Monday, April 06, 2009

refining me, refining you

People who work with in ceramics already know the truth about clay: you can call it "mud", which is a kind of jokey put-down which belies the reality of this material. But really, clay is an entity. What do I mean by that? I mean, clay is not an uninformed, unformed substance. It's also not a living being either. Got no lungs, doesn't breathe. It is somewhere in between. An entity only partially understood by even brilliant potters.

Clay is one thing. Glaze is another. Combining the two is a path taken by crazy people. If you are a potter, and you think you are sane, you are sadly mistaken. Let me be the one to tell you: Everyone around you knows the truth about the state of your sanity. You are fooling no one.

As a potter, your job is to make things out of clay, and learn to have a certain mastery over the outcome. With every firing, you learn something else. And yet, you don't know shit. With every firing, you make new decisions about your future path-- how you will apply this particular glaze, what the clay body can handle, how much abuse they both can take, how thick you can lay it on. You see the results of your attempts, and you shift your ideas and approach accordingly. You think you are shifting according to what you want,which is the perfect firing, the perfect outcome, the perfect piece.

It occurred to me that my clay actually wants something too. I spend almost everyday with this thing, this being, this clay. I think I'm telling it what to do, and becoming its master. But I actually think it's telling me what to do. And if I don't listen, I'm in big trouble.

Of course the bottom line question always is-- when the clay starts talking, are you a genius, or are you just fucking nuts?