Thursday, November 16, 2006

hope & despair

Pottery is all about letting go. My hopes and expectations are constantly mocked as my favorite matte green glaze comes out a different shade each firing, hairline cracks appear in pots that cooled too quickly, stuff blows up during bisque firings, glazes run over a beautifully rendered design, pots stick to the kiln shelf, other cracks come out of nowhere. Hope soars when I turn on the kiln for a firing, despair crashes in as I pull the pots out and I am forced --once again-- to reckon with my shortfalls as an artist and human being. All elements of my personality are expressed in my pots, the good and the bad, and I see it all.

Not to mention the fact that all pottery is breakable, and most of it breaks eventually. When I think of the balancing act I have to enact each day as I make my pottery, the futility of it all can sometimes be overwhelming. I will literally lay down on the floor of my studio, stare at the ceiling, and wonder why I bother spending my life making beautiful stuff that is obviously useless to the world.

After I'm done feeling very sorry for myself and the sad life I lead, I make more pots. I feel I owe it to my pots to never cry or get drunk when I'm making them, and to never lose faith that they will continue to be made. Potters are a hardy group of people-- we have to be. No matter how good you are, you are still subject to a vast landscape of imperfection. Beatrice Wood, an internationally known potter who lived near Santa Barbara and who died in 1998, wrote in her autobiography that there were times, even late in her career, where she would open the kiln and just want to give up. I think about Beatrice and all the other potters I know who keep making their pots despite their despair, and I quietly chant to myself, "Let it go, let it go, let it go".


  1. Anonymous3:01 PM

    Beautiful stuff is never useless to the world! I think it is dreadful when other people's priorities see art and artists as being further down the list.I put beauty, creativity and children's well-being and achievements first, and so many children need creativity and beauty in their lives.Don't despair! I dye textiles (eco-dying)and there are as many disappointments as successes, but that's what makes the successes so great. Keep up the great work!

  2. I just found your blog and your website. Dont despair, your work is beautiful. I will have to start saving for a cake plate - those dogwoods are gorgeous.

  3. What a funny story with it's sometimes riotously sad, yet ultimately hilarious undertones of doubt and drunken binges along the way. Whitney's pottery is fabulous and I've become almost obsessed with its uniqueness. I fill my new home piece-by-piece with her gorgeous work because pure, creative beauty is to be gazed at, quietly and comfortingly, and will be admired forever as ultimately one of mankind's remaining last few natural pleasures in life.