Wednesday, February 25, 2015

weird shame

I wanted to share some thoughts about my new work with you all. I've been posting images around on facebook and instagram, so you may have already some of it. I've been pretty good about uploading it to Flickr, so if you want to see what I have so far, you can check it out there. Oh, and I am slowly uploading it to etsy, so you can see buy it there too.

My work has always been a slow morph-- it changes over time but the basic thread is still there. With this new work, a lot has changed really quickly. My work has always been tightly controlled and restrained. For many years, that's how I wanted to express myself in what I made, and it worked for me. I got so much satisfaction from making everything just so. After my yearlong hiatus from making work, the point from where I started again was even more restrained, even more dependent on making every line, every mark just so-- just so perfect. It was fun, even satisfying to scratch that itch I have for perfection, but I really felt as though I was just treading over the same ground, just in a different part of the park.

The new work just comes from a deep need to let that go-- move on or spontaneously combust. I was really inspired by a visit to Alcatraz Island, where there was an exhibit of Ai Wei Wei's work happening. I found myself drawn not to Wei Wei's work, but to the old walls of the prison, which have been painted over many times, and through years of neglect and exposure to the elements, were peeling and chipping off, layer after layer. The dated institutional colors, different hues of blues and greens mostly, were absolutely beautiful to my eyes, and I wondered how I could re-create some of that look on my pottery-- the layers, the colors, the decay of it all.

I love this new work so much, and I feel really proud of it. Every kiln I unload makes me happy, there are very few pieces that come out that I don't love. And whatever imperfections they may have are part of the work, it makes it better, which is very unlike my older work, where small imperfections could really mess up the look of a piece. And I feel like this is the direction I need to go, the work that has been waiting to come out. An artist friend of mine said to me years ago that it was time for me to get down and dirty with my work, to not be so precious with everything I made. Her words stayed with me all these years, and I felt the urgency, but despite my skill and talent, I just didn't know how to do it.

This puts me in a strange spot with my older work right now. The standard collection that I've been pumping out for the past 7 years or so is all slip cast now, and I have made the decision that a lot of that collection is going to be discontinued-- the cupcake stands, the bird bowls and vases for starters, and probably other items as I get used to saying good-bye to this work. But it's still with me, taking up a lot of space in my studio, and sometimes the things people say to me about this work makes me feel strangely defensive and even ashamed. Another artist friend of mine said, "I loved your cake stands, but enough with the cute already! I like this new work so much better!"

I've had many comments from other people that they like this new work better than my older work. Which is nice, it's a compliment and I know that, and I totally agree with them, but it gives me this feeling that I've been walking around with my underwear hanging out, and everyone has known it, and now they can tell me since I finally tucked it back in. It's just this weird shame. And the shame has actually been with me for a while, before I even started my new work, because I think I haven't grown much as an artist or developed enough new work in the past 3-4 years. It's my issue, and I'm dealing with it, so if you are one of those people who have said something to about to me and are now feeling bad, please don't. I just think that shame is a corrosive thing, especially when you don't talk about it, so me talking about it right now is just part of my process. If you have any thoughts about shame, not developing as an artist or anything else, please leave a comment.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

little demons down dark alleys

I'm always looking for new resources and tools to deal with myself-- my reactivity, my dark moods, my judgmental nature, my sense of entitlement, and my know-it-all attitude. That's only a partial list of this things I'm working on, by the way. I'm currently reading Pema Chodron's book, Taking the Leap: Freeing Ourselves From Old Habits and Fears. I love Pema Chodron because even though she is a long-time Buddhist nun and has written a bunch of books about Buddhist practice, she freely writes about what a deeply flawed person she is. Even Pema can be at a meditation retreat, yet go into a downward spiral if she feels disrespected or ignored. She gives me hope that even as I fail, I can still improve my outlook. She reminds me that no matter how much I fail on a daily basis, I must still be a friend to myself.

One of the things she keeps reminding me of throughout this book is the importance of pausing  throughout the day to take a few breaths, focus on what is happening in front of me, and connect to how I am feeling in that moment. As an experiment, I turned on my meditation timer, and set it to make a gong sound every 20 minutes throughout the day. When I hear the gong, that's my reminder to take a few breaths, refocus, and also to stop standing on the outside of my feet, which is one of my bad habits. It's been an effective way for me to stay connected to the moment, and not go off chasing my little demons down dark alleys while I'm working.

Then, it all went to shit when I messed up my knee last Friday. Lately, I have been getting really harsh injuries doing things like trying to get up off the couch, crouching down all the way, or reaching for a glass. Yes, I know, as we get older these things happen, but I'm not understanding why someone as young on the inside as I am still receives this treatment.

Right now, I can't straighten out my leg all the way and I can't stand or walk comfortably. Being thrown off balance in this way made me forget all about staying focused and in the moment, and I struggled with rage and depression all weekend at my lack of mobility. I thought about how difficult it's going to be to work, and how I may not be able to go back to yoga class for weeks where I am currently enrolled in a 4-month intensive class. I thought about how much knee surgery is going to cost and then felt momentarily blessed that I am now covered through obamacare before flipping back into fear about long-term recovery. I tried to do some very limited yoga and I forgot to breathe while I was stretching. I was just holding my breath, doing yoga. At some point, I realized I was doing breathless yoga.

Pema reminded me this morning that if I know I'm failing, I'm not failing, because I am aware of myself and what I am doing, and that is the biggest battle of all. And in that moment, I can just let it go.