Friday, December 20, 2013

the re-education of whitney smith

Now that my studio re-model is done, I have been easing myself back into the studio. I have not done any serious ceramic work since the beginning of the year as I have dealt with my burnout issues. I spent at least 3 days trying to figure out what I should work on first. That was fun, arguing with myself about where to begin. Finally, realizing my inclination to make things hard so I feel like an effort is worthwhile, I decided to start with the easiest thing, which was an order for a cake stand.

I'm treating myself like someone who has been injured and has to be handled very delicately, and I'm watching every thought, every move to check for signs of burnout, boredom, disgust, and despair. As those things come up, and they do, I have to pause, and check myself:

  • Am I trying to move fast when I need to move slow? (Years of production has made me hurry all the time.)
  • Am I giving my process a chance to work out the problems of this piece? (Sometimes my lack of patience makes me give up quickly when I  think something isn't working.)
  • Am I following my impulse with the direction I want to follow with the piece or am I trying to force an outcome? (This is all about trusting my instincts as an artist.)
  • Am I deciding how this piece will be accepted or not accepted in the world before I've even had a chance to finish it? (I compare this to parents who have decided what their children are going to be when they grow up.)
  • Am I staying present with what I'm working on, or am I drifting off into thoughts about the past, the future, or just not paying attention at all? (Hello bad habits.)
Asking myself these questions helps me adjust my pace, attitude, and internal dialogue. It takes discipline and patience to stay on top of myself like this, like trying to teach a child. An angry, drunken child. It's the re-education of Whitney Smith. I have this little sign on my studio wall, courtesy of rae dunn, which are serving as my current watchwords: