Yes, it has been a while since I last checked in with you. In my defense, the studio has been a wonderful distraction and I hope you agree the new pottery is worth the effort. But for those who are interested, I would like to keep the dialog open and share a few more details about myself. In particular, the topic of happiness keeps popping up in conversation, and I thought you might find my approach interesting.
Starting with a simple truth we all know… you have to work at being happy.
Everyone is different, but if I am not careful, the problems of the day consume my mind and I find myself lost in a stressful haze. It is easy to turn on the television, creating a bubble of distraction. But if left unchecked, I slowly grow numb to all that static and lose my connection to the beauty that surrounds us. As a self proclaimed warrior of light, I seek out that connection to create my art and chip away at some of life’s bigger issues. So as promised, here are three examples showing how I try to increase the happiness in my life (all occurring since my last blog post). Notice how each example keeps the stress monsters at bay, while strengthening my personal creative spark with the universe.
Backpacking makes me very happy. Deep in the woods, I can slow down and really listen to the sounds hidden within nature. During most of my adventures, I bring along a bamboo flute to contribute to the conversation. This is my way of expressing a personal voice, and allows me to reach new levels of communication with the woods around me. But recently I felt a need to expand my voice. Not just to gain a better understanding of the music flowing from me. But also a need to pull new, untapped notes from my body.
At first I searched for a more refined version of my current instrument. There are more than a few craftspeople who understand the art of transforming a simple piece of bamboo into an incredible musical instrument. But while remarkable, what I found just did not resonate with me. I also researched traditional metal flutes, but the sound also fell flat. While listening to countless variations of flute music, I was drawn to a supporting sound, hidden in the background… the lonely cello. That deep rich tone struck a chord within me, and I fell in love. I rented a cello from a local shop and now spend a few minutes every day practicing. I have a long way to go, but am truly enjoying this new musical journey. Obviously I did not accomplish my original plan, to find a better instrument to take backpacking. But I remained open, and found an instrument that now brings me great joy.
Finding my creative voice is also very important in my ceramic studio. I must be careful not to become numb to the wonders of the creative process. And so sitting at the potters wheel, I often make time to explore and just have fun with the clay. I let myself forget all my training, and look for new ways to express myself with clay. For many of the same reasons I love cello music, I could not help but laugh when I tried “chattering”.
To accomplish this technique, I first make a few special tools from discarded hacksaw blades. I bend the metal, and grind down the edge to create different shapes that will cut into the clay. Then I apply colored porcelain to the surface of freshly thrown bowls. Once the clay reaches the right consistency, I put the bowl back on the potters wheel and cut into the surface with the metal tool. Selecting the right speed and angle, I allow the tool to dance over the surface, making repeating marks in the clay. It is true that many technical skills must come together to create each unique piece. But what I truly love is the feeling of pure happiness as my creative mind takes over and small dancing patterns are frozen in time. I love running my hands over the finished texture of the bowl, feeling the music captured along the surface. At this point, I am exploring a wide range of colors that allow the white of the clay to shine through. And like the cello, by being open to the unexpected I have discovered a technique that actually reduces my stress, and brings a childlike happiness into my studio.
Victoria and I enjoy playing cards and boardgames with friends and family whenever possible. We find it is a great way to escape that all consuming television, and brings us closer together. I especially had a lot of fun shooting pool in Amsterdam, and wanted to play more after returning home. Many years ago I enjoyed playing bumper pool, and so I started looking for a table. As you may know, the rules and table are slightly different from standard pool. The nerd in me loves calculating angles on the fly, and showing off my polished skills to any challenger. In truth, I was never very good. But I had a wonderful time playing with friends, and so searched online for a bumper pool table that would fit our lifestyle. The journey took me to some unexpected sites, and that is where I discovered the game of Carrom. I would describe carrom as a blend between marbles and pool. Even though the game has been around for thousands of years, it was new to me. So trusting my instinct, I purchased a table. Now instead of watching television, we enjoy sitting down with a glass of wine and challenging each other to a wonderful game of carrom. To be honest, just like the cello and chattering, it takes lots of practice and we are definitely still amateurs. But the laughter is real and so is the happiness it brings.
Hope you enjoyed my pursuit of happiness. Keep your heart open to the unexpected, be willing to take a chance on something new, and if you are ever in the neighborhood… stop by and challenge us to a game of carrom.
PS – please take a moment to check out the latest chattering patterns on my Etsy shop.