Sunday, August 27, 2017

Special Requests

He prayed for the rocks. He prayed that they would remain hard. Solid. He prayed that boulders would remain heavy and pebbles would remain light. 

He prayed that there would be rocks almost too big for a man to climb over and grains small as sand. He made his request to God that rocks would exhibit the full spectrum of colors made possible by the elements and minerals therein. 

He pleaded with God that whatever changes occurred in rocks might occur by slow erosion over time so that any changes that might occur would be nearly undetectable over the average human lifetime. 

At the same time, he requested that the effects of that erosion -- and of heat and of cold and of time might make rocks as beautiful as sculptures, as pretty as paintings. 

He never prayed for cats. He couldn’t handle the disappointment.

Friday, August 25, 2017

A Time Beyond Today

Last night's vivid dream:

...became a dream within a dream. I dreamt that I was playing at the Goshen Old-Timey Music Jam. I couldn't get my guitar re-strung in time so I started "da-da-da-da-da-da-daaaa-ing" through the first fiddle tune. 

It was "Shove The Pig's Foot A Little Further In The Fire"

Anyway, the fellas closest to me heard my da-da-da-ing and they stopped playing instruments and started da-da-ing along with me. Then all the musicians in the circle stopped playing instruments and joined in the impromptu acapella fiddle tune.

Soon the entire farmer's market joined in as well. 

Well, anyone who's been to the Goshen Farmer's Market (where the music jam is held once a month) knows that there's a significant majority of Mennonites buying and selling there on any given market day. And anyone who knows Mennonites knows that Mennonites know harmony. In fact, ain't nobody knows harmony like Mennonites know harmony.

So there I sat in my dream, surrounded by an otherworldly chorus of da-da-da-ing in full-throated harmony. It gave me chills.

Then I woke from the dream and started telling the woman I was standing next to about the whole dream. Except I was still dreaming.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Outside Looking In

My friend, Jeff Miller, made this comment during a discussion last year: 
"If you find yourself thinking that the only possible explanation for someone else's perception that differs from your own is based on their having a negative framework (ie, "racist", "sexist", "hateful", etc.), you have more than likely inadvertently absorbed a piece of perceptual framework that someone else has planted in you in order to manipulate you.

As a general proposition, start with the assumption that everyone is operating from a perspective of positive intentions, even if doing so violates your framework. Even if you are wrong (and you very well may be), the result is positive". -Jeff Miller

I found it apt and I think about it often as social media constantly offers up propositions I don't think I agree with. It's very hard (as Jeff suggests) to afford the alien point of view the benefit of the doubt that they are wishing for the same or better outcome as I wish for -- instead of retreating to a safe zone of demonizing them so I don't have to listen.

I try to ask myself if I can find ANY way that I might find points of agreement with the alternative pov. Said another way -- am I absolutely sure I even know what they are saying? Do I fully understand their pov? Could I describe it back to them accurately and without prejudice?

And I try to ask myself if it is really logical to believe in demons? -- That is, I try to ask myself if this (for instance) social media meme presenting me with a demon is as likely to be a true characterization of its target...

... as it might be to instead assume better of that person/target and, from there, figure out what that person/target is really saying?

Sunday, August 6, 2017


This is what I ultimately came up with.

It's hard to convince yourself to leave well enough alone with only a few pots because part of you keeps niggling at you telling you that some juror is going to see pots on the display that sway him/her in a way that the individual images did not.

That makes SO little sense that it's hard to believe it holds any sway when composing a booth slide, but it does. I think it might do so because most shows ask for SO few individual images. I wish all shows would ask for 7-10 images of individual work.

I do believe there is a HUGE range of options for presenting images that are still honest while not strictly journalistic. That is, we all know that the images we present need to be visually interesting in and of themselves.

Sure, many of us still try to make the images visually interesting and still honest, but the reality is that most images that get potters into the A shows don't really represent the pot as seen in a real-life 3D situation.

Part of the reason for those dolled-up, super-dramatically lit, high-contrast, overly-saturated images is an attempt at compensation. That is, we are only TOO aware of the disadvantage with which we are saddled when presenting 3D work in a 2D format. So we understandably compensate.

I know potters whose work I don't recognize when I peruse the online images of Cherry Creek, Des Moines, St Louis, Fort Worth, etc. But I understand why they present the images they do. Quite often, as good as their work might be, it's simply too subtle to present journalistically. 

Someone suggested the idea of shooting one side only as if in the booth. I've often thought of that. I've come to believe that there are two basic reasons a booth image is required: 1. To see if the individual images are really representative of the body of work, and 2. To envision what the booth might look like as viewed at a show (will it fit in with the rest of the exhibitors?)

If the only question being asked by the jury, relative to the booth image was #1, then a partial booth would not only serve the purpose, it would arguable do so even better than a full booth.

But if #2 is the primary reason for the booth image, then the partial booth won't work.

I wish a show would state their purpose for a booth image. If they did then a potter could equip himself with either/or booth images, depending on the show.
I do kinda wish  (I say with great regret. Yesterday's attempt took all day) that I had taken a few shots with only a few pieces on the shelves.

Maybe I ought to pay a photoshop master to take the pots off the shelves via digital magic. 

 When I've sat on juries I've noticed how much I depend on the booth shot to tell me the real story. I'm not nearly so seduced by hot single image shots as I am turned off by horrid booth shots.

Pottery booth shots taken at shows are quite often terrible. Even if the potter has taken the time to "neaten things up a bit". The lines are crooked, the wrong things show, and the lighting is usually bad.

I know I should score them high points for integrity, but I admit that I don't.

And I was just getting ready to get on a soap box about how we artists owe it to each other to show up at art fairs with the best looking booths we can manage. When we let our booths lapse -- need to be repainted, Pro-Panels frayed and shabby, canopy no longer even close to white, assembly wobbly and off plumb... we aren't just hurting our own chances at that art fair -- we're hurting every other artist at that show.

That's how art fairs work at their best. We artists trade on the work, weight, and reputation of all the other artists in that show. We owe it to each other to clean up our acts.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

John's Booth

I had a beautiful day to work outdoors. A project that has been on my mind now for a few years, I finally have the perfect day to accomplish.

Except I don't.

The sun is making too much contrast. I can't get the lighting right -- even with my studio lights in front filling in.

I don't like this task anyway. I'm relatively comfortable with the rest of my jury images. The booth shot has always made me edgy.

Art fairs don't really want potters. Art fairs want artists. That makes sense. But I'm a potter and I know it and I don't intend not to show it.

But the only way I'm going to get a booth shot that won't keep me out of the A shows (rather than scoring them every once in a while) is to start taking stuff off the booth and re-shooting.

Making a booth shot is principally different from setting up for a show. Setting up for a show I go through the boxes of pots and say "Oh!....I love that one. I'll put it out" followed by "Oh!....I love that one. I'll put it out" followed by "Oh!....I love that one. I'll put it out" etc.

Making a booth shot I should be saying, "That might be one of the twelve pieces I put out to make the display look as gallery-like as possible." Any more than that and I start to look like a potter.

It's editing. Everyone could use an editor. 'Specially me.

Here the clouds rolled in and allowed for a little better lighting.  I removed about a dozen pieces but it still looks like a pottery.

Thursday, August 3, 2017


I work almost daily with a very talented young sculptor from the Czech Republic.

His English is better than my Czech like, say, a bird is a better flier than a pig. But by the end of the day I end up speaking and thinking -- not Czech, but Czech-like.

Some of the quirky linguistic adaptations he makes as he translates his thoughts into my language roll 'round and 'round in my mind -- both the way they sound and often the significance of meaning intended and unintended.

For instance (and my favorite): "Dis moment"

When Misha (the young sculptor) and I are talking about a piece we're working on together, he will point at the curve of a pot's shoulder, or the turning of its foot and say, "Dis moment will make shadow below..." or "Dis moment here sit well, make stable base..."

"Dis moment"

I found myself wondering at the words he must be thinking about, and the hows and whys that led him to translate words that probably intend to mean "this passage" or "this part" or "this section".

"Dis moment".

I'm sure it was arrived at as a sort of parallel. A moment is a defined part of time just as the shoulder of the pot is a defined part of that whole. Just as the foot is a defined part of that whole.

"Dis moment"

I like it. My mind expands on it. I imagine the lovely thought that the moment in time that I conceived and made permanent the curve of a shoulder or the arc of a handle or the geometry of a trimmed foot...

...some future user of that pot will relive that moment in dawning realization. They'll "get" the inspiration I had for that shoulder. They'll understand the reasoning behind the foot. They'll feel the intent in the arc of that handle -- each of those moments relived and translated....

....from the intention of my mind, to the work of my hand, to the perception of the end user -- all in a shared moment.

A shared moment. Time and time and time again. For the life of the pot, from the life of the potter, to the life of the user.

Dis moment.