Sparks & Simplicity

Detail - Porcelain with colored clay inlay, clear glaze.

Trust my Intuition

Over the past few months, I have been reflecting upon my feelings with clay.  In the past I would often trap myself, shifting my work to please other people instead of the work.  So now I have been slowing down, to be aware of how I feel as I create new work.  I keep asking myself during each step of the process if the work feels “true”.  Am I doing this for someone else, or am I being honest and still listening to the work.  So easy to say, but actually very difficult to do.  But following this path I ended up with a process that has heart, and I am enjoying my time in the studio like never before.

Spark of Truth

Of course I still care how you feel about the results.  That desire to create something pleasing runs deep inside of me.  And after years of sharing my work with the public, you would think I could embrace that fact that not everyone is going to like my work.  But no matter how well I hide it on the outside, I still cringe (just a little) with each negative comment.  But as I continue to mature, I think I can finally say with a straight face that it is okay if you do not like work.  At this moment what is most important, is that the piece and the process rings true for me.  I could not ask for anything more.  Right now I feel something special as each piece is created, within the pottery and myself.  My work does not yet burn with truth, but I do feel the spark.  And it is this spark of truth that pulls me forward.  With this current process I am throwing, stamping, and adding colored clay inlay to each piece.  And yes, people have pointed out that there are much easier ways of getting similar results (overglaze stamps or decals for example).  But something feels right about this process for ME and MY Studio.  And as I mentioned above, these first pieces are more about finding a fit between me and the process.  And now that I have a clear process, I can focus on the color, design and power of each piece.  I am excited to see where this goes.

Simplify the Process

It has had such a huge impact on my studio, that I feel something also needs to be said about simplification.  While I was searching for sparks of truth, I was also asking if there was anything I could do to simplify the overall process of creating new work.  And from this line of questioning, some big changes occurred in my studio.  First, I changed the way I trim the bottom of the pots.  It may seem like a small thing, but in the past I would wait for the piece to dry, and then trim the bottom.  But now I am using a wiggle wire tool to cut the bottom off the wheel, leaving a textured pattern that is very pleasing to the senses (image below).  Second, I am now single firing my work.  This does require a lot more care in the glazing process, but it allows me to skip a firing cycle (no longer needing to bisque fire the pieces before glazing).  Not only does this simplify the overall process, it is also much better for the environment (saves energy – every bit helps).  Third, I purchased a much smaller kiln allowing me to move away from the big batches so I can “Fail Faster” (more about this in a future post).  And forth, I am only working with a clear glaze, allowing the colored clay speak for itself.  This change also allows me to simplify my firing cycle which reducing my firing time (since I am no longer concerned with matte glazes and growing crystals in the glaze).  All these small changes start to add up, and my studio feels lighter and ready for adventure.