Friday, April 27, 2018

Kiln Opening 4/26/2018

 I'm happy with the way firings are coming out these days.  Here's a table full of small (1qt) casseroles in ash and red.

Pumpkins are never out of season.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Promises, Promises

In an effort to put together a brochure (I can't type the word "brochure" without hearing the Bucket woman in my ear pronouncing it "BRAAA-sher") , I thought it might be valuable to include some testimonials in the brochure -- words from attendees at previous workshops.

Toward that end, I promised the folks at the last workshop that there'd be a mug in it for anyone who'd send me a written review.

Now, I know that sounds sort of ethically squishy. Payola. But in my defense I did ask for the bad and the good. And I got some good suggestions for improving.

Anyway, here are some of the mugs that will be wheeling their way northward after I glaze fire them tomorrow.

Kiln Opening 4/24/2018

This one is the future.  It's a white stoneware formulated by Royce Yoder and reformulated by Sunstone Pottery out in Utah, then mixed in Ohio by Laguna.

My red glaze glows on it like it used to on porcelain and B-mix (before the bubbling started).

I'm really excited to start producing in earnest with this clay.

 This has leaves falling down the slip-trailed spiral.  I intend to repeat this pattern more this year.

I sprayed heavily so the gold ran into the spiral in the center of the bowl.  I like that it makes it look deeper.

 I used to carve my green glazed pots and stamp my red and gold glazed pots.  The way the red was firing, the carving just turned the whole thing dark.  No more.  I'm now getting a good sunburst through the carving.

Here's some carved red on a more vertical piece.   I'm still getting lots of red and gold.  The acorns have never looked better.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Ways Out Of The Starting Blocks

1. Steal from the best. Listen to better music. Read better literature -- poems, prayers, stories, and lies (if you can listen to them it's even better). Good artists can take you to different worlds. Those worlds are a good stepping off place to create your own. You're not copying. It's just that it's much harder to get somewhere from nowhere.
Nephew, Stephen Bauman at work

2. Draw from life. When I was very young I loved to draw and paint. My family encouraged me by telling me I was talented. What they meant was that they could tell what I was drawing better than, say, what my dog Tippy might have drawn with the same crayon in hand. So I kept at it. I was never satisfied. My images made sense and looked like the thing I intended. Sort of. Then I took life drawing in college. Oh...

There's nothing like the illumination that comes when you realize for the first time that the reason your drawings were lifeless is because you weren't drawing them from life.

So there's that. And there's this: Art isn't really about art. You're going to do your best writing while you're driving. Or cooking. Or sailing. My mom wrote while she knitted. I write while I'm at the potter's wheel. I'm not saying anything about the quality of my writing. I'm just saying that that's when it happens most frequently.

What I'm talking about there is called "The Effortless Custody of Automatism". It's the converse of "The idle mind is the devil's playground". It's the observation that when doing practiced tasks that no longer require thought, the mind is free to create -- and often does with a greater facility than the mind of a body at rest.

There's a bit of a star-gazing phenomenon to it too. What I mean by that is: You ever notice that when you look into the night sky you can see stars in your peripheral vision that you can't see when you then turn to stare at them? Some things come better to us when we're not approaching them directly.

You also avoid the intimidation of the blank page.

A word picture within a word picture -- a thought within a thought: Perhaps if you become so proficient at the skill of guitar that you can be in its effortless custody, you can more easily add words while playing. If that's so, then you can have your cake and eat it to. You can write lyrics while you're playing music -- and not while driving or cooking or potting or knitting. Maybe.

3. Disregard everything I said before and realize that some art is about art. Some really good art. Noodle on the guitar. Write the next "Jabberwocky" by simply playing with words. Don't draw from life. Simply write down one word and follow it with the next one. Play one chord and follow it with the next one. Find a fit. Find a song.

4. Sit in the darkness and be somebody else. Write something in somebody else's voice. Write as if you are somebody else. Write "Angel From Montgomery" even though you're a man. Write "Millworker" even though you're a man and never worked a day in a mill. Oh, but get ready to be ridiculed because you didn't fact check your imagination.

5. Copy a rhythm first and then match chords and words to that.

6. Backwards engineer a song. Find a song and write a different lyric to it. Find a song and write a new melody to it.

7. "Muse" is what we call the 1000th visitor to the door we keep opening. We call all the other visitors "Attempts".

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Not For The Faint Of Praise

Frustrating, isn’t it?  There are few things quite so deflating as being "damned with faint praise".  But try not to be discouraged when folks seem to say the wrong things.  They really mean to be saying the right things.

When I wrote short bios of my potter friends as part of my social media push to amplify a pottery festival I was going to be part of, it was easy to do.  The potters I was writing about are all fantastic potters.  They are my heroes, my role models, my friends.  Their work is easy to promote for all I’m worth.  It’s some of the finest pottery being made by some of the most accomplished potters in the country today.

But I was (and continue to be) acutely aware of the danger of describing someone's work in a way that, though meant to be complimentary,  could be misunderstood as anything but. Maybe what I wrote would be read and taken as too slight – not superlative enough.  I may not have said enough. I might have praised the wrong aspect. I might even have mis-interpreted their work. I might have said too much about one and not enough about the other.
It's a real minefield.

Additionally, though I observe this at the risk of being misunderstood completely, I was writing those reviews at the height of the "Me Too" movement. For that reason, I wrote only one review of a woman potter.  My lack of reviewing women was the unintended consequence of a well-meaning movement, but a movement that had nonetheless  interjected just too much risk into writing about a woman. I could have written something TOTALLY intending to be complimentary -- but would be misunderstood because the default mood of the day had "offended" dialed up to 11.  On social media I’ve always intended to stay politically neutral and that made it additionally risky.  Ironically, anyone who knows me well has heard me say that my favorite potters are almost all women.

I only went down that particular rabbit trail to point out that, in addition to simple "damning with faint praise", there are other factors that play heavily into why what one means to be saying – or not saying -- is OFTEN taken the wrong way.

One thing I've noticed in the past 20 years -- since the inception of internet communication -- is how much trouble people have when trying to express themselves in writing. There may be one in a million people who, when they write, can actually convey well what they mean to be saying. And one in a billion who can say it in a way that also conveys something satisfactorily beyond some journalistic literalism. Those statistics might be inaccurate or exaggerated. My research is incomplete.

People generally just don't write well. They don't speak well either.
Additionally, we as creative people have our necks stuck out there by choice. We choose to put our works (and our dreams) out there and put to the criticism of strangers. We want our creative endeavors validated. But we're simultaneously scared that they won't be.

So we're hyper sensitive.

We want to believe the lies of validation. That's the strength of social media. There's always a facebook friend who will tell us what we want to hear.  And they don't mean to be untruthful any more than the faint praiser means to deflate us. They ALL want to encourage us. They just suck at it.

As long as I'm bloviating, would you indulge me one more observation about praise -- faint, absent, or misunderstood?

Experts don't praise experts for their expertise. They expect it. It's really not professional jealousy or competitiveness that keeps peers mum about our work. Oh, it might be that from time to time. But I think it's most often simply that peers expect the level of proficiency that makes one a peer. Peers don't find that proficiency praise worthy. Peers find proficiency to simply be the baseline.

You can wait until the day you die to get praise from your peers. Peers don't regularly praise peers. Peers aren't startled into praising what they expect.

I think we get a different kind of validation from our peers. I think the affirmation we get from peers comes in the form of inclusion, not praise.

So, if the artists you admire most aren't saying much about your work, you might just be receiving the highest praise possible.