The eight faces of clay love – A valentine day’s special

Being an artist of any kind means having a relationship to a particular medium, so it will not be surprising that there are different kinds of relationships that can be had. According to one theory there are eight basic kinds of love that each reflect one’s commitment, one’s passion, and one’s intimacy, and isn’t it true that being an artist is being a person in love, some mixture of passion, commitment and intimacy? So let us examine the different kinds of clay love to see how fulfilling and rewarding things are and ask ourselves the question, “Can we do more? Can we get more out of this relationship? Are we passionate enough? Are we as committed as we could be? Are we as intimate as possible?”

The first kind of love is actually its absence – Nonlove. Not only is there no passion for pots, no commitment to clay, but there simply is no intimacy with its art. The nonlover just doesn’t know clay, is unfamiliar with it, or has never even seen it before. Unfortunately the world is still full of nonlovers. Maybe we can do something about that, show them what they are missing out on.

The second kind of clay love is Liking/Friendship. This involves intimacy but not passion and not commitment. These are the folks who know pots, are the friend of pots but are not themselves potters. They simply don’t have the passion for it. They simply aren’t committed to it enough to get their hands dirty. They like it enough to buy other artists’ work but they will never be potters.

The third kind of clay love is Infatuated Love. This relationship is pure passion but lacks commitment and doesn’t have much intimacy. Given a little more intimacy this infatuation may blossom into something more, so this relationship is like a courtship, the first dates, the look across the crowded room. These folks are the beginning student. They have seen a potential new love and they are making that first approach, testing the waters. Phone numbers have been exchanged and they are waiting to see if things will click.

The fourth kind of clay love is Empty Love. This relationship is the arranged marriage, where there is commitment but no passion or intimacy. These relationships are sterile and frequently unhappy. The commitment is an ulterior motive, perhaps making pots because it is the family business or working in a production facility, but the person is not passionate about it. Their heart just isn’t in it. They can live without clay if it came down to this because its just a job to them. They are not as intimate as they could be because there is no interest in bringing the relationship to a different level. They go through the motions and never really explore more than what’s in front of them. They aren’t willing to give more of themselves to the clay and they are not interested in getting more out of the relationship.

The fifth kind of love is Romantic Love. This relationship is both passionate and intimate but lacks any lasting commitment. This would describe the clay majors in school who really love what they are doing, really learn to explore the clay as much as they can in the time they have, but then need to get a real job after they graduate and may never touch clay again. Their commitment to making pots can’t measure up to their passion and to the intimacy they have with the material. These are the potters who have fallen by the wayside, dropped out, and turned to other commitments in their lives.

The sixth kind of clay love is Companionate Love. This relationship has intimacy and commitment going for it, but essentially is a passionless bond. These folks have perhaps had it all at some stage, but through familiarity or just over time they seem to have lost the passion. They know the clay intimately. They have been making pots for decades, perhaps, and they know so much about pot making, but they just don’t feel the passion any more. They are committed to the relationship. It probably pays the bills. But this is a relationship that has lost the spark. There is nothing new and things just move along comfortably like a well worn shoe, just going through the motions.

The seventh kind of clay love is Fatuous Love. This relationship has all the passion and commitment but lacks any intimacy. These are the folks who have caught the bug. They are ready to turn their whole lives over with this new commitment. They just feel that passionate about it. But at the same time they really don’t know very much about clay yet. They have been hooked. A really great class or teacher has provided the spark and now they can’t get enough. They just have to make pots. Overtime this commitment will lead to much greater intimacy, but right now it is being sustained purely on the basis of passion and commitment.

The eighth kind of love is Consummate Love. This is the relationship that has it all, passion, commitment, and intimacy. These are the lovers who are passionate about what they do and they want the most from this relationship. They are the ones who will never settle for less and are continually exploring new ways of declaring their love. They go on dates with the clay and keep the surprises fresh and exciting. They are committed to keeping clay in their lives and can’t live without it: They wouldn’t know what to do and they don’t want anything different. And they know the clay intimately. They are so good with it that the clay dances on their fingers. They are such masters that the clay actually seems excited by their touch. There is nothing sterile or boring about this relationship. But of course this is the hardest to sustain. It just takes so much from us to keep the passions stirred at this level. And perhaps we lapse at times. Perhaps we sometimes lose that fever pitch of necessity. Perhaps we sometimes settle for less than we want. But if you have been there I believe you can always get it back. You can reclaim the passion. You can recommit. You can find new ways to be intimate that will become the foundation for years more of passion and excitement.

So lets do this. All of us who are committed, lets aim for more passion in our relationship. Lets aim for greater intimacy in new and exciting ways. Over the last few months I have seen several potters blossom into Consummate Lovers. They have taken on new challenges and their passion is a blazing star. Their intimate touch is an inspiration that lights up the darkness. They are showing us the way to true love. And don’t we want to be lovers like they are? Don’t we want to make the clay dance at our passionate embrace? Personally I have been taking a break from clay for the last few months, but I want that passion back. I want to get that commitment again. I want to express my intimate knowledge of clay in new and interesting ways. Now that I’ve written this I feel inspired to be the best I can be with the clay.

What about you? Do you aspire to be a consummate lover? And if you are already, can you help the rest of us find our way? Can you be the role model that helps guide our fumbling search for true love? Please share your story if you have one.



About Carter Gillies

I am an active potter and sometime pottery instructor who is fascinated by the philosophical side of making pots, teaching these skills, and issues of the artistic life in general. I seem to have a lot to say on this blog, but I don't insist that I'm right. I'm always trying to figure stuff out, and part of that involves admitting that I am almost always wrong in important ways. If you are up for it, please help me out by steering my thoughts in new and interesting directions. I always appreciate the challenge of learning what other people think.
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10 Responses to The eight faces of clay love – A valentine day’s special

  1. Becky says:

    Dare I say it?

    FIRST! πŸ™‚

  2. Becky says:

    Ok, now that I got that out of the way… What an insightful parallel for Valentine’s Day. It’s nice to know that there are levels. I never thought about it in this respect before, but always tagged potters as ‘beginners, intermediate, advanced’.. probably the fault of college catalog descriptions.

    If I had to put myself into a category, I’d probably go with ‘Fatuous Love’ on the way to ‘Consummate Love’. I don’t think I’ve been in it long enough as a serious potter to really understand what a life of pottery means. Right now I’m still struggling with the financial aspect of it to really drown myself in the creative side. I’m still thinking “Will this sell?” instead of “I made this solely for my own satisfaction and I don’t care if it sells”. Hopefully one day everything I make for my own satisfaction will be something that people knock down my door to buy. πŸ˜‰

    Oh, and there is one more kind of ‘clay love’ that my friend Jill coined. She considers the pain you’re in the next day after wedging 200 pounds of reclaim as ‘clay love’.. as in, your body loves the clay manual labor. I know it’s not what you were getting at in your post, but she helped me wedge reclaim one day and said she had ‘clay love’ the next day. πŸ˜‰

    Have a great Valentine’s Day!

    • Yeah, the college catalog description is all about the intimacy aspect (according to this theory). It would be really interesting if courses were divided into categories for passion instead. The folks who didn’t care would just receive their failing grade, no questions asked, and no obligation to attend classes. Folks with a bit more passion would have a passing grade and have exercises catering specifically to their limited desire to learn (in other words, not asking too much of them). And then the really passionate students would get their “A” or “B” and be challenged with an instructor who really pushes them, where the exercises feed off their passion for the clay.

      This would save an awful amount of wasted effort by instructors trying to make classes interesting for all. Probably would still need to divide classes up by level of experience/intimacy, but wouldn’t it be amazing to filter out students based on how much they care so that students just looking for a passing grade or less didn’t take up more of the instructor’s time than they deserve? Having students declare their passion up front would cut through so much unnecessary wasted motion. Maybe. Of course this is just me dreaming, but it was an interesting thought experiment. Probably not very practical though….

      • Becky says:

        You could always make up your own questionnaire to hand out to the students at the beginning of the class using the 8 faces of clay love. Maybe ask them to categorize themselves so you would know who is serious and who the slackers are. πŸ˜‰

  3. Zygote says:

    What I love is getting to read your writing Carter. The clarity and depth of your ideas is invigorating. A wonderful start to a new day.

  4. Cara says:

    I suppose I have a consummate relationship with clay, but I feel like I’m admiting that my clay work will consume me one day, and I pray that’s not the case. In fact, makes me want to say, ‘Clay Ewe!’ I do see my relationship with clay as a covenant one, one that has origins beyond me, outside of my ability to control or comprehend, or even to understand. I too have been absent for months from my love, with the condition that for once, with the use of the internet, I’ve been able to connect with other potters who share (at least at some level) my obsession with clay. (oh, no. I wonder if this is what men and women who have affairs feel like!) I’ve been back at it again with the warmer weather, and have made sure to effect changes in the studio so I can winter through next year– because even while consuming everything I could from others while the winter kept me from the clay, my fingers itched, my hands hurt, and my heart longed to be back in the studio. And keeping up with the craft, the potters, watching untold numbers of how to videos and reading excellent Gillesblogs, it feels different this year. Almost like I haven’t been away– well, okay, we’ve definitely had a shorter winter, so maybe that has something to do with it, but the point is the magic is still there! The comfort of the clay, the process of throwing, the caring for the pot through the stages of drying, the manipulation of the form…. oooh, the trepidation of the bisque firing! it’s still all there. No doubt once you get your hands dirty it’ll be there for you too. Can’t wait to see what you’ll do next.

    • Great response Cara! That is exactly the kind of story I was hoping to hear, and I’m glad you weathered the winter in a positive way. That was funny about the infidelity. I actually had intended to write a much different post that dealt more with the issues of a relationship and then relate that to an artist’s relationship with clay, but when I saw the article on types I decided to do that instead. Maybe for next year….

      Thanks for your concern over my own current relationship with clay. I would say there are no worries on my part. The love is still there, its just the opportunity that has diminished a bit. Maybe its like being forced to live apart from your loved one. The desire and longing are there, and when we meet again we will pick back up where we left off, but maybe with a greater appreciation for what has been missing. I can’t wait!

      • Cara says:

        Absence making the heart grow fonder? I can certainly relate to that. I’m hoping you don’t wait till next year to write the different blog– let the love affair continue!

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