Wednesday, November 19, 2008

meditative mood

It has been relentlessly sunny and warm here in Northern California, except for today when we woke up to a nice fog bank and cool temperatures. Frankly, it was a relief. I live here for a reason: I love mild weather that does not challenge me. Some would say I'm soft, and I won't deny it. When you live in this temperate climate, you lose track of the seasons, what month it is, and sometimes, yourself. My theory is that Californians come by our reputation because: 1) the rest of the country is jealous; and 2) because your brain does get a bit lazy when you walk out into the same kind of day for years on end. Back when I was an anthropology student and exploring the origins of human behavior, one idea I was fascinated with is that inclement weather pushes evolution forward, because it forces one to innovate and invent in order to deal with the problem of changing seasons.

Last weekend was particularly spectacular and show-offy weather, perfect for visitors. In my ongoing quest to get out of the studio and interact more with the pottery world, I went to Trax gallery to attend a workshop with Linda Christianson, a renowned potter from Minnesota. Linda and I could not be more different as potters. She sat in front of the room on a treadle wheel (the kind of wheel you pump with your foot) and get it barely moving. She threw down a chunk of clay, raise the walls twice, and done. The process took about 2-3 minutes, and the thrown piece was chunky, even irregular with lots of action on the sides from her throwing rib. It was a very meditative and thoughtful process. I thought about my own method of throwing in production, where the wheel is going at about 100 mph and I'm throwing off piece after piece, totally smoothed out and perfect looking, like it just came off a lathe.

Linda also talked while she threw, and the topics ranged from the sound of the train whistles nearby, to how she prices her work. She wood fires her pots, so she builds up a big collection of work, fires it off, and then wants to sell it as quickly as possible so she can make more. Her work is pretty inexpensive for someone of her stature, with cups in the $30 range. I think it can be a little insulting to say that someones work is too inexpensive. It implies that they don't value their own work enough, or don't have the confidence to raise prices. I don't think either is the case for Linda. I thought she regarded making pottery as a practice, and a process of her life. The getting paid part of it is important, of course, but not the point exactly.

Speaking of points, I'm not sure I have one today. Maybe Linda got me into a meditative mood and that, combined with my soft California brain, is making it hard for me to wrap this up. I'm off to the studio now to make more pots, and hopefully sell them off as quickly as possible so I can make more.