Thursday, April 03, 2008

why we suffer

I had a terribly unfulfilled day at the studio today. Sara had the day off, and it was a Thursday, my favorite day of the week. I love Thursdays, because it holds all the promise of my next favorite days: Friday and Saturday. There is something very cool and swingy about a Thursday, and I try to not schedule anything on Thursdays so I can enjoy it to the max without interruption. So I was mentally rubbing my hands together, thinking, "A day to make new work and have some fun!" And my husband is out of town at the moment, so I could drink a gallon of coffee for breakfast without anyone nattering to me about my unhealthy level of caffeine intake, which makes me extra extra happy.

This has been my assignment for months: Let Sara take care of production orders so me can work on art. Say that in a robotic voice: Me make aaaaarrrrtttt. The system is in place to make that happen, and we've worked so hard to create a system that works. And yet. And yet...

Nothing is happening. I bounced, literally bounced, into the studio. I started to trim up a bunch of cake plates, (thankyouthankyou etsy for featuring me this week and pouring a ton of orders into my pay pal account) and then I thought, "Wait! I'm not gonna trim plates today! This is my day! I'm gonna make what I wanna make!" I immediately covered up my plates and wedged up some porcelain. I started throwing with no ideas in mind, and unfortunately, no ideas came. Throw throw. Crap. Crap. Suffer.

I called up Rae and complained. She snorted and said, "Join the club". She was not unsympathetic, but merely voicing the truth: to be an artist means you are going to suffer. Why? Because to create takes time, and we want it now. Pulling those ideas down out of the ether or out of the universe or wherever the hell they come from is so damn time-consuming. And we want-- no we expect the idea now.

When an artist is not yet in the flow of creation, it's like waiting in a long line, pushing and shoving your way to the front. And what we can't see is that the pushing and shoving is getting us closer to the front of the line; all we can see are the annoying people in front of us, not the distance we traveled.

And so. We suffer. I suffered. I thought about it for a while, and I thought about what I would say to a friend about my predicament, assuming this friend was not as annoying and deserving of punishment as I am. And I thought, "You should not be in the studio, you should be out in the world and looking at some real art". Then I took out the "real" part, because I would never say that to a friend and I would never even think it. Thank god it's almost Friday, my real favorite day, cause I'm taking the day off to go and look at some art.


  1. Hi Whitney, I can't tell you how many times I could have written what you've just written. The creative process does take time, it's just that we potters seem to always struggle with that creative moment thing. One of the great things about being a potter to me, is the satisfaction of seeing all those things made and sitting on my tables, but getting the momentum is tricky. Especially when you have the ideal circumstances like you had the other day. Then there are the days when you can make anything, effortlessly. I guess these are the creative highs and lows.
    Well, I've enjoyed reading your blog and wish you the best. Thanks for your honesty and the really beautiful work.

  2. AMEN.
    Now I want to take an evening and read all of your old posts. You are super easy to read. I know that doesn't make YOU feel any better...but it helps me. THANKS.

  3. I have often wondered if artists ever get bored with some of the pieces that they create - the pieces that can be "re-created".

    You become an artist to create things you love. You hope that other people love your work. Then people do love your work and want more of the same. But you need to move on and create something different. Is it something like that for you, Whitney? I think I understand and I look forward to seeing what you come up with next.

    That said, I can't wait to receive my lovely red sugar and creamer set!

    Happy weekend! Here's to INSPIRATION!

  4. I love that quote by Wallace Stevens.

    And I completely empathize with your day. it happens to me too. I say 'day' because that's all it was. You are so creative, it couldn't possibly last.

    Have fun looking at art, I'm gonna do that too tomorrow. And go to the opening day of the season for the Portland Farmer's Market, yay!

  5. How do I love thee and your work. As an artist, I totally relate to your process. The medium has a way of calling us, of choosing us. Finding a state of "grace" must come with ease, just enough, not too much.
    I am going to start collecting your work, because I know you are as beautiful inside and out.

  6. Congratulations on being the featured seller on Etsy - I read your interview and enjoyed it a lot!

    As to the suffer thing and working in a low level of panic - why do we do this to ourselves? I seem to operate most productively like that, but I don't like the way it makes me feel inside, like there's always something else I need to be doing. I'm trying to be more in the here and now, and stuff that feeling back inside.

  7. I know the feeling, I experience it as those times when you know in your head what you want to say but the words won't come out, they sit frustratingly on the tip of your tongue but refuse to fall into place. I enjoy reading your blog and often giggle as I relate to comments you have made.

  8. Thank you thank you for writing about that. That alone makes you a brave person.

    I can relate. I have had perfectly set up days like that...sent the husband and kids away, the house is clean (or almost), the emails are answered, the yarn ready to be knit.

    But..but..the muse wasn't ready! The muse is musing elsewhere, she didn't know she had an appoinment with me. And of course she wouldn't be summoned at the last minute.

    So I probably would have trimmed those plates, or in my case, picked up some random knitting that has been languishing. In "stuck" times, it's OK to go with the stuck feeling, to stick right there with it and do things that are right in front of me.
    Sometimes, I get unstuck from doing that.

    Then of course, make more coffee. :)

    Friday = art day should be the law!

  9. I`m so stuck right now that I`m afraid of myself.... How can it happen? Where is all my love to my work? How can it disappear so promptly? ....and there is no sign of it from returning.....
    Thank You for your post!
    You write so beautifully! I almost wish you could write a book!