What I’ve been up to

I guess this blog doesn’t seem like most of the other pottery blogs out there, but I’m OK with that. I promise to have more pictures in the future, though, and I may even be less long winded and rant prone. Can’t tell right now what the future for this blog holds, but I kind of ran out of internet steam last week and started to question my commitment to blogging. Maybe I was just tired, or in a funk. I don’t know. I guess I felt like I was possibly losing my way a bit, and it seemed like some of my issue oriented posts were so much effort and I just didn’t have the time or energy.

But I don’t want to give the impression that I’m ungrateful to all the folks who have read my blog and especially those who have left me comments and who have become new members of my little world. I really appreciate the opportunity to share things that interest me and to hear what folks have to say about some of these topics. I hope folks continue to be provoked by my posts. Part of why I blog and read others’ blogs is that I want to learn new things. So if you are out there and have something to say please do so. I’d love to know who you are and what you are thinking.

So what else have I been up to lately? Well, finally getting back to making pots more consistently after a longer than anticipated break of only potting intermittently. Feels good to be back. I needed the break, but I also have way more pots than I can easily sell, so the pressure is a bit off for having to come up with new kiln loads. I also have this circulation issue in my hands and feet that I have suffered the last two Winters with. It makes working in my poorly insulated studio very difficult in cold weather. But now that its officially warming up I can make pots without much hassle. And to think that I used to look forward to Winters and throwing pots with chill water in a cold studio….

The other activity I’ve been up to is teaching classes at the local community arts center. I absolutely love teaching. I often feel that it brings the best out in me. Sometimes I have off days, sometimes I say the wrong thing or give bad advice, but more often than not I get to share something I’m passionate about with people who really care and who are interested in learning. Having this nurturing community really makes a difference. A few years ago I surprised myself to learn that if I never really make it as a full time potter but was able to continue teaching I would still be creatively fulfilled. Teaching matters that much to me.

So that’s what I’ve been up to. I’ll end this post by sharing a great video of Taylor Mali on the value of teaching that Brandon Phillips just posted on facebook:


Til next time….

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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15 Responses to What I’ve been up to

  1. Becky says:

    Hey Carter… I’ve often thought about what ‘type’ of blogger I want to be, and I get frustrated with myself because I’m not living up to my own expectations of what I feel my blog should be about. Then one day, another blogger (who is VERY easy going) told me “Your blog is whatever you want it to be. There are no rules to blogging. Blog as little or as much as you like. In reality, the fans of your blog will continue to check back and they’ll understand if you’re busy and can’t entertain them today, but they’ll be elated every time you put up a new post”. So, after hearing that, I don’t freak out about my blog anymore. If two weeks go by and I don’t post something because I either don’t have anything worth talking about or I’m too busy to post anything, it’s not the end of the world. If I lose readers or followers because I have a real life besides my virtual life, then oh well, right? It’ll be ok. 🙂

    Much like Brandon’s blog, and Scott’s blog, your blog is one that I’ll wait for a post from. If you’re busy for a month and can’t post, I understand, and I think most people do. Just post whatever you want, whenever you want. 🙂

    • Thanks for the encouragement, Becky, and the wisdom. These are all true words, its just hard to recognize them sometimes. But on a positive note, I had a good day in the studio yesterday and that seems to be good medicine. Isn’t it amazing how playing in clay can be such an influence on the rest of our life?

      So hopefully my unexplained funk is dissipating. In fact, I already have a few ideas for new posts jangling around somewhere in the back of my mind. Thanks so much for reading what I have to write and for taking the time to respond. I have really enjoyed meeting you out here in the ether and I always look forward to hearing what you have to say about my ideas. And thanks too for all the kind words.

  2. ron philbeck says:

    Hey Carter,
    It is nice that things are warming up and I hope you’ll enjoy your time making pots out there in your studio. I do hope you’ll continue to blog, even if the posts are few or far between. You always have great content, not the run of the mill. I certainly enjoy it and look forward to what you have to say. It challenges me and makes me think. You’re writing and comments have helped me move my pots forward.
    That’s also why you’re a great teacher…so never stop doing that!

    On a side note, I had a dream the other night that you told me that Peter Buck lived beside you. That’s not true is it???

    • Scott Cooper says:

      Weird! I have a recurring dream that Mike Mills stops by Carter’s place occasionally for coffee, and to see how the pots are coming out.

    • Thanks so much for that Ron. I really feel that we are all in this together, much like what Brandon says about community, and that I learn so much from the example of all these great artists out here in the blogosphere. Watching your evolution as a potter has been exciting and such an inspiration. And the pots themselves are so joyful. I just feel honored that you are sharing this journey with us and that we get to witness all these changes as you are living them. Thanks for being the generous and thoughtful guy that you are, Ron!

      As far as Pete Buck goes, his old Victorian house (where his ex now lives) is only 5 blocks away. I drop a postcard on the front porch before every sale, but she hasn’t made it out yet. Back when I worked in the local health food store all those guys used to shop there. Michael Stipe’s parents were regulars in fact. Michael’s houses are only about 5 blocks from my home too, but I understand he lives in New York most of the year now.

      As far as who lives in the house right next door to me, it is Ben Mize who used to be the drummer for the Counting Crows. He teaches grade school now, has two kids and a herd of dogs and cats. Its great having them as my neighbors. They are such a wonderful family.

  3. Carter-
    I’m glad to hear(read?) that you are making pots. Blogging is a strange activity…A lot of people view blogging as journaling but for myself it’s more about community, sharing ideas, spending time with friends and fellow potters. There are times when you need to stop communing and get down to work. It happens. My blog has been sorely lacking for real content this last year. I just don’t have the energy…but I would rather post something than nothing. One could argue(Scott Cooper?) that this is probably not the best way to go about it, but I know if I saved up to post only once a week I would never do it. But…that’s me.

    I think your blog is fantastic, I like that it’s content driven rather than glitzy photos of half-finished pots and half-loaded kilns. I think the key is not to force it…if you don’t have anything to say, that’s fine. We’ll understand, your mug may move to the back of the cupboard and get neglected but that’s okay(i’m just kidding of course.) I think you and SC have something unique and the readers will always be there drooling waiting for your posts.

    I have a bunch of students watching a Warren Mackenzie video and I need to go find something to throw at the ones who are sleeping. Ceramics at 8am! Who thought that was a good idea?!!

    • Scott Cooper says:

      Well, if we’re going to argue, I would say that whatever way works for each person is the way to go about the blogging thing — just like the potting thing! And I would rather post something, even if it’s about nothing, than nothing, too; it’s just that everything seems to make more sense when I slice time up into weekly chunks and see what I can come up with each time another one rolls by. Surprisingly, just having an appointment to make the clackity noise sometimes produces the best results.

      Oh, and I ASPIRE to “glitzy photographs of half-finished” stuff! Maybe someday…

      Try a good, sharp needle tool. If you wing it just right, it can stick, which seems to really bring home your point.

    • Thanks Brandon! That’s really so nice to hear. I have so much respect for you, your pots, and what you have to say, and getting your encouragement really helps me feel like I’m doing something worthwhile.

      I am incredibly grateful that this community of blogging potters is out there. We are such a diverse group, but between us all there is a pool of knowledge and resources that I have come to depend on. I only discovered that there was such a thing as a pottery blog less than two years ago, and now I can’t even imagine my life without reading them. I am so honored to be a part of this group of generous artists, and hearing from all your comments on this post that what I am contributing has an audience.

      Thanks for the pep talk! And mentioning me in the same breath as Scott is a huge boost for my ego. I am in such awe of TW@SE, and I only wish my blog was even half as insightful and interesting as it.

      • It really is amazing what an impact blogging can have. I get emails somewhat regularly(my ego calls it fan mail, ha!) from people who say they enjoy my blog or it helped them with this or that…
        It’s also influenced my life. I’ve made lots of friends and contacts from blogging, my community has expanded across the world. It has also prompted the decision for saybra and I to move east at some point in time, because of the people we’ve met and places we’ve been.
        I’m constantly in awe of what a few words on a computer screen can do.
        Off to teach!

        • You got that right, brother! Go team clay! And that’s fabulous news about the plans to move east. That will make it much more likely I get the chance to visit sooner!

      • Scott Cooper says:

        Aw, shucks… Thanks! But remember, your blog is still just a baby, gurgling cutely and rolling around on the floor. Once it learns to walk and talk on it’s own, I have no doubt that it will equal or exceed anything else out there. In fact, once it starts talking, you might find it’s hard to get it to stop!

        (Yes, I have a two year old, and am probably over-extending the analogy.)

  4. Zygote says:

    I’ve thoroughly enjoyed your essays over the past few months. They have provoked a lot of thinking as I keep busy in the studio. For that I have to say “Thank you Carter, you are a very gifted teacher and writer.”
    I genuinely look forward to see where you take this.

    • Aw shucks…. Thanks for the compliment! Reading all these kind words has really helped me feel better about the direction I have been taking this blog, so as long as I can wrangle something to say I guess I will keep at it. I really appreciate the encouragement.

      Thanks Zygote, and thanks everyone for reading and chiming in.

  5. a says:

    I really like your blog! I really enjoy the stark contrast to other pottery blogs, but if/when I start a blog, I’d be aiming for your blogging style. (and failing to reach it, I’m sure!)

    • Thanks dear anonymous person! I am aiming at something a bit different from the norm, but I still love all the other pottery blogs out there that give voice to their author’s point of view and interests and activities. We each have a gift to share with the world and no single gift is necessarily better than any other. Who knows, something uninteresting or trivial to one person might be the inspiration that totally changes a different person’s life.

      So I would say “Go for it”. It took a lot of arm twisting from my great friend and favorite blogger, Scott Cooper, to feel brave enough to put my thoughts down for others to read, but now I’m glad that I have. I have met so many cool folks with similar interests and I have learned so much. The worst that can happen is that your audience doesn’t always get what you are trying to do, but if you even reach one person you are making a difference. And if it is only you speaking mostly to yourself, well, I have found that I also learn a bit by figuring out how to express myself, and that I can think through issues by putting them into words.

      So I also think that blogging can help the blogger grow, especially if it is motivated by sharing and compassion and humility. A closed mind will be a closed door, but sometimes it takes practice to keep the hinges working.

      If you start your blog please let me know about it. I am curious by nature, and it sounds like there is at least one more kindred spirit out there in you.

      Good luck!

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