My life as a full-time artist is, in many ways, an ideal one and the life I imagined for myself when I was still a kid. I'm one of those people you see lounging around cafes in the middle of the day. I listen to music or the radio station of my choice all day. I take long breaks to go to the farmer's market or walk around Lake Merritt, and I definitely take more than the standard 3 weeks of vacation a year. It's a life of freedom. But when I'm engaged in the business of actually making pottery, it's all about getting the most amount of work done in the smallest amount of time. It's all about efficiency.
I'm always looking for ways to do things faster. It's a constant challenge and it sometimes takes years to work out a complete solution. Once a problem of efficiency presents itself, it stays on my mind and I work it over until I find a answer. Since I tend to be an obsessive sort of person, the examining of a problem over and over is totally satisfying to me.
One problem that I worked over recently is how to deal with the sculpted dogwood flowers I attach to some of my work. There are two problems of efficiency here. One is the process of attaching the flowers to the work in the first place. Each dogwood flower is made up of four individually made petals that are attached to the pottery one by one. To make it look "natural" the flowers need to overlap in a seemingly random way. It doesn't always look right and I can end up dismantling work and re-doing it, a huge waste of time. The second problem is glazing the piece. The dogwood flowers are always a different color than the pottery underneath it--what it is attached to-- and the time it takes to glaze around the flowers adds up. On bigger pieces it can take an hour or more just to glaze.
I've been thinking about this problem off and on for weeks. On a drive home to Oakland from southern California the other day I started seeing a solution. I could stamp out a tiny pad, less than 1 centimeter across, and attach the dogwood flowers to it. I can then attach these "flowers pads" to my work, and since the flowers are already assembled, I can tell ahead of time how they will overlap, thus eliminating the need to pull apart the work I've already done. On some pieces I will be able to attach the flowers to already glazed-- but still unfired pieces-- using Magic Mender (a type of clay glue), reducing some of the time I spend glazing pottery. I won't be able to use this last solution on everything, but I can use it on a lot of things. Maybe. I hope.
The flowers have been made and are waiting to be tested. I can't wait to see if it works!