professional group—“artistic ceramists”—this article brings to light a complementary conception of the logics of autonomy and heteronomy. In France, an artistic ceramist’s craft is highly autonomous, for not only is it distinguished from other activities of artistic creation, but it is also governed by its own rules and equipped with its own means of survival. It also has the defining feature of being constituted by both attraction towards the artistic field and by opposition to its nomos, that is, its fundamental law. This hiatus centres around the definition of art, which is essentially based on the principle that works of art must be non-utilitarian. This article will show that the Bourdieusian theory of fields and its corollaries—sub-field, weak field, hybrid space, etc.—do not completely account for this form of autonomy, which has a very ambiguous relation to the artistic field. Instead, I propose the idea of a “satellite” space. The position of this professional group generates multiple confrontations with forms of heteronomy that include parts of the state, which have the ability to re-affirm or influence the central rule of the artistic field. In appealing to the law, each of these confrontations constitutes a bet made by members of the professional group on their ability to negotiate a heteronomy adjusted to their understanding of their activity. In so doing, the logics deployed at the boundaries of the field participate in constructing the autonomy of the group and, at the same time, renew the artistic field.

En étudiant l’autonomisation d’un groupe professionnel (les céramistes d’art), cet article donne à voir une conception complémentaire des logiques d’autonomie et d’hétéronomie. Le métier de céramiste d’art en France est très autonome car non seulement différencié des autres activités de création artistique, mais aussi régi par des règles propres et doté de moyens pour perdurer. Il a également la particularité de s’être constitué dans le même temps par attraction envers le champ artistique et par opposition avec son nomos – soit sa loi fondamentale: c’est sur la définition de l’art, reposant notamment sur le critère de non-utilité des œuvres, que se cristallise ce hiatus. Dans un premier temps, l’article montre ainsi que la théorie bourdieusienne des champs et ses corollaires – sous-champ, champ faible, espace hybride, etc. – ne rendent pas totalement compte de cette forme d’autonomie très ambiguë à l’égard du champ artistique ; nous proposons plutôt l’idée d’espace « satellite ». Cette position du groupe professionnel génère de multiples confrontations à des formes d’hétéronomie avec des segments étatiques, qui ont le pouvoir de réitérer ou d’infléchir cette règle centrale du champ artistique. Par le recours au droit, chacune de ces confrontations constitue alors un pari réalisé par des membres du groupe professionnel sur leur capacité à négocier une hétéronomie ajustée à leurs conceptions de l’activité. Ces logiques sociales qui se déploient aux frontières du champ artistique participent simultanément à son renouvellement et à la construction de l’autonomie du groupe professionnel des céramistes d’art.

A través del estudio de la autonomización de un grupo profesional (los ceramistas artísticos), este artículo muestra una concepción complementaria de las lógicas de autonomía y heteronomía. El oficio de ceramista artístico en Francia es muy autónomo puesto que no sólo se diferencia de otras actividades de creación artística, sino que además se rige por sus propias reglas y dispone de los medios para perdurar. También presenta la particularidad de haberse constituido en una relación tanto de atracción hacia el campo artístico, como de oposición a su nomos – es decir, su ley fundamental: es a partir de la definición del arte, especialmente el criterio de no-utilidad de las obras, que este hiato cristaliza. En primer lugar, el artículo muestra que la teoría bourdieusiana de los campos y sus corolarios– sub-campos, campo débil, espacio híbrido, etc. – no da cabalmente cuenta de esta forma de autonomía, altamente ambigua. Para dar cuenta de esta forma de autonomía proponemos la idea de espacio “satélite”. La posición satélite de este grupo profesional genera múltiples confrontaciones con formas de heteronomía en relación a segmentos del Estado, que poseen el poder tanto de reafirmar esta regla central del campo artístico, como de transgredirla. Haciendo uso de recursos legales, los miembros del grupo profesional apuestan sobre su capacidad de negociar una heteronomía adaptada a sus concepciones de la actividad. Estas lógicas sociales, desarrolladas en las fronteras del campo artístico, contribuyen a renovar este campo y, al mismo tiempo, a construir la autonomía del grupo profesional de los ceramistas artísticos.

There are around 2,000 artistic ceramists in France today.1 They practise under various professional categories (artist, craftsperson, self-employed, salaried self-employed person in a cooperative, liberal professional, etc.) and in a range of commercial spaces (from pottery markets to art galleries by way of home decor shops). They use a common material, clay, to create either utilitarian pieces (pitchers, plates, mugs, platters, etc.) or unique, sculptural works. Ceramists form an autonomous socio-professional group with respect to other artistic and artisanal professions, and have their own nomos as well as numerous regulatory bodies and systems. Of course, there are still internal fractures and points of disagreement,2 but the professional group remains strongly structured around informal and formal norms (professional rhetoric and, for example, the positions taken by professional associations). Within sociology, the question of the autonomy of professional activities corresponds to a wide variety of logics.3 The work of Pierre Bourdieu is foundational in this respect: the notion of autonomy makes it possible to understand the degree to which a social space is independent from outside determinations, in particular economic, religious, and political. In this way, the concept of autonomy can be used to assess the degree of “social arbitrariness of belief” specific to a field—that is, the strength of its coherence and particular logics.4 Working in the Bourdieusian tradition, Bernard Lahire notes that there are two senses of the term of autonomy. The first corresponds to the principle of differentiation: the specialization and division of labour that leads to distinguishing one kind of work from another. From this point of view, the degree of autonomy of a social universe is evaluated according to “its capacity to organize specific activities, according to its own rules, with specific institutions and categories of judgment” (Lahire 2006: 49). In the sociology of professions, this is understood in terms of mastery of the activities to be performed, immediately available resources, and the goals and meanings associated with the work by the professional group itself (Demazière 2009: 88). A second sense of the term autonomy refers to independence from other spaces, and here the degree of autonomy is measured by the ability of a social universe to “organize its members’ means of subsistence, that is… its capacity to produce and reproduce a body of professionals largely dedicated to their professional activity” (Lahire 2006: 49). This dynamic can be expressed within the sociology of professions in terms of institutional autonomy: those who practise a certain profession or trade seek to organize themselves in order to stabilize, control, and gain recognition for the boundaries of their profession and to ensure that it will survive.5 In both senses, autonomization always involves difficulties, ambiguities, and resistance: various forms of heteronomy—understood as the rules and demands imposed by bodies outside of the group—weigh on the process. Even when outside rules agree with those of the group, the process of adjustment is never guaranteed or definitive. To my mind, this dynamism, which means that the norms of a social space are always at stake—and in play—is central to the notion of heteronomy.

Fig. 1

Image 10000000000005A8000003CC56995A24.jpg

Market stand of ceramists recognized within the profession. Urns made of glazed earth, with unique decorations—in this respect similar to non-utilitarian or low-utility works—are displayed alongside utilitarian pieces (bowls, plates, etc.)

Source: Flora Bajard.

Firstly, in concrete terms, heteronomy is visible because quests for autonomy are generally realized through a concomitant logic that consists—not without ambivalence—in seeking material support and symbolic recognition from outside sources of authority and legitimacy. Within the sociology of professions in general, and in the work of Andrew Abbott in particular, protection of a professional territory is made possible by a struggle that unfolds in places of work, relations with the public, and interactions with the state. Thus, this perspective highlights the roles of various “audiences” which are themselves not united (colleagues, the public, the state) in the dynamic process of constituting a professional territory (Abbott 2003). I will focus on certain segments of the field of power—ministerial administrations and judicial authorities—that are central to the quest for autonomy of the professional group I am studying here.6 Secondly, heteronomy becomes manifest when principles directly threaten the norms of the group. Whereas Bourdieusian sociology designates heteronomy by reference to the bodies of power—in particular, economic power—that influence a field, in this article, the notion is understood in terms of the object it relates to: either the professional group or the artistic field. This distinction is important, since the logics of ceramists do not always match up with those of the artistic field. For example, while responding to outside demand appears as a principle characteristic of the heteronomous pole within the artistic field, it constitutes a perfectly legitimate logic within the professional group of ceramists, where working for the client is an integral, and valued, accepted practice.

This difference between the logics of the artistic field and those of the professional group invites us to explore the intriguing configuration in which the professional group is located: on the one hand, there are logics constitutive of the artistic field (inspiration, originality, abstraction, vocation, economic disinterest, expression of an interiority, signing of works, non-utilitarian products, etc. (Bourdieu 1980, Moulin 1983.) On the other hand, there are artisanal principles that agents of the artistic field are initially positioned against: the importance of know-how and techniques of the trade; the externality and objectivity of criteria of evaluation; functionality of the object created; response to outside demand, etc. To put it briefly, this profession gradually became codified in the second half of the twentieth century7 by simultaneous attraction towards the artistic field and opposition to its nomos, its fundamental law and the principles of division that characterize it. It is this very particular and ambiguous form of autonomy of the professional group with respect to the artistic field that I propose to examine in this article, by connecting the example of artistic ceramists to notions derived from the Bourdieusian theory of fields. Since the struggle surrounding the nomos of the artistic field takes shape at its margins, the interlinking of logics of autonomy and heteronomy within this professional group (with respect to the artistic field) is especially visible there, at the same time driving developments within the group.

The findings I present here are the result of doctoral research on artistic ceramists that I completed in 2014, and they are primarily based on observations made during fieldwork carried out where ceramists live (at ceramists’ villages, social gatherings in homes, etc.) and work (exhibitions, professional meetings, etc.) and sixty-two semi-structured interviews. Some of these interviews were with heads of associations and institutions; the other forty-eight were with ceramists, for the most part living in rural areas in different parts of France. Thirty of those interviewed were men, and twenty-three women; they began practising in different periods (four in the 1950s, twenty-three between 1970 and 1989, and twenty-two after 1990) and under various professional categories, using a variety of techniques and aesthetic conceptions. In addition to ethnographic inquiry, the research is also based on the results of a survey (218 respondents, or ten per cent of the population of professional ceramists) as well as on professional documentation (trade union archives, association reports, communications materials, etc.).

The first part of the article will allow us to distinguish the autonomy of the professional group from the autonomy of the field, in order to ultimately demonstrate that this group is subject to a very particular form of autonomization, one that makes this space a “satellite” of the artistic field. The second part will show that in these conditions, autonomization involves repeated confrontations with heteronomy, through recourse to the law and the court system.

1. Autonomy of Groups, Autonomy of Fields: The Dependences of a Satellite Professional Group

Although the space of artistic ceramics is highly autonomous, it maintains forms of dependence on and tension with the artistic field: it gravitates around this field and draws on its nomos, while at the same time being constructed in opposition to it. The autonomization of this professional group thus becomes the site of the struggle over the power to define the norms and boundaries of the artistic field itself.

1. 1 The Creation of Artistic Ceramics and its Roots in the Artistic Field.

Prior to the middle of the twentieth century, “artistic” ceramics did not exist as a specific collective activity constructed around a body of shared norms. The profession was “invented” in the mid-twentieth century, when a first generation of creators—for the most part, people who had gone to art school and were equipped with what Bourdieu calls “cultivated disposition”—decided to “make art” out of clay (Bajard 2014). In other words, it was the “artifaction”—that is, the “transformation of non-art into art” (Heinich & Shapiro 2012) of earlier professional practices (production of ceramics in factories, family workshops, and industrial or semi-industrial manufacturing) that gave birth to this new professional group by distinguishing it from those other activities. Beginning in the late 1940s, technical, aesthetic, and ethical professional norms were gradually defined and, especially from the 1960s, the codes of artistic ceramics became anchored in institutions and were made objective in structures, objects, and symbols: there were specific classes and training for students of ceramics, a trade association (Ateliers d’art de France [AAF]8), networks for exchanging experience and knowledge (meetings, markets, and commercial or festive events), written material (books, journals), and symbols (awards and prizes). In the 1980s and 1990s, professional associations were created (twenty of which are grouped together in the Collectif national des céramistes, thus bringing together around 750 workshops), and even a support system to help ceramists deal with risks and challenges. Professional associations are the most common type of structure to which ceramists belong, followed by the AAF and other creators’ associations, and through these bodies, which both represent the group to the outside world and regulate it internally, the group is highly self-organized. Finally, professional norms are made concrete through a set of material as well as immaterial elements, thus forming a true professional culture with powerful social effects. For example, there is a trade dialect’ that expresses the group’s internal cohesion, and these professionals consider themselves part of a “we,” that is, a collective identity forged around ethical values (solidarity, conviviality, equity, and humility) that they see as distinctive and characteristic of the group. Thus, through this body of practices, representations, and material elements, the craft of ceramist has given rise to a true “artistic community” distinct from other professions and amateurs because it has its own codes and “specific skills,” as well as a “consensus about the nature and particularities of this skill” (Moulin 1992: 256).

Neither the history nor the current situation of artistic ceramists can be understood independently from the larger space of the artistic field. First, ceramists—and one segment of them in particular—are an integral part of this field: the profession was founded by creators who came from the art world (see above), and it still includes people who develop their craft in spaces central to the artistic field (galleries, contemporary art fairs, etc.). Moreover, several principles connected to the most autonomous pole of the artistic field constitute an effective resource within artistic ceramics. Indeed, the official professional rhetoric of the group consists in eschewing the “general law” (Bourdieu 2015a: 599) of economic interest (the work is a calling or a vocation), as well as the authorities in the field of power that decide on artistic professionalism, forms of “institutionalized consecration granted by a power acting in the field but strongly connected to powers outside of the field” (Bourdieu 2015a: 603). Thus, having very high earnings or receiving recognition from the regional offices of the ministries of culture or crafts (for example, the title of “Master of Art” awarded by the Ministry of Crafts) does not represent the ultimate mark of professionalism for artistic ceramists.

In addition, resources are generated within the group by members frequenting certain artistic and cultural spaces: for example, some ceramists are particularly successful in positioning themselves within the professional space by appropriating external practices such as contemporary art or design. Similarly, the main prizes and distinctions for artistic ceramists are awarded to professionals, usually of the younger generation, who lay claim to training, inspiration, and practices borrowed from the plastic arts, design, or contemporary art.9 Thus, through aesthetic references, discourse, and commercial practices, the most “ratified” segment of this professional group is clearly embedded in the artistic field, at the pole where its specific capital is concentrated.

Belonging to the artistic field can also be observed negatively, in forms of distinction (distinction is only necessary when there is real or supposed proximity): artistic ceramists strongly distinguish themselves from designers, visual artists, and other contemporary artists who might occasionally use clay as one medium among others in performances or temporary installations, for example. On the other hand, they make it a point of honour to use clay as an integral part of their activity, which involves mastering (sometimes very complex) techniques of shaping and firing as well as the chemical composition of glazes and enamels. Thus, ceramists are not outside the artistic field, but they are also not recognized as fully belonging to it, for even as they aspire “to belong,” we shall see that they also refuse to be completely subjected to its specific laws.

1.2 Artistic Ceramists: Between Art and Craft

In France, the status of artist and the legal definition of a work of art are based on a set of markers that include the non-utility and non-purposiveness of works of art (which “contain their own purpose”—that is, their only purpose is their non-purpose10), originality,11 and finally, the fact of being unique, signed, and entirely created by an individual, which are considered components of originality.12 These criteria are used by the Directions régionales des affaires culturelles (DRAC) and the Maison des artistes (MdA) to determine who receives grants or the status of artist. The former, as regional institutions charged with implementing the policies of the culture ministry at the local level, and the latter, an organization in charge of administering artists’ status and rights to social security in France, both represent central sources of authority on art and culture.

This tension is very important, for although this professional group reproduces certain aspects of the capital specific to the artistic field, and although a large majority of those surveyed consider themselves to be outside of traditional forms of craft (the food or building professions, for example13), the total “ratification” of professional practices does not represent an ultimate or unique goal. Artisanal logics constitute an ethical norm shared (at least publicly) by most ceramists, including those who only make unique pieces or sculptures, or who have the status of artist. In addition, there is a whole segment of ceramists who base their professional value on what might be considered the most noble aspect of the craft: a politicization of their work, which aims to provide clients with “quality of life” (making “beautiful and useful” things for “people’s everyday lives”14); thus, responding to client demand is also a noble task. More broadly, economic proficiency is a measure of professionalism and seriousness, and, paradoxically, of deep commitment to the vocation. Because of this fundamental dissonance between professional norms on the one hand and the legal norms that public cultural institutions draw on, artistic ceramics cannot be considered an artistic sub-field, that is, “a relational sub-space that operates as a miniature field” (Marchetti 2002: 24). Of course, there are dissonances within sub-fields as well as between them, since “artists from opposite sides might even have nothing in common other than their participation in the struggle to impose opposing definitions of literary or artistic production” (Bourdieu 1991: 7). However, ceramists do not seek to impose and valorize one part of the specific capital of the artistic field over and against another part of that capital; rather, they bring in a norm that is in total contradiction to one of the principles constitutive of the nomos of the artistic field—that is, the functionality of their creations. In fact, and to summarize, to be a professional in contemporary French ceramics—and, even more, to be a “big name”—means both setting oneself apart through one’s artistic originality and giving importance to aesthetics, and mastering the difficulties and technical requirements of the material in order to create fully functional objects. For this reason, because the group’s norms imply combining art and craft without giving up either component, this professional space cannot be related to a weak field (Vauchez 2008:136; Vauchez & Georgakakis 2015). A weak field is a space that is scarcely unified or institutionalized, and whose boundaries are porous (idem), and it exists at the interstices of historically constituted fields. Its specific capital comprises the capitals proper to the spaces connected to it, and if they are contradictory, they are used strategically depending on who the audience is or what is at stake (Sacriste 2014: 55). Among ceramists, the two types of capital—artistic and artisanal—cannot be separated, and artistic ceramists defend, both individually and collectively, a unifying definition of creation that aims to erase the dichotomy between art and craft.

1.3 A “Satellite Space” of the Artistic Field

Of course, this profession could be considered a sub-field if we use the concept in a more flexible and approximate way and define it as a space “included in a larger space and under its domination but which, in certain respects and under certain circumstances, succeeds in partially escaping its power of imposition” (Dozo 2009). But then the notion no longer tells us much about the tensions that run through this space. We find the same difficulty with the notion of hybrid space, which contains the idea of syncretism or a synthesis of different spaces,15 thus defining the profession negatively: it is neither totally art nor totally craft. Therefore, considering artistic ceramics as an artistic sub-field or as a hybrid space within an approximative conception does not allow us to think through the agonistic nature of the relations between the professional space and the spaces related to it. For—and this is crucial—artistic ceramists do not only situate themselves “between art and craft”: some of them (both individuals and the organizations that represent them) struggle against some of the most legitimate and constitutive norms of the field in which they seek to be recognized. Thus, it is also difficult to apply the concept of simili-field to this space, for whereas for amateur writers the literary simili-field constitutes “a universe of consolation, which provides institutions intended for aspiring writers” (Poliak 2006: 244-245), ceramists master the rules of the legitimate culture and believe they legitimately belong to it. First, some of the ceramists surveyed seek to demonstrate the artistic nature of certain works or practices that the DRAC or the MdA consider artisanal, and to contest the criteria for defining works of art, which are supposed to be “useless” or “purposeless.” Here we find a traditional opposition within the cultural field, one that impacts the definition of a legitimate artist and is expressed in the struggle between two forms of legitimate art: art with no purpose and functional art (Bourdieu 2015a: 631). Second, some ceramists contest the cultural hierarchies that ascribe higher cultural value to art than to craft: professionals who are closest to the craft world try to defend the cultural value of their artisanal work and to justify it being overseen by the ministry of culture.

Fig. 2

Image 10000000000002530000020126CC65C9.jpg

Two logics of transformation of the artistic and cultural fields promoted by ceramists.

Source: Flora Bajard.

We see that the professional group is made up of those who seek to enter or uphold the field and to subvert one of its essential definitions: the definition of art. The notion of a “satellite” space seems to be capable of synchronically combining these dimensions of attraction and independence. On this reading, the professional space of ceramists is attracted by the artistic field, since it was created in relation to it and continues to gravitate around it, even though this space has its own internal coherence that partially contradicts that field.

2. The Law as a Tool of Negotiated Heteronomy: How the State Shapes the Autonomy of the Group

The logics of autonomy and heteronomy are in fact intertwined: there are various forms of encounter with heteronomy (informal interviews, letters, requests for funding, etc.), but the most visible form, with the greatest effect on professional norms, is the use of the law and the courts. The goal is to influence the legal and institutional definition of art in France, which matches up with the rules of the field of art.16 Thus, each of these counters constitutes a bet made by the professional group on its ability to negotiate a heteronomy adjusted to its understanding of its activity, and this takes place through an attempt to extend the boundaries of the artistic and cultural field.

Among ceramists, distrust of public institutions is expressed in the accusation that the institutions linked to the ministry of crafts downgrade craftwork to folklore, and in criticism of the contempt that professionals experience from institutions connected to the artistic domain. However, this attitude goes along with a quest for recognition, which is expressed in individual challenges to certain decisions by the MdA, to remove or to not admit certain professionals, and by the struggle—also individual—to obtain grants from the DRAC. These claims generally have more to do with symbolic stakes than with the material benefits associated with the status of artist—which is more advantageous than other categories of independent worker in terms of social security contributions, for example—or the financial support that these institutions might provide. This attachment to symbolic stakes has much to do with the social properties of ceramists: well endowed with cultural and academic capital, these professionals, for the most part, keep their distance from a social trajectory that would lead to economic or symbolic success. On the contrary, they determine their trajectory by focusing on the artisanal dimension of their work, which they associate with modesty and a humble lifestyle and practices. The decision to turn to make use of the legal system is thus the result of a complex and ambiguous relationship between the legitimate culture and individuals who are familiar with it but are partially excluded from it as a result of their professional activity, which feeds a strong feeling of injustice, humiliation, and at bottom, a lowered status.17 In order to act on this criticism, the trade association AAF as well as some independent ceramists have turned to the courts. This involves, on the one hand, judicialization of the problems they face (court cases), and, on the other hand, juridification (mobilisation of existing legal norms and attempts to transform them) (Pélisse 2009).

2.1 Judicialization: Cases Against the Maison des Artistes

By determining who is an artist (and by distinguishing those who are from those who are not), the MdA delivers “something that serves as a professional certificate, even though the text of the law carefully avoids this term” (Moulin 1992: 394). Entry into the art world is achieved by submitting to the criteria of the artistic field: “those who are excluded do not succeed in being recognized as creators unless they submit to the definition of the work of art as ‘original’ and ‘useless,’ and by entering networks and exhibiting in adequate spaces (Becker 1978)” (Moulin 1992: 267). This explains why, of the 28 per cent of survey respondents who practise as artists, many have fiddled MdA regulations in order to be affiliated with it—for example, by only presenting sculptural or plastic pieces, by hiding the utilitarian aspect of their creations, or by presenting drawings or paintings and being officially registered as painters. Other tactics used by some ceramists are, on the contrary, characterized by conflict: beginning in the 1980s, after having been rejected or banned on the grounds of the “artisanal” nature of their works, some professionals launched individual cases against the MdA.18 The first case, in 1979, lasted four years, from the decision delivered by the Social Security Commission, the court of first instance, down through various appeals before an appeals court and the Cour de cassation. The disputes had to do with the definition of the originality of objects judged to be functional or utilitarian: the criterion of utility came to be seen as counter to the criterion of originality. This was also the grounds for rejecting another ceramist’s affiliation with this social security regime in 1983: the court wrote that “ceramic works with functional purposes were not works of art,”19 and issued an opinion stating that this ceramist practised “a craft profession.”20 Some time later, other judges emphasized that, on the contrary, the notion of originality can only depend on the objective criteria established in the Tax Code: the work must be unique, hand-made, and signed. More recently, in 2006, another ceramist was banned from the MdA a year and a half after being admitted, on the grounds that he too practised a “craft profession;” he then opened proceedings against the organization. The court pointed out that the laws to which the MdA was required to refer “do not refer to whether creations are utilitarian or not,” and thus required the immediate re-admittance of the professional to the social security body. Thus, in each of the cases I studied, judicial authorities vindicated ceramists, as in the following verdict delivered in 2009, which specified that the fact that X’s works “take the form of useful objects does not necessarily mean that they are not original, unique, entirely hand-made by the artist, and signed by him.”21

Thus, in each case, professional ceramists fought to have their legitimacy as artists who work with clay and “practise their art on pots”—as one article published in La Revue de la céramique et du verre22 puts it—recognized. These legal proceedings—I counted at least five between 1979 and 2009—represent one form of positioning vis-à-vis cultural institutions that emerges from the professional space: the attempt to demonstrate the artistic nature of utilitarian work, and, by extension, to challenge the classic criteria separating art from craft. These individual cases also demonstrate phenomena of collective mobility within the profession: the benefits in question amount above all to the symbolic requalification of the work and status of these creators, which sets a precedent. Moreover, these fights to obtain or maintain affiliation with the MdA were publicized and circulated within the professional group, both through oral history and informal narratives—for example, at festive or commercial events—and in La Revue de la céramique et du verre. Many ceramists share an opposition to the principles of vision and division that define the world of art and craft, although not all ceramists have had to personally face what they perceive as affronts.

2.2 The Juridification of the Cause: Transforming Existing Norms

From in the 1970s, proposals began to emerge for a new status, that of the “creative” artisan d’art, in order to make up for The Chambers of Trades and Crafts23 non-recognition of the particularity of artisans d’art [artistic craftspeople] and their difficulty in accessing the MdA. Those who advocated for this status—in particular the trade association AAF and the Fédération nationale des ateliers d’art—in order to bring together the activities of artisans d’art and of artists, were not successful.24 Twenty years later, the idea was again taken up by the AAF. In 2013, the president of the AAF and its director of operations, with the assistance of experts in social security law, business law, and taxes, submitted a summary note to the cabinet of the French prime minister at the time, Jean-Marc Ayrault. In it, they tried to show the creative dimension of artistic craftwork and to defend the idea that “the artistic craftsperson creates original works that ‘bear the imprint of the personality of their author’” (Audugé 2013: 2). To do so, they drew in particular on the Intellectual Property Code, which does not mention the notion of utility (see above) (Audugé 2013: 6). AAF also asked for tax regulations to be changed to abolish the distinction between “pure” and “applied” art. Finally, one of the main suggestions of the summary note was to establish a “simple presumption of eligibility for the social regime of author artists, to benefit the artistic craftspeople referred to in the annex of the decree of August 12 2003, which established the list of craft professions” (Audugé 2013: 11). Thus, without denying or abandoning the notion of craftwork, the report sought to demonstrate its artistic value and to include the craft professions in artistic public policies. Also in 2013, the AAF, in collaboration with the permanent assembly of chambers of trade (APCMA) and the National Union of Craft Professions (UNMA, an outgrowth of the AAF) wrote a parliamentary amendment seeking legal recognition of the craft profession sector which was included in the Craft, Commerce, and Very Small Businesses Act, the so-called “Pinel law.” This law, which the trade association called “historic,” went into effect on 19 June 2014 and included two essential elements: first, recognition of the existence of the craft professions as an economic sector, and second, recognition of the artistic aspect as a particularity of the craft professions (artistic craftspeople were henceforth “creators”). In addition, the decree implementing this law, which was published in the Official Journal in January 2016, established the list of craft professions [métiers d’arts] (which replaced the list of professions of craft art [métiers de l’artisanat d’art]), suggesting that these activities were no longer necessarily classified as craftwork. Finally, the Freedom of Creation, Patrimony, and Architecture Act, which was voted on in 2015 and adopted by the Senate on 29 June 2016, supplemented the Pinel Law by specifying that the newly established list of craft professions “does not prejudge the professional status of those individuals practising one of the activities listed. These individuals may also be, in particular, employees of craft businesses or any other legal entity practising a craft profession, a liberal profession, bureaucrats, or author artists” (Article 14D).

It is beyond the scope of this article to show the various factors that explain the relative success of this mobilization via the law, beginning with the trade association reorienting its tactical repertoire in the 2000s, combined with a general context of the restructuring of social security agencies.25 In any case, contrary to autonomization as understood by Bourdieu—a process carried out by agents situated in the most autonomous spaces, that is, the furthest from political and economic power—the autonomization of the group is generated, instead, as in Abbott’s theory, by a leader organization occupying a privileged position at the intersection of the professional and political arenas (Morel 2016: 316).

Fig. 3

Image 1000000000000237000002372665D9E5.jpg

An exhibit at a Toulouse art gallery with the theme “orange.” The combination of site, scenography, and the objects displayed—essentially containers that are more or less functional but are unique or created in very small sets—blurs traditional criteria of art and craft.

Source: Author’s personal photo.

Conclusion

Distinguishing the notion of autonomy in relation to the notions of field and its various forms shows that autonomy can be fully effective within a professional space, even when the space is not necessarily free of tensions and dependencies. Thus, the state, through its various sectors (ministerial cabinets, parliamentary work, courts of law) and their specific modes of action (bureaucratic, political, legal), produces diverse effects that are never determined in advance even if, today, certain public interventions end up supporting and reinforcing the group’s logics of autonomization. The solidity of this social entity is thus in part linked to the success of various bets made at its boundaries, within connected ecologies rather than at the centre of the group (Abbott 1995). Without totally depriving the group’s representative or regulatory organizations of their symbolic power to decide on the professionalism of group members, these individual and collective procedures attempt to create an official framework in which professionals can continue to develop their understanding of their work.

The imbrication of autonomy and heteronomy is especially visible in the case presented here, since it takes place at the boundaries of the field, where the struggle over definitions and their potential renewal is strongest. Indeed, whether it is a matter of judicialisation or juridification, we observe within the logics of those who belong to the professional order of ceramists (and the craft professions in general, via the AAF), a specific principle of recognition quite distinct from the nomos of the artistic field. In other words, the situation is not one in which “corporate effects” and “field effects” “make sense together, both in order to contribute to the autonomization of the artistic field and in order to be at the root of the forms of competition within it” (Willemez 2015: 136-137). Instead, there is a struggle at the borders that aims to enlarge this field by subverting part of its nomos. Furthermore, in publications such as La Revue de la céramique et du verre, as well as in interviews, the opinion is expressed that those professionals who have accepted the criterion of non-utility are “cheaters” who conformed to the nomos in its entirety, whereas those who opposed it are held in high esteem. This phenomenon indicates a central aspect of the struggle: it is not only a matter of entering the field of art (or of legitimate culture), but also, in a logic of subversion, of entering by changing the rules of the field—and, more specifically, of reintegrating the notions of functionality or “applied art.”26

1 There is no administrative census of artistic ceramists, since they practise under various legal statuses. The most exhaustive list remains the “

2 For analysis of ceramists’ “base myth” and of how certain association leaders transformed their view of the profession into “best practices,” see

3 The autonomy I discuss in this article is, for example, a bit different from the autonomy that labourers may or may not have in their work, even if

4 Numerous Bourdieusian works are based on this idea. Among many others, see Pierre Bourdieu’s article (Bourdieu 1976).

5 Professionalization cannot be reduced, in a teleological manner, to permanent and linear acquisition of various forms of autonomy, but that is one

6 Others also exist, but I will not dwell on them since the focus here is on the public sphere, cultural intermediaries, related artistic activities

7 As a craft, this is a recent profession, since before the middle of the twentieth century ceramics were mostly manufactured semi-industrially, using

8 This trade association has a much older history, but beginning in 1949, it redirected its actions towards artistic craftspeople; see Anne jourdain’s

9 For more on the role of ceramists at the most artistic pole of the field of ceramics as vectors of the group’s evolution (and on the social

10 Beginning in 1982, the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (Insee) indicated that artists are those who “in the domain of plastic

11 Ministerial letter of 7 April 1981 regarding criteria for affiliation with the social security regime for graphic and plastic artist-authors (

12 “Unique ceramic pieces, entirely made by the artist and signed by him or her.” General Tax Code, Appendix 3 – Article 98 A.

13 One ceramist surveyed compared himself to “a very good plumber” in an interview, but this was to highlight the artisanal dimension of what he

14 This is also why these ceramists refer to a popular aesthetics or an ethics of minimalist ethics, such as do-it-yourself, in opposition to

15 In other cases, which do not match the example studied here, hybrid spaces are places “where several professions and organizations meet and act as

16 For more on the field of power (or the bureaucratic-political field) as a “meta-field” connected to the constitution of other autonomous fields

17 For more on the position ceramists as intermediaries or influential outsidersin social stratification, and their trajectories, which are

18 I would like to thank the ceramists mentioned in this section for sharing documents with me related to their membership or the legal processes

19 These are the terms used in the letter from the Maison des artistes to this ceramist; the information is cited in the article from La Revue de la

20 Appeal for reconsideration made by this ceramist to the Regional Health Insurance Office (December 1983).

21 Excerpt from the ruling made on 15 May 2009 by the Social Security Court of a provincial city.

22 La Revue de la céramique et du verre, 17, 1984.

23 The Chambers of Trades and Crafts (chambres des métiers et de l’artisanat) are public institutions representing the economic sector of arts and

24 On the supporters of this failed attempt, made in 1990,see Anne Jourdain’s book (2014).

25 For further considerations concerning this appeal to the law, see Flora Bajard’s article (2018b).

26 I would like to thank warmly the two co-ordinators of this issue, as well as everyone who helped enrich this article with their remarks and

Abbott Andrew (2003). “Écologies liées: à propos du système des professions.” In Menger Pierre-Michel. Les Professions et leurs sociologies. Paris, Maison des sciences de l’homme: 29-50.

Abbott Andrew (1995). “Things of boundaries.” Social Research, 62(4): 857-882.

Audugé Sophie and Ateliers d’art de France (2013). “Note de synthèse sur les artisans d’art, leur affiliation au régime des artistes-auteurs et le régime fiscal qui leur est applicable.”

Bajard Flora (2014). “L’invention de la céramique d’art. Contribution à la sociologie de la construction des groupes professionnels.” Sociologie du travail, 57(3): 299-321.

Bajard Flora (2018a). Les Céramistes d’art en France. Sens du travail et styles de vie. Rennes, Presses Universitaires de Rennes.

Bajard Flora (2018b). “Les céramistes d’art contre ‘l’État’: la confrontation comme troisième voie de professionnalisation.” In Bajard Flora et al. (eds.). Professionnalisation(s) et État. Une sociologie politique des professions. Villeneuve-d'Ascq, Presses Universitaires du Septentrion.

Becker Howard S. (1978). “Arts and crafts.” American Journal of Sociology, 83(4): 862-889.

Bourdieu Pierre (1976). “Le champ scientifique.” Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales, 2: 88-104.

Bourdieu Pierre (1980). “The Production of Belief: Contribution to an Economy of Symbolic Goods.” Translated by Richard Nice. Media, Culture and Society, 2: 261-293.

Bourdieu Pierre (1991). “Le champ littéraire.” Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales, 89: 3‑46.

Bourdieu Pierre (2015). On the State. Lectures at the Collège de France, 1989-1992. Translated by David Fernbach. Cambridge, Polity Press.

Bourdieu Pierre (2015). Sociologie générale. Cours au Collège de France 1981-1983. Paris, Seuil.

Demazière Didier (2009). “Postface. Professionnalisations problématiques et problématiques de la professionnalisation.” Formation emploi, 108(4): 83-90.

Dozo Björn-Olav (2009). “Sociabilités et réseaux littéraires au sein du sous-champ belge francophone de l’entre-deux-guerres.” Histoire & mesure, XXIV, 1: 43-72.

Heinich Nathalie & Shapiro Roberta (2012). De l’artification enquêtes sur le passage à l’art. Paris, EHESS.

Jourdain Anne (2014). Du cœur à l’ouvrage. Les artisans d’art en France. Paris, Belin.

Lahire Bernard (2006). La Condition littéraire. La double vie des écrivains. Paris, La Découverte.

Marchetti Dominique (2002). “Les sous-champs spécialisés du journalisme.” Réseaux, 111: 22-55.

Morel Stanislas (2016). “Au(x) cœur(s) des professions. Penser le rapport des professions à l’hétéronomie avec Abbott et Bourdieu.” In Demazière Dominique & Jouvenet Morgan (eds.). Andrew Abbott et l’héritage de l’école de Chicago. Paris, Éditions de l’EHESS: 315-334.

Moulin Raymonde (1983). “De l’artisan au professionnel: l’artiste.” Sociologie du travail, 4: 388‑403.

Moulin Raymonde (1992). L’Artiste, l’institution et le marché. Paris, Flammarion.

Pélisse Jérôme (2009). “Judiciarisation ou juridicisation ? Usages et réappropriations du droit dans les conflits du travail.” Politix, 86(2): 73.

Poliak Claude (2006). Aux frontières du champ littéraire. Sociologie des écrivains amateurs. Paris, Economica.

Sacriste Guillaume (2014). “Sur les logiques sociales du champ du pouvoir européen. L’exemple de l’affaire Dalli.” Politique européenne, 44: 52-96.

Vauchez Antoine (2008). “The Force of a Weak Field: Law and Lawyers in the Government of the European.” International Political Sociology, 2(2): 128-144.

Vauchez Antoine & Georgadakis Didier (2015). “Le champ à l’épreuve de l’Europe.” In Siméant Johanna. Guide de l’enquête globale en sciences sociales. Paris, CNRS Éditions: 197‑217.

Willemez Laurent (2015). “Un champ mis à l’épreuve. Structure et propriétés du champ juridique dans la France contemporaine.” Droit et société, 89: 129-149.

1 There is no administrative census of artistic ceramists, since they practise under various legal statuses. The most exhaustive list remains the “directory” published every four years by the journal La Revue de la céramique et du verre, to which I referred in combination with my fieldwork in order to assess the proportion of those not included in that directory.

2 For analysis of ceramists’ “base myth” and of how certain association leaders transformed their view of the profession into “best practices,” see Flora Bajard’s book (2018a: chapter 6).

3 The autonomy I discuss in this article is, for example, a bit different from the autonomy that labourers may or may not have in their work, even if the two senses are connected (see below).

4 Numerous Bourdieusian works are based on this idea. Among many others, see Pierre Bourdieu’s article (Bourdieu 1976).

5 Professionalization cannot be reduced, in a teleological manner, to permanent and linear acquisition of various forms of autonomy, but that is one possible form of it. Professionalization consists in the diffusion of norms of professionalism; in a way, it is a set of transactions and exchanges between an in-group and an out-group—that is, a series of actions and reactions to heteronomy.

6 Others also exist, but I will not dwell on them since the focus here is on the public sphere, cultural intermediaries, related artistic activities, etc.

7 As a craft, this is a recent profession, since before the middle of the twentieth century ceramics were mostly manufactured semi-industrially, using the mode of segmented production. See Flora Bajard’s article (2014).

8 This trade association has a much older history, but beginning in 1949, it redirected its actions towards artistic craftspeople; see Anne jourdain’s book (Jourdain 2014). Though it includes all the craft professions, it is historically connected to ceramics and ceramists make up a significant portion of its members—in 2010, they were a quarter of its active members. In my study, almost a third (32%) of those surveyed by questionnaire were members.

9 For more on the role of ceramists at the most artistic pole of the field of ceramics as vectors of the group’s evolution (and on the social characteristics of these professionals), see Flora Bajard’s book (Bajard 2018a).

10 Beginning in 1982, the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (Insee) indicated that artists are those who “in the domain of plastic or graphic arts create unique works that, when contemplated, provide aesthetic pleasure and are recognized as containing within themselves their own purpose” (Moulin 1992: 267).

11 Ministerial letter of 7 April 1981 regarding criteria for affiliation with the social security regime for graphic and plastic artist-authors (Annexe to the 16 February 2011 circular regarding revenue from artistic activity covered by article L 382-3 of the Social Security Code).

12 “Unique ceramic pieces, entirely made by the artist and signed by him or her.” General Tax Code, Appendix 3 – Article 98 A.

13 One ceramist surveyed compared himself to “a very good plumber” in an interview, but this was to highlight the artisanal dimension of what he considers to be the most valuable aspect of his work: its social usefulness.

14 This is also why these ceramists refer to a popular aesthetics or an ethics of minimalist ethics, such as do-it-yourself, in opposition to contemporary art, which they associate with economic and cultural elitism.

15 In other cases, which do not match the example studied here, hybrid spaces are places “where several professions and organizations meet and act as competitors or as partners” (Boussard 2015: 365).

16 For more on the field of power (or the bureaucratic-political field) as a “meta-field” connected to the constitution of other autonomous fields, see for example Pierre Bourdieu’s book (Bourdieu 2015b).

17 For more on the position ceramists as intermediaries or influential outsiders in social stratification, and their trajectories, which are characterized by a high level of mobility, see Flora Bajard’s book (2018a).

18 I would like to thank the ceramists mentioned in this section for sharing documents with me related to their membership or the legal processes surrounding it.

19 These are the terms used in the letter from the Maison des artistes to this ceramist; the information is cited in the article from La Revue de la céramique et du verre, 17, 1984.

20 Appeal for reconsideration made by this ceramist to the Regional Health Insurance Office (December 1983).

21 Excerpt from the ruling made on 15 May 2009 by the Social Security Court of a provincial city.

22 La Revue de la céramique et du verre, 17, 1984.

23 The Chambers of Trades and Crafts (chambres des métiers et de l’artisanat) are public institutions representing the economic sector of arts and crafts at the level of French departments and regions.

24 On the supporters of this failed attempt, made in 1990, see Anne Jourdain’s book (2014).

25 For further considerations concerning this appeal to the law, see Flora Bajard’s article (2018b).

26 I would like to thank warmly the two co-ordinators of this issue, as well as everyone who helped enrich this article with their remarks and questions.

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

Market stand of ceramists recognized within the profession. Urns made of glazed earth, with unique decorations—in this respect similar to non-utilitarian or low-utility works—are displayed alongside utilitarian pieces (bowls, plates, etc.)

Source: Flora Bajard.

Fig. 2

Fig. 2

Two logics of transformation of the artistic and cultural fields promoted by ceramists.

Source: Flora Bajard.

Fig. 3

Fig. 3

An exhibit at a Toulouse art gallery with the theme “orange.” The combination of site, scenography, and the objects displayed—essentially containers that are more or less functional but are unique or created in very small sets—blurs traditional criteria of art and craft.

Source: Author’s personal photo.

© Presses Universitaires de Vincennes 2019