Wednesday, November 21, 2007

be brave. make art.

That last post sure gave me a lot to chew on. I really appreciate how many people commented on their obsessions. Worry and fear seem to dominate the theme. I’m always struck by how so many people out there want to be artists but instead choose to work jobs they don’t really like because they think they can’t make it as an artist.

I had a conversation with a long-time client the other day whose whole family loves and collects pottery. His daughter is probably about my age and has been making pottery for a while now and really wants to make it her job. He was relating this story to me and his reaction to her, which was, “Don’t do it! You have a good job, benefits, stay where you are!” While I tried to control my severe annoyance that he would imply my job is not worth pursuing, I very gently told him that working a job his daughter doesn’t like is no life at all, no matter how secure it may make her feel. I always call that kind of comfort as wearing the golden handcuffs.

I contrasted his reaction with my own parents, who have never once discouraged me in becoming an artist or suggested I may want to go after a more conventional line of work for the sake of having a steady paycheck. Partly because they know it’s useless trying to reason with me, but mostly because they have always believed I can do whatever I want to. My mother was telling me about a friend whose son wanted to be a photographer, and her friend was telling his son that he should get educated in something that he could, “fall back on”. My mom basically told him that was bad advice and if his son failed as photographer, that would be the time to find something else.

I don’t have any real answers for people who have put themselves in jobs they dislike when they really want to be artists. I would only say that fear is an uncomfortable emotion, but fear moves people. It can spur one one to be better, try something new, ignite the desire to create a different kind of life. I have all kinds of fears, and I have always forced myself to confront the stuff that scares me because I hate cowards, and I hate myself the most when I am not being brave. I would never tell someone to just quit their day job and become an artist, because being an artist is a job like any other and it takes some time to create that position. But I would tell them to make a plan to quit their job and start working on being an artist. Today.

Thursday, November 08, 2007


It’s not a secret that I’m an obsessive type of person; when I’m into something, I’m really into it. When I was a kid, it was gymnastics. That’s all I talked about, thought about, and wanted to do. When I was a teenager, it was boys… and we can all imagine where that went. And now, as an adult, it’s pottery.

Last night at the mediation class I attend once a week, it suddenly occurred to me that thinking about pottery all the time is not a good, healthy activity. I estimate that I spend about 70% of my waking thoughts on pottery: what I’m going to make, how I’m going to make it, and how to sell it. Those are the main thoughts. The follow-up thoughts can range from obsessing about how I’m going to obtain more free packing peanuts to ship my work to what I’m going to do to design a better catalogue. And on and on and on.

I was noticing this because when I go to my meditation class it is really hard to stop thinking about pottery and clear my mind. Once I do manage to clear it and focus on meditating I inevitably fall asleep. Every week I’m amazed that I have such a hard time falling asleep and staying asleep in a bed, but in meditation class I can fall asleep sitting up. The problem is that I’m chronically sleep-deprived because when I go to bed at night I’m still thinking about pottery. Who can sleep when in their mind they are on the wheel? When I was relaxing in the hot tub after class I noticed that I wanted to start thinking about pottery right away, and again I thought, “This is crazy”. It’s like, ignore everything else and just wear a groove let in your brain where you feel happy. By the time I’m 50 I’m only going to be able to squawk about clay, because I won’t know anything about anything else.

I know that artists have a reputation for being weird and crazy like this, but I don’t want to be like that. I would really like to know from everybody who read this blog—not just artists—what they think about the most and what percentage of the time they think about it. Don’t be a chicken, it’s so easy to post comments on my blog, you can even do it anonymously.

Thursday, November 01, 2007


I’ve been trying this new method and I’m going to share it and encourage every artist who reads this to give it a try. Since I’ve been back from Japan it’s been a big struggle in my studio to make the new, sometimes non-functional work that I want to make, and at the same time fill orders and make all the stuff that sells that I think I have to make. I feel guilty when I work on my new stuff, because I have bills and an assistant who counts on me to pay her. Then I feel guilty when I work on my "have to" stuff because I think I’m ripping myself off and not being true to my artist self. It’s a ridiculous crazy struggle and I think every artist goes through it. The result is that I have not been very efficient. In fact, I have no idea what I made between August and September. It’s a big guilt blur.

So I decided to split my studio time in half: after I deal with my daily paperwork I look at how much time I have to make stuff, and split it in half. One half is my *have to* pottery, half is my *want to* pottery. I can mix that up however I want, but it has to come out to a 50/50 split at the end of the day. And it totally works for me because I’m satisfying all my needs and making great new stuff too! Check out what came out of the kiln today:I’m really excited about these things. I made it with my new porcelain and I threw it super thin so I would get the translucency when you put a candle in it. I’m really into it because I can play around with carving pictures, and at the same time get away from glazing. And I can use the concept on a hundred things I have in mind. The design simplifies my life in so many ways, I’m so tired of slaving over pieces to get all the different colors and relief design. Now this little baby hasn’t been fired yet, but it’s a copy of a magnolia petal that I found on the ground the other day, in the porcelain again. I was walking down the street with Christa on Monday and I saw the petal on the sidewalk. Its proportions were so perfect, so beautiful, that I instantly thought of re-creating it as a spoon. A scoopy-spoon. I think this thing is one of the most beautiful things I have ever made. The picture does not do it justice.

The great thing about these items is that I made them in my want to time, and I think they will both sell well in production and will serve as the foundation for my next collection. There are so many little lessons to be learned here and I don’t think I even have to point them out; I may start sounding like a self-help guru and then I’ll feel the need to demand $19.99 for passing on my wisdom.