I've made some really wonderful friends in the pottery community over the years, in fact I have two close potter friends who I chat with daily.
Perhaps a key to our closeness is that we all take the same approach to our work and the work of others. No egos, we're just out here doing our best. There's a lot of space between being a beginner and being a master potter, and we're all happy in the in-between. We're free to praise each other and we're honest with each other when kind criticisms are needed. It's great!
I've only had one situation where I felt a tinge of jealousy from another potters work, and it's because they're doing an AMAZING job at an idea that I've been developing in my mind for a few years. The gut reaction was jealousy, but then it turned to a little bit of a broken heart. My idea wasn't as original as I thought and clearly this potter is worlds ahead of me in executing it. Wuh.
Except for that one time, my reaction to pottery that I didn't make varies but when I see something that I really enjoy, I'm comfortable enough to say so. I can't tell you how many times I've told another potter that their work is great, and specifically what it was that moved me if I can. I do it because that's who I am and I know how great it feels to get kind feedback on my work.
We buy pottery. I know that sounds funny, but we do. It's because of a love for the art of it. I don't just love making and sharing pottery, I love collecting it. There's a specific potter who we have four mugs from and if I could justify buying more we'd have more.
All that said, I've taken it on myself to respect what I consider a potters "territory". I won't pursue presence in a shop that has another potter. Even though it's not my call, I'd have feelings about another potter being welcomed into a shop where I'm selling my work. Galleries and pottery shops are a different story.
My potter pals and I have talked about this and we've concluded that I'm wrong. :) We've decided that variety furthers appreciation for the art, and that potters selling in the same shop can feed off of each other and grow.
That's all very logical and smart, but my squishy little heart is not logical and smart. I guess it goes back to my experiences introducing myself to potters. Some have been really nice, but others have been defensive and stand offish. Not knowing what I'm going to get has made me less open in person. I don't want to feel badly or make anyone else feel defensive. I don't want to trigger a competitive response in anyone, I don't want anyone being mean to me about my passion. It's not insecurity, like I said, I'm happy with my skill level today and I get better the more I work on it. It's just sometimes people get mean for no reason when they begin to wonder if they're the best in the room, and I don't like that.
Anyway, competition. That's for other people, not for me. ;)