Saturday, April 20, 2019

Jarring

I treated myself to an evening of throwing big jars.  I had decided a few years ago that even though I love making jars, they weren't an efficient use of van space for an art fair potter.

Heck with it.  I like making jars.

I did, however, start by trying to make them out of the domestic porcelain I've been using.  No dice.  The stuff -- even stiffened up -- will not make anything of any size.  Too flabby.  Pull it up 15 inches and you can watch it slump back to 12 before your very eyes.  I gave up and went back to my beloved stoneware.

The one porcelain jar I kept is going to be faceted.  When clay cheats you, you cheat right back.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Living Water



Pottery seems singular in this: The “competition” is so often one’s biggest inspiration and encouragement.

I believe there’s an aspect to the pottery world that is a little like hidden groundwater. Most of our lives we walk right over groundwater and never note its presence. Then one day, perhaps for the first time, we notice an artesian well at the base of a hill. Or maybe a several day rain makes us aware of a rather high water table. Could be we're on a drive past a farm field while it’s being irrigated. Suddenly we’re made aware of that erstwhile invisible groundwater everywhere.

Potters are sorta that way. A few springs pop up here and there. An artesian (I’ll keep the cheap pun to myself) well or two – even the occasional pond of a potter --- a few obvious “bigg’ns” get some ink, get some notice.

But it’s the groundwater that keeps the whole craft going. It’s the groundwater of work-a-day potters who make the clay world go ‘round. And maybe, just maybe there’s a slight pressure on that working potter to spring out – to make a splash in the world of clay.

I think not, though. I think most of us are so at once charmed, and then trapped in this life. We love the material and the process. Then the pursuit of it and the demands of a potter’s lifestyle ensure that we never really escape it. 
 That is, if we ever wanted to escape it.

What other discipline but pottery allows an average Joe like me the great joy of sitting around the dinner table with Jim Ulmer, Brian Moore, Bob Reiberg, and Tom Bothe – a quintet of relatively unknowns in the “clay world” but with well over one hundred combined years with our hands and lives in clay – sharing a beer and laughing uproariously about the kiln disasters we’ve survived – the survival being the key that allows the laughter?

Where else but in the world of clay can I meet a heretofore stranger like Bob Briscoe at my pottery booth and have an hour-long discussion about mining creativity and recalling influences? ….or be driving through the mountains of northern Georgia and call Tom Turner on my cell phone to arrange a clay tour of North Carolina? …or email Pete Pinnell and talk about firing schedules, having both arrived at similar conclusions about thirty-year-old glaze recipes? In what other discipline are the “arrived” so open to sharing what they know and where they’ve been?

It’s a world that few have the honor of glimpsing – this groundwater of potters around the world. Some only see us on the surface – above ground. And some of us potters never make it there. But we’re all still part of that force that keeps clay surfacing through times when it might seem that we’re destined to our anachronistic fate. Together we push on through history. And I take no small pleasure in being part of that force. Knowing potters as I do, it is an honor.

There was a geyser in Wooster, OH over the weekend.

The Visitor






I'm not waiting on the muse. I think I've identified the muse, and the muse isn't something to wait on. I'm pretty sure "muse" isn't passive.

That's not to say that I don't believe that inspiration can't often follow something akin to meditation. It might. But to that point, I'm pretty sure that meditation isn't passive either.

But when I'm tied to the dock of Inertia, the muse is simply the one who knows how to undo those vexing knots in the mooring ropes.

When I'm anchored by procrastination, the muse is recognizing that anchor and weighing it. This is no time to heave to.

Starting is more than half done.

Mostly, the muse is the guy who drives the R&L truck that delivers my clay.

So, no, I'm not inviting the muse. Ultimately, R&L truck driver or second mate metaphor notwithstanding, I'm thinking that I am the muse.

What I am inviting, though, is the Visitor. I'm inviting that "third" who so often shows up, surprising me when I thought it was just me and the clay at the wheel.

The Visitor is the third who shows up when I thought it was just me and my keypad typing away at rhymes.

The Visitor is the third who shows up when I thought it was just me and my guitar.

The Visitor is (I think, anyway) why creative people continue to create.

I'm a real world kinda potter. That is, I've always made my living from clay. When push comes to shove, relative to the formulation of Muse/Visitor I've suggested above, survival has always been muse enough for me. If I don't weigh anchor and get sailing, I don't survive. There is no safe harbor. I can't wait on inspiration. I can't afford romantic notions of transcendent illumination.

And because potters like me have that survival motivation to be makers, we more often get to meet the Visitor. After all, if the Visitor only comes when bidden by productivity, the most productive are going to meet the Visitor the most often.

But correlation doesn't equal causation.

And there are obligate creators in this world. They seem to not require the push of the muse. Once they've met the Visitor, they go back to meet the Visitor again and again and again.

And the Visitor is why the poet goes back and reads what he wrote before. He's still startled by the presence of the Visitor. He wants to relive the pleasure.

The Visitor surprises the songwriter at every reprise.

The Visitor is why the potter unloads the kiln, smiles as he meets each piece as if for the first time. He walks away from the kiln, only to pirouette and return to the kiln for yet another look.