Wednesday, May 02, 2007

beautiful disaster

It is a cliche in the world of ceramics to say that pottery is all about letting go. But it is, and it's an ongoing lesson. A few things I've learned as I learn to let go is to not get too heavily invested in any one piece. I might spend hours on it, but I don't have the expectation that the work will actually pay off with a good piece. I hope--I always hope-- but in the end, when it doesn't work out as I hoped, as it occasionally does, I shrug and move on. I used to cry almost every time I opened the kiln, and that is a big drag. You have to toughen up if you want to be a full-time potter.

I still haven't learned out to let go when it comes to wholesale orders. I don't cry when they come out of the kiln all messed up, but I get really angry and I've been known to throw things and stomp my feet. I usually say to myself, "I don't care how messed up the piece is-- it's going out to the store!" That makes me feel better for the moment, half convinced I won't have to make the piece again. Of course, in the end, I could never send out something that doesn't pass muster with me.

Here's that Forget-Me-Not vase that I was working on a couple of weeks ago. It came out with these crazy cracks across the surface. I was disappointed but very glad that it was not a vase order that I would have to re-make. And I suspected it would have problems because when I was working on it the clay was already on the too-dry side and my clay body is very sensitive to getting sponged down when it's already dry. I would usually put the flowers all the way around the perimeter of the vase, but I stopped after two flowers in case of problems.

Sometimes when people -- not potters--see these kinds of problems they get really upset for me. "What a heartbreaker!" is what I often hear. But in the end, cracked pots just makes me more determined to do it again, better than last time. So being a potter is not only about letting go and being tough, it's also about being completely, totally, and utterly masochistic.

7 comments:

  1. Thanks Whitney once again for letting us in on the your process- both the good and the bad.The timing of this post is just what I needed to read this morning. I am frantically getting ready for a show this weekend and was glazing all day yesterday. Some of my favorite pieces somehow met with disaster before they even made it into the kiln - the floor ate one, feet fell off and tops got bumped. God only knows what will come from the firing but I am not expecting much. I came home and drank a bottle of wine. I love your toughen up words and will think of your post all day as I try to set up...oh and I'll take a couple of aspirin!

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  2. It's still beautiful. I see these pieces as kind of a gift to my friends as they usually get passed on to a recipient who doesn't mind that it is a second!

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  3. Wonderful work! Am enjoying your blog!

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  4. Anonymous6:25 PM

    Congratulations on the beautiful mention in Bon Appetit magazine! I was thrilled to leaf through my June issue today and find one of your bowls featured.

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  5. Good Post! I just wrote something similar today - how I wanted to fling 2 mugs across the studio because I messed up the handles...applies slip to a too dry mug which caused the handle to separate. I keep telling myself that this is a learning experience!

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  6. Today I googled "how to let go of beautiful moments" and this blog came up as a result 'cause of the words Beautiful and Let GO. Oddly, I am a ceramic studnt w/ 1 more class to take to graduate: senior seminar (Argggggh). I'm trying to let go of this one guy and the moments we shared, hence my google search. But it's hard because distance is what drove us apart and so there are no angry feelings just pure nostalgia. And, well, I've kinda lost all desire to work with clay. Not sure what the tie is 'cause I was doing ceramics before I met him. How could something like a break-up drive me away from clay when on the contrary, I feel I should have gotten me more into it, if only to not think of him. Maybe I am not meant to a be a ceramic artist. You write "So being a potter is not only about letting go and being tough, it's also about being completely, totally, and utterly masochistic." I can't let go and I am not tough, though I am utterly masochistic. I guess the question is, how does one work with clay or any art consistently when everything around you seems to be falling apart? (even if it really isn't but it so feels that way)But I think I know the answer already "just start making something and don't stop" But it is so hard. :(

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  7. Everything IS falling apart, all the time. As human beings we are (usually) blessed the ability to cope with our ongoing process of falling apart and learning from it. Nothing is perfect and it never will be. But we are driven to try for those perfect moments, and keep trying. If you are an artist you have the amazing ability to create something beautiful from this process of trying and striving and sometimes --often-- failing. Enjoy it. Quit yer cryin' and get back to work! The clay is waiting!

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