Monday, July 25, 2011

My Little Minis

Little challenges are fun. And sometimes the challenges I work on in my studio are really, really little. This fresh round of Mini Pots was unloaded from the kiln this weekend and are headed to their (temporary) home at The Beehive this week. If you live in or near Atlanta, Georgia visit The Beehive to adopt your own little Mini!

Each teensy Mini Pot weighs just a few ounces and is thrown on the wheel from a ball of clay smaller than a ping pong ball. I love making these little guys! Working this small on the wheel is always a challenge for me. My fingers which normally feel pretty tiny when I am working on large bowls and platters, suddenly feel like big ol' sausages when I am trying to throw a thin, delicate little Mini Pot.

I listed several of these miniatures a few months back, and they were quite popular in My Etsy Shop I then got busy (obsessed) with lots and lots of bowls and all but forgot about these sweet little things! But, now they are back on my production list. You can expect to be seeing lots more of these adorable little vases very soon!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Make Your Mark

I've been thinking a lot about my artistic growth. I have watched my work morph into something with a remarkable power of its own. I sit at my wheel and my work largely feels to make itself now. I am realizing the reward of endless searching for "my work." Each person approaches creation in a different way. Because of its very nature clay depends on our touch. Each person then will create something different just by the nature of their touch. There is a beautiful codependency between a potter and their clay. I have been spent the last few years trying to understand my relationship with clay, learning how to make my mark.

Making work that I am happy with is no longer the painful strain it once was. While I've been working with clay almost daily for the past six years I have only recently realized I can breath in my work. I am comfortable with clay and my design choices. Time in the studio now has a calming effect on me. Before, not so much. I was frantic, frustrated and always discouraged about something. And, with the oh so many ways to fail with pottery from start to finish, the word always is meant very, very literally.

If I managed to throw a piece I was happy with a series of terrible things were guaranteed to happen somewhere between that short moment of contentment and the final glaze firing. While I still have these issues- daily- it is now a much smaller percentage of the pots I begin. Progress. And that is the point of this post; Acknowledging our efforts and taking a step back to see the progress which always happens with the passing of time and dedicated practice. Commit to yourself and the work you make. Only then can you approach your work with the prospect of growth.

While working I frequently take a step back to analyze my pottery. I pay attention to both the attributes that are working, and those glaringly hard to ignore parts that are definitely not. I pull in the acceptance of my successes. Equally I pull in the acceptance of my shortcomings. Accepting and even embracing these shortcomings has transformed my work.

I had an art teacher tell me once, "Don't try to cover up your mistakes in art, you'll just draw more attention to it. People will know you were ashamed of your work and tried, unsuccessfully to hide it. Instead find a way to celebrate it. Draw even more attention and make sure people see the mistake. Turn it into something beautiful. Make sure they know you meant it." This has stayed with me. I carry this into the studio everyday. It may sound a little contradictory, but there is something very true and powerful in those words. A healthy acceptance of imperfection, and a way to turn those flaws into celebrated attributes of your art.

As artists our work is imperfect. These imperfections are our individual markings. My work is has grown into a series of organic forms, bright colors and unglazed porcelain. These are my favorite qualities about the work I make. And guess what? Each of these qualities has grown from my weaknesses.

I can throw a perfectly symmetrical pot, thanks to the even speed and spinning of my pottery wheel and a patient touch. I can, as in I have the ability to. I think this is important to mention. Laziness and lack of skill is not a valid excuse for making work of "celebrated mistakes." It is important to learn your craft, and to know the rules before breaking them. There should always be a desire to learn more about your art. Celebrating your mistakes is about finding your greatest resources for learning and individualizing your work.

All my pots begin round, that is part of my working process using a pottery wheel. For years I watched as these pots became off-round, unintentionally off-round. Picking up a piece that was too wet, my hands would dent the round bowl. I would try to hide it, but could never completely reshape it. I throw really thin, and the uneven, licking flames of the gas kilns at school would subtly push my pots off center during their firings. This was very frustrating for me. Until I realized one day that there was a beauty to this work that I was not full exploring. My method changed. Instead of trying to "fix" the pot, I tried to use my hands to express the individual personality of that piece. I pushed, pulled and altered until what would have been poorly hidden mistakes became instead carefully executed, soft, organic forms. I am pleased with my work. I still make mistakes constantly, but with each accident I see now an opportunity to grow.

Artistic growth is all about acknowledging our efforts and our imperfections, and learning equally from both.

Take a minute to acknowledge your successes. Next, ask yourself: What is the biggest weakness in my work? Now find a way to turn this into something beautiful, personal and celebrated. I guarantee you will be able to watch your work improve as you slowly accept your own imperfect mark.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Work in Progress

Pottery is very messy. Very, very, very messy. By noon today I had clay from my thighs to my toes, my shoulders to my fingertips. I had clay in my hair, on my clothes, my face, everywhere. Even Luke had clay on his nose. I found myself wondering why I even bother to shower in the morning. By nightfall I wind up basically showering again anyways. I'm 25 years old and I spend the day playing in mud.

Today was one of those very busy studio days. I wore down my skin to a little raw, bloody spot on one hand and a worn, rubbed down rash on the other. My wrist is chaffed with the possibility of scabbing. When you go at it hard like I did today, pottery is a very physical art. I am utterly exhausted. My body aches as if I spent the day doing strenuous yard work or heavy lifting. I have that completely spent feeling I remember as a child, playing from sun up to sun down- and playing hard.

Even on the busy days I do not lose the joy of my work. I love what I do. Passionately love each moment working with my clay. But, there are days like today when reality hits and I realize that I have sacrificed (oh so many!) opportunities of good pay, regular pay, reliable pay... all for this. My business is growing, yes. I am so thankful for this. But, each day is unpredictable. Some days I know I am moving forward. Other days I question what hell I am doing. Like, seriously question. Stopping in the middle of wedging clay, or wiping dust from my forehead once again and I say, almost always out loud to no one- "What the hell am I doing?"

It takes courage to jump, but I trust where I am falling. I know I can do this. And on those days where the doubt creeps in a little more quickly, and the bills come in at equal stride, I find myself still determined. Covered in clay from the tip of me to my toes I know this is the right path. I wake each morning determined to continue my life as it is today. Working to exhaustion is fulfilling when you are working passionately in pursuit of your dreams.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

New Work

I've been working to develop a cohesive theme in my work for ages. Lately I have been cranking out work faster than I can fire and finish it. Once again there are pots everywhere. And, these are only the ones that survive. I've once again outgrown the room I am working from, now expanding to take over the entire garage as well. It started with a table, a desk and three stools which I quickly covered in pottery. I began to move onto the washer and dryer that are stored out there not in use. After that anything that wasn't a vertical surface or wet was fair game. Over turned buckets, cookie sheets, storage boxes.. you get the picture. It really is a bit ridiculous. The inside of my house is no better. The places I find to store things are no less absurd here. Those of you who follow me on Facebook and Twitter likely heard my whining last night when my cat jump on my piano knocking three bowls to their shattering ends- yes my piano. Is a piano lid a good place to store pottery? Let me save you the guessing. It's a terrible place to store pottery. This is desperation. I need more space.

My large garage could work at first glance, but the problem with the garage is that it is not at all well insulated. Or more honestly, not at all insulated. The windows are screens only. My poor drying pots are exposed to varying levels of hot southern heat and an endless amount of humidity. I've tried flipping my pieces over mid way, timing by the hour the rotation from foot to rim and back again, covering with plastic- tightly- loosely, it doesn't seem to be enough. The humidity is killing my pottery. Today I found five pieces with S-Cracks. I stop typing to stare at the word. Debating on whether or not it deserves to be capitalized, and you know I think those pesky cracks are terrible enough that they deserve the big "S" and "C."

Somehow losing so many pieces has actually been good for me. This whole frustrating process has forced more practice into my life. And I still have more pieces than I know what to do with, so it's probably good 20-30% are currently not making it to the bisque. I've plans to address this issue (finally) buying a shelving unit. I've been saying this for months, but I really am doing it this time. As good as this extra practice has been I really excited about my new work and hoping to bring that extra 20-30% back into the equation.

Hope you enjoyed the sample of some of my new work! Be sure to visit my shop for additional listings!: