One of the biggest nightmares in my life for a long while were the bird cake stands. They are one of my current top sellers, and have been plagued with problems. When I first started making them, it was no problem. This is how it always starts: you whip out a great design, a fab new glaze, whatever, and the stuff starts selling. So you make more. But there is an internal flaw in the system that has not made itself known yet. As you make more, the flaw comes out. The more you sell, the more the problem starts to exponentially multiply.
With the cake stands, the first problem was the birds falling over during firing. This took a while to address, but I finally came up with the solution. Then it was getting the right glaze to fire out on these big, flat surfaces. I had to fiddle with my kiln, my firing style, my cooling phase, and the glaze to get it right.
I was so happy when I finally landed on the right white glaze that doesn't pinhole or bubble. This is a sweet white glaze, so I started using it as my default white glaze. Problem is, as I'm discovering, this white glaze loves to crawl all over the place on round surfaces. I had to ruin about $1000 worth of work before I decided fuck this. Now I have white glaze only for cake stands and straight surfaces (up, down sideways-- doesn't matter, as long as it is straight, no curves), and white glaze for everything else. Sigh...
I was discussing this issue with my good friend, Leah, who is operations manager and designer for a bead and jewelry component company. She said, "I keep waiting for this time when everything can just run smoothly-- when silver prices aren't spiking, when the economy isn't going to hell, when I can actually get the bead back from the maker that is actually the bead I designed..." I laughed, because that's what every single person I know is waiting for: smooth sailing.
I have gradually accepted that perfection is nothing more than an ideal rarely achieved. I have tortured myself-- and my husband-- trying to reach for that state of constant perfection at the studio and done nothing but suffer in the struggle. And when I say suffer, I mean painful, gut-wrenching, can't sleep, don't want to eat, always worried, crying everyday, totally pissed off, suffering. I went over and off the edge a while ago. While I was laying there, all flattened, on rock bottom, I realized how useless my yearning for perfection is. The ebb and flow of our work includes moments of bliss and perfection, and the rest of the time just regular life. Regular life usually means shit is breaking down, because that is the nature of being on this planet: nothing stays the same, things are constantly deteriorating, and perfection--like everything else-- is fleeting. Enjoy it while it lasts.