Wednesday, January 19, 2011

It Doesn't Have To Be Hard

My Yamaha guitar

Somehow the name on the headstock was freed of its letter "M". So now it reads "YA AHA". That to me implies some intent on the guitar's part. And just a little bit of magic. I doubt that that M just disappeared on its own. I betcha the old guitar means "YA AHA" when it says it. Or shouts it.

This guitar was bought by my brother on an Air Force base in Italy forty years ago. He paid less than $100 for it at the time. It's one of the cheapest guitars ever manufactured -- at least among guitars actually meant to be played. The entire box is plywood. It's just about as humble as a guitar can get.

Yet I betcha I learned a good 80% of what I know playing this guitar. And as thin as its sound is, and as worn as the frets have gotten (and all the mutes and buzzes that that causes me) , sometimes it's still the guitar that sounds "right" to me.


It doesn't have to be hard. It doesn't have to be complex. And sometimes it just feels good to return to more elemental things. Fundamentals.

My friend, Dave called me one day. The frustration he was feeling was evident in his voice. "John", he said, "I suddenly cannot throw a pot!"

At the point in time of this phone call, Dave had already been a professional potter for more than twenty-five years. Dave had thrown literally tens of thousands of pots. But somewhere he ran off the tracks. Somewhere he drifted from a simple fundamental.

"Can I come down there and watch you for a day?", he continued.

Well, it was a great excuse to get together with a friend and gab pottery. He didn't have to ask twice. And soon he was down at my shop.

It wasn't five minutes into my first pot when the light went off in Dave's head. Almost as soon as I started my first pull, Dave realized exactly what had changed in his throwing. He didn't know WHY he'd changed it, but he discovered what he needed to know and the problem he was having immediately disappeared.

And it was nothing more complicated than the fact that for some reason he had stopped touching his thumbs together over the developing pot wall. Maybe he'd just done a long series of tall pots where touching thumbs isn't possible. Who knows. But for some reason he'd forgotten a very simple fundamental and couldn't find his way back.

So a visit back home can be valuable from time to time.


  1. You produce my all time favorite blog, I never fail to learn, think or laugh when I read your posts, sometimes all three!
    Thank You

  2. seems we make things harder then they should be.
    There are days I can't throw and it is because I want to skip all the steps between center and shape....

  3. You're welcome, Kings!

    Thank you, Donna. What a nice thing to say!

    Cooking, ...there are steps between center and shape? oops.