The Ceramist

  This is a, hopefully enjoyable little story, with a moral.  Success isn’t about the notoriety, but the accomplishment.  The work should be more important than the fame it may or may not bring. If the fame never arrives, it doesn’t lessen the beauty of the work.

Etric Mendelson was an ordinary man. He went to work each day, came home, kissed his Wife, and had dinner. Then he would retreat for an hour or so to his office/workshop to enjoy his hobby. It was for this hobby that he would become an Internet celebrity. 

He was named for his Grandfather, a Russian Jewish immigrant, and prominent clothing merchant in New York. Etric and his Wife Lucy were both raised in Minnesota. His parents having moved there before he was born.  

The short, graying man had just celebrated his sixtieth birthday last month. His brown eyes were still full of life. Lucy’s hair had complete control of her raven locks, while his brown was losing a battle to the aforementioned gray. Other than that he, and his green eyed beauty, both looked ten years younger than their age. 

Over the years, Etric had his share of hobbies, as most men do. His latest was a video blog on a internet sharing site. Etric only talked about it with Lucy, never bringing it up to his friends. He did mention it in passing to their children Eric and Molly, but not in detail.

Lucy smiled when her husband told her he had eight subscribers. Laughed when it had jumped to thirty two, and turned speechless when he announced it was at two hundred. “What’s the vlog about?” She asked, proud of herself for remembering the word she had heard on tv. 

“It’s about my ceramic sculptures of famous people. Someone actually emailed me about purchasing my Itzhak Perlman for thirty five dollars.” Etric sent it to the man as a gift, but the man insisted on paying. Reluctantly, he cashed the check.

“Maybe you should start selling them on the side? At least it could pay for the website each year.” An so, he setup an online account, and started selling his statues. Before long, he was selling two a month, then four.

He announced that he could only make that many a month, so people went on a waiting list. Still, hundreds, then thousands of people subscribed to watch him make his masterpieces. Famous people from history that most had never heard of, were his primary subjects.

A student of history, he delighted in introducing people to those he felt they should know. From Swedish Kings to famous musicians, politicians and authors. He loved crafting and teaching others how to make them, as well as talking about who the subject had been.  

After a year of this adventure, he had a telephone call. “Hello, this is Etric Mendelson.” “Mr. Mendelson, I’m Arthur Scott, you may remember me. I bought your Perlman.” “Of course, how can I help you?”

“I’d like to meet you one night this week, if it’s convenient? I’m in town for a few days.” “I’m free now if you’d like.” “I’ll be right over.”

Arthur Scott was a character himself. He was barely five foot nine, he shaved what hair he had left, and had deep blue eyes. Arthur prized his self on his goatee and mustache. He reminded Etric of an Austrian Archduke.

“Mr and Mrs Mendelson, do you realize how famous you are? You have 18,000 subscribers, and that isn’t all. Yesterday, I was offered five thousand dollars for your Perlman!” Etric coughed and Lucy gasped. “Who would want to pay so much for a hobby?” 

That’s when Arthur shocked them completely. “The head Curator of the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art! He’s a friend of mine. I’m an art teacher, and your ceramic is a work of art.” Ethic thanked the man, “I appreciate it, people enjoy watching and learning, but art?” “Unless you disagree with the Curator of arguably the world’s finest museum.”

They asked Mr. Stone to meet them for breakfast the day after tomorrow. Once he was gone, Etric looked at his Wife Lucy for her response. “If they’ll pay, then let them call it art.” They looked into Mr. Stone’s background. He wanted to be sure that they weren’t dealing with a con artist. Once they knew he was an honest man, they asked him to be their agent, or go between.

His first suggestion was one Etric didn’t like, to stop monthly orders. “I will not punish people for my own benefit. I have a backlog of some thirty figurines. I will feel them as promised.” “Alright, but will you at least raise your prices for new orders?” “How much?” “Five thousand apiece for the small, and ten for larger ones.”

Etric agreed, but not before contacting his previous patrons. Arthur gave them the option of reselling their pieces at the new price, and splitting the profits. Some agreed, others didn’t want to sell, but at least they had been treated everyone fairly.

Finally the day came to meet with Edgar Robinson, the Met’s Curator about an exhibit. He was a tall, slender man with short white hair, blue eyes, and glasses. “This is where we’ll display your wonderful collection.” “Thank you sir, but are these the pedestals you’ll use?” “Yes, unless you’d prefer something else.”

Etric took out a pencil and a small notebook, then quickly sketched something. “I was thinking some more like this. They are smaller and more accessible.” The man was amazed, not only at the design, but at the drawing itself. “You sketch too?” “Oh yes, I either sketch or paint my ideas before I sculpt them.” “Tell me Etric, could I see them?”

Edgar and Arthur looked at them together. Arthur kicked himself to think he almost missed this. “These are as good as your ceramics. Can we use them in the exhibit? Especially this one, will place him slightly to the right of your Perlman ceramic.” “Alright, but there’s no ceramic for it yet, just the painting.”

The piece they were referring to, was his Jascha Heifetz, the famed violinist. What made it so beautiful was that it wasn’t a picture of the imposing performer, but of the man holding his violin and smiling. The multiple sketches, and handful of paintings were strategically placed between the ceramics.

The exhibit was a hit, people were excited about the quiet man from Minnesota. It would have been very tempting to let it go to his head, but not Etric. His Grandfather had taught the family how to deal with both success and failure. Etric knew the balance that you had to maintain. After all, the goal had never been celebrity, instead it was about making something beautiful.

His bank account knew the difference between pre vlog and post vlog, but not his ego. Etric returned to his workshop, and to teaching how to craft his hobby. People asked him how he could remain an ordinary man. His reply was classic, and the moral of our story. 

“I work in ceramics, a very common and fragile thing. No matter who we are, what we do, we are ordinary men. Every man can accomplish great things, that is our common gift. The extraordinary is not in the gift, but The Giver of the gift.”

“If we produce something valuable with that gift, we are merely fulfilling expectations. This should be common and ordinary, in the sense that it is regularly achieved, for we all should try. Fame does not dictate accomplishment, it is merely a side benefit. If you have not achieved yet, it only means your success is a few steps ahead of you, so quicken your steps.”

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