One of the lessons this week that had impact was the notion that underlined a basic balance between two different roles that are at play in the studio.
Explore: Play, explore, question , challenge yourself.
Seems pretty obvious…
Explore: The engagement of curiosity and play in studio life. An artist’s willingness to explore reflects in a dynamic body of work that easily attracts new and returning eyes.
Exploit: The work that draws directly on the lessons learned from exploration to effectively disseminate ideas, shifting back and forth as nessassary to effectively feed and sustain a functioning studio.
My hang-up is that I appear to prefer the chaos of “exploring”, all the challenges, the ups and downs, all the BS (I seriously suspect it’s a manifestation of a personality disorder. I need a certain amount of drama in my life to feel normal. Over the past few years I’ve enjoyed removing a majority of it from my daily life, but it still shows up… TaDa!) Unfortunately, I don’t have the same problem with “exploiting “. I do my micro-batches of 8 to 20ish, figure out what works and what doesn’t, and then move on (aka. loose interest once the project is dialed in). It could be a side effect of working without any real goals aside from just making the work. I wish I had more interest in standing still long enough to effectively exploit what’s been explored, but I feel that I’m in a race to get ideas out of my system before I just can’t.
Blah blah blah… We all know that we need to show up everyday in our studio to keep the ball rolling. It’s not as much a habit as a lifestyle. Lately, dispite making work in my head all day while working in the field, I havn’t been setting aside large blocks of time to devote to doing the dirty work out in the ceramic studio. It’s not an excuse to not do things, rather, it’s a reason to make sure a few important things get done.
This summer I wanted to concentrate on putting some real, tangible effort into learning how to dial in a few details. Pulling the rims as they were being thrown needed a hand cut foot to resolve the form. That meant I needed to figure out how to actually hand cut a consistent, good looking foot. Not only did it need to look good, but it has to feel good. It always comes back to balance. With your eyes closed, it has to feel good in your hand.
I was told decades ago, that any process that you want to learn, start by doing it 100 times and then see where you stand.
I know for a fact that this is a valid stradgy and it works, but I learned quickly to cheat, I’m not looking for shortcuts, I’m looking for anything that can start getting results while going through a learning curve. What I’ve found that gets results for is working through the process in multiple cycles of small batches (in this case making 12 to 24 teacups at a time) before stopping to evaluate and make changes and then diving back in. Its still safe to assume that it’s going to take a 100 plus to dial a new process in, but course corrections happen more effeciantly and organically using shorter cycles.
There’s a lot of loss (ok…it’s mostly loss), but that’s the process. What more integral to the lesson than loss is the editing. Some happens during the process, but most editing needs to happen after the kilns cool. Often the mistakes that we make have nothing to do with our skill stacks, the mistakes grow out of our assumptions. Our assumptions of what’s going to engage or just please someone (or even ourselves) before the work is finished.
Often it’s better to just sit back and relax, using our intuition, challenge ourself, applying what we know, and see how it works out.
This is a bit of a duck shoot. Its not an easy give’me. Not only do you need to know what you are shooting for, but what you want to be aiming at doesn’t just pop up in front of your duck blind. It takes more than skill to hunt down successful work. It takes an ability to sit down and work through failure after failure to see an idea through. It takes perseverance and patience… A duck shoot.
Support group time… This is one of my oldest surface design elements. It’s part of a repertory of designs. A “goto” that I know that I can easily slip into flow into with. When my hands are doing the work, I disappear into the design. It’s a profound place to move in. It’s also magical place to step out of. To see what’s happened after the fact can instigate changes in a host of different viewpoints, and yet, as wonderful it feels to make these, I make only a handful of them every few years. That’s just the volume I work at. The smaller batches allow the work to retain its specialness. This time around I noticed a detail that I felt was relevant to me. In the past I preferred to add crows to the design, it made me feel better to add the extra imagry. The crows gave the design a slightly melancholy, lonely, independent feel… I was all those things too. Unknowingly at the time, my moods apparently found their way in. Looking back, it makes sense.
Now, the design is just the breeze…
What’s changed? The hand that holds mine has been letting me heal and grow. Now I feel contentment.
Thank you Love.
Note. If you feel like you are serving vanilla soft serve and are wondering if that’s ok… If mediocre is good enough… It’s a false choice, it’s definitely not okay. Go back and do a gut check.
Pretty isn’t a design solution.
Pretty isn’t engaging.
Pretty gets a nod as it’s passed by.
It’d be far better to violate a piece’s passivity and fail than to just give up and settle for mediocrity.
Thrown and pulled chawan using 1.25lbs of Hawaian/Redstone cone 5 blend stoneware. The foot is hand cut and the design is paper stenciled using Whillies White slip. Bisque fired to 06. A thin 50/50 Blck(blue) wash has been applied and wiped off. A thin studio SAG Shino was used to glaze the exterior and a Fritted White Liner used on the interior. Fired to cone 6. Wet sanded with a diamond pad after fireing.
There was a lot of new boxes ticked off with this round. The foot is very nicely cut. The undulation of rim is beautiful. It’s got heft but it’s well balanced. Nice for the coming winter. The surface is soft and alluring. The SAG Shino really is coming into its own as I figure out how to use it. The 50/50 black wash blushes blue through the glaze and reminds me of the cold winter moonlit nights under a full moon and fields of crisp white snow. That feeling it congers up inside me the the reason enough to make a few more.
Pleasure is the delight that’s chased everyday, we are always left seeking more…
Happiness lays in a state of contentment for what is…
Making my work brings me pleasure…
but it’s the relationships that my work attracts that brings me happiness
Note: Out of the two dozen cups that were fired as part of this particular series, this was the one that had my eye on all the way through the process. It’s been like cheering on a frog at a frog jumping contest. It can be going well all the way up to the point that it veers off and leaves the race. Similarly, it was a huge surprise when it crossed the finish line, that all the testing actually lead to lifting this one out the kiln. It’s the culmination of so many questions, lessons, and resolved details. One of several trophies from this summer’s kilns. Pure pleasure.
Most of the time, life moves at a contenental pace. Slow and easy….
Everyone seems to be praying for major changes, both with their work and their lives. At this point, not me…
I’m cool with slowly meandering my way down this path. It might be slow, but it’s mine… until something dramatic shakes it into being something completely different, I’m going to enjoy relaxing into the slooooow success of just making the work without expectation or need.