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.