What Ron Meyers said

In a lot of ways my timing has been on the edge of perfect. When I first discovered my love for clay Ron Meyers was still teaching at UGA. I started taking a non-credit night class while I was enrolled in the PhD program in Philosophy, kind of as a welcome distraction to my studies, and ended up getting hooked. After about a year into it they dropped the program, the word being that the non credit students were overusing and burdening the facilities (got that right!). I knew Ron by this time and he suggested that I just sign up for credit since I was already enrolled at the University. Amazingly no one at my department raised a stink, and before I knew it Ron was my teacher. Before they knew it they had lost a student.

I have learned so much from Ron, and my pots will always show an appreciation for the clay that he helped start. But in some ways my timing was just a bit off. I was too much a beginner to fully understand the nuances of some of the ideas he was teaching. I think I kind of picked most of it up unconsciously. I was just having fun and doing something that I really enjoyed. But on the other hand, if I had started taking classes much earlier I might also have missed the awesome lineup they brought in to cover for Ron when he retired. Those instructors (for a semester each) were Linda Christianson and Michael Simon. I was probably still a little green for the opportunity that was set before me, but they both were also huge influences on me.

But back to Ron. I have especially been thinking of Ron these past few weeks because I have been looking at the issue of how we can set ourselves up by having certain expectations about our results and also about our process. Ron was a great influence because he helped to take most of the pressure off. It was always about having fun with the clay and exploring what things were possible. Learning about the clay as much as learning about ourselves. The attitude that the project was about discovery rather than achieving specific results is probably crucial. All this was brought home to me last year when Ron was involved in a livecast workshop that I saw on the internet. I wrote down some of his qoutes from that NCECA preconference. In it he said:

“You need to show them you are thinking.”

“Searching for variation.”

“Everyday seeking something new. Trying something different everyday.”

“Picasso was not making work, he was finding it.”

“Discovering through working.”

“Looking for something to change, to get out of.”

 

Hearing all those thoughts totally blew my mind. I don’t think I had realized how thoroughly a student of Ron’s I truly was. These are the kinds of things I say to my students, different words maybe, but the attitude is exactly the same.

Unfortunately in my own work I am not always as vigorous about pursuing these changes, but I am absolutely grateful for when I teach because I always take it as an opportunity to show my students ways to do things that are purposely NOT the way I would do them myself. It is a trick I play on myself that I really should use more often. Purposely stepping in an unexpected direction is sometimes like stepping outside one’s self. By ignoring or rejecting all the habits that we feel sometimes help define us we get to see the world in a totally new way. Its like taking a holiday, a day off from the routine of doing things the ‘normal’ way.

The way I tell it to my students I advise them to thin the walls and then do something to shape it. Don’t over analyze it while its still on the wheel. Just do something either different from or similar to what you’ve done before and get it off the wheel. You can make more the same way or not, but then in a calm moment afterwards sit down and see what you came up with. If you allow experimentation and discovery to happen while the clay is on the wheel you are not so hooked into expectation that each detail is crucial. You get to see what worked and what didn’t work when you are a step removed from the making.

This way you are not dependent on only making what you already know or can see from that tortured angle sitting above the wheel. Let the pot happen without too much conscious input from your mind*. Do it quickly so you don’t get a chance to spoil it by letting your head intrude where it is not needed. And if the results aren’t any good? So what? You now know what not to do in the future. And if something good happened? You might never have gotten there if you had waited to think it up first.

 

 

Ron likes to joke that he makes the pots he does because he never learned how to center. Actually, he is probably the best thrower I know. They all come out slightly different because he is trying to see what will happen with this lump of clay, not the next or the one before. Every surface is an opportunity to express something, and so while the marks themselves may look alike between several pots each pot stands as a different expression of the sum of all the details. One teabowl may be larger, another smaller, one have a mark here on the wall, another there, one more rounded, another more straight, one flared in at the lip, another flared out. Its all variable, and the composition depends on the nuance of variation.

So how the hell do I do this myself? I start with entirely flexible and loose ideas for the outcome, but I have specific things I aim for in the process. A push with the rib somewhere around here, a sweeping line somewhere around there, maybe a slight flare at the rim, or maybe not, proportions starting roughly here and ending roughly there, etc,. All this looseness just to see what happens when I do it this way or do it that way.

I try to work in a series so that I can build variations on my experimentation and hone in on others. I may take an idea and push it in one direction, realize I’ve gone too far, and then start back up in a different direction. Sometimes I will have an idea for something, maybe something I’ve seen someone else do, and then I will play around with that detail or way of doing things. Even in my ‘standard’ forms I am trying not to repeat myself. Its more about expressing certain things about the process than achieving specific results.

So this unfortunately often ends up creating a mish mash of inconsistent pots. If I’ve really gone crazy they look like different people made them. I don’t always like what it looks like on display together, but the side effect of being driven to experiment and evolve also seems to be that older pots in general become boring pots by the distance you have moved away from them. The further you have traveled in your experiments the more you have left behind, and the more those older things no longer interest you. Its as simple as that.

 

 

So if you have heard me ranting before you will probably know that I’m not a huge fan of being pinned down by one “signature style”. I think it is a good and reasonable thing for many artists, but it is neither inevitable nor necessary. Its just that the further into a career we get the more our identity seems to hinge on our reputation. The pressures of our market and the expectations from our buyers and collectors becomes a huge incentive to not stray too far from a recognizable way of doing things. Our commitment to a style then becomes monogamous, and we don’t allow ourselves to flirt with other techniques or details even if, in our most secret of hearts, we want to. It takes incredible bravery (some would say folly) sometimes to be able to start working in a new direction.

But if we are lucky we are like the Ron Meyers of the art world who can continue to grow and flex their creative muscles in new directions. You don’t always have to fully reinvent yourself to find new ways of doing things. You can just follow your nose to see where it will take you, even if its not very far from where you started. If we are not lucky, the attitude of exploring new territory dries up, our creative muscles atrophy, and we content ourselves with the things we have already done. Our pots become something like watching reruns of our favorite TV shows. The series is over, and we already know each episode and how its going to end. There are no new surprises because its all already been done before.

So I try to make my pots like they are episodes of an ongoing series. Some of the characters stay the same, not every one shows up in every episode, and sometimes there are episodes where most of the characters have never been seen before, as if it was almost a different show that maybe had a guest actor from the original series. It doesn’t always make sense, but if I don’t like what I’m doing I’m under no obligation to continue torturing myself. I have the absolute freedom to pick up and do something else with the clay. The clay won’t mind. And it keeps me interested. I don’t get bored because each iteration has a possible new ending. There is always a surprise in there somewhere. Even if most of the characters are usually predictable I love seeing what will happen next. And I even love setting the rewind sometimes, so I can revisit some of the classics.

If you meet the Buddha on the road what do you do?

But that’s just me. Did any of this make any sense?

———————————————
* I am of course only talking about a specific exercise. There are plenty of good reasons to be conscious and demanding of results in other circumstances.

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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14 Responses to What Ron Meyers said

  1. ron philbeck says:

    Hey Carter,
    I should probably read all that again before I just jump in here and comment, but I’m going to just jump in.
    RM outranks pretty much every potter that I have ever admired or seen. Every one. No exceptions. That’s just me. That said, I really enjoy all you have written here and it’s cool to hear your first hand experience as a student of Ron’s.

    I’ve seen him make pots in workshop settings about 6 times now. I heard him tell of some potter peer he knew that came up to him at a show one time. They had not seen each other in years. The guy said, So Ron you’re still making these same pots. Ron said, Yep, still trying to get them right.

    I’ve also read (or heard) Ron say that as soon as he found something that worked that he was inclined to stop doing it. Or something along the lines of, If people like it too much I’ll quit doing it.
    I don’t think he’s ever stuck to that completely, but it’s a neat philosophy. Don’t get too comfortable, why keep doing the same thing b/c it’s popular or sells well or folks go nuts over it??

    The problem, for me, that gets in the way of all this is money. Oh, just writing that makes me want to throw up. But it’s a horrible little truth. If something is going well then I am so thankful and if it’s selling and I’m finally making some money then I really need (?) to keep putting it out there so I can keep eating, clothing myself, paying my bills, etc.

    Right, now I’m not saying that money is any reason to make work, or that making money is my creative driver. But when my pots finally did start selling better I felt wonderful and uncomfortable at the same time.
    Well I’m going to jump off that tangent for now. We can discuss it more in another post.

    Back to Ron. Have you ever heard him refer to those characters as “those stupid animals”? “Then I started drawing these stupid animals…” Ha. I don’t know if he’s putting them down or that he loves them so much he just berates them.

    I love that you keep saying that we as artists don’t have to stick to the same thing or adhere to a signature style. I personally find that so hard. It’s those years and years of NOT having ANY sort of direction that I think makes it so hard for me.

    I like that I can see from reading this that things can be the same but different. I like what you have to say about not having to reinvent yourself to find new ways of doing things.

    Okay, I’m gonna stop there. I’m sure there will be more.

    Great photos!!

    • Thanks Ron! That was a super response to my post. There are so many valuable things you bring up. But right now my brain is fried from having woken up at 2am to write this post and I can only make a brief response.

      The story you tell of the peer commenting that Ron was still making the same pots just blows me away, but in some respects its not surprising. The point of the images I posted was that there really are substantial differences in the pots Ron has made over the years. Those jars, for instance, are all different evolutions of form for him, but also differences in the way he has fired. His firing methods have been all over the place, from cone 6 (I may be misremembering the cone 6 part) soda, cone 10 salt, cone 10 reduction, wood fired dark stoneware, wood fired light stoneware, to now also firing his woodkiln with earthenware, reduction cooling, not to mention the lowfire painted stuff he also does. And then the teabowls also show such a huge range of his work. I never saw many of the carved ones with terra sig, so that may have been a short lived experiment. The point being, the man changes things up all the time.

      I think what makes that person’s comment unsurprising is that to outsiders much of what other artists do only makes sense in the broad strokes. We don’t always really see all the nuance and difference other working artists are playing around with. We see the gross details of what makes all their work similar rather than some of the more subtle details that make them different. The important things that an artist is focusing on at any one time can be very small shifts in details, but to an outsider that shift looks more like similarity than difference. In my mind that person totally didn’t get Ron’s pots and Ron was just humoring him. Or maybe it was just a joke between them. Ron is such a humble self deprecating guy, he never shies away from poking fun at himself.

      Another example of this insider/outsider dilemma was made clear to me when a potter from Michigan moved down here to work at the local clay center. His comment was that all of us locals were really doing the same kind of stuff, and had an identity that marked it as different from the pottery of other areas. None of us living on the inside could see this because we are all so focused on what makes our pots our own and different from the rest of the local potters we know.

      You could probably say the same thing about any genre artist as well. For instance, to outsiders all folk pots probably look similar, but to the potters themselves what they are interested in is what makes their own work stand out from the other folk pots. This just seems to be the way our minds work. The farther we get from our own authority and comfort the more we have to simplify. A connoisseur of wines can tell you so much more than the person for whom any old wine is just something made from grapes. Knowledge and sophistication go hand in hand with intimacy. A southern accent sounds pretty much the same to a Yankee, but to someone raised in the South a Georgian accent may be somewhat different than a Kentuckian. To outsiders what’s important is what draws all those things together, but to insiders the important thing is what makes them unique.

      Its the difference between hearing and listening, seeing and appreciating, experiencing and recognizing. Things make sense only when we understand them, and a superficial understanding only gives the appearance of knowledge. A non speaker can sometimes tell what language another person is speaking but not understand anything said. But “It sounds like Spanish” isn’t true understanding, and there isn’t much you can do with it. The speaker could be just affecting an accent and mouthing pure nonsense after all. Things are only intelligible when we understand their difference.

      So, saying that Ron was just making the same pots is pathetically superficial and it ignores all the real evolution that his work has undergone. But Ron is too nice to say that, of course.

      I hope that made some sense. I will reread this in the morning when I wake up (and edit the hell out of it!), and hope I didn’t embarrass my self too much…..

      Thanks for the great comment Ron!

  2. I’m awake now, so I can hopefully tackle some of the other ideas in your (Ron P.’s) fabulous comment. Yesterday’s response was a bit over the top, but that’s what happens when my brain is fizzing on too little sleep.

    Ron (P), I’m totally with you on Meyers being my absolute favorite potter. I can’t believe my luck in having wound up in Athens and then also finding clay when my career path was set on a much different direction. Sometimes it seems like a huge cosmic mistake or a dream. I can’t be THAT lucky, can I?

    I love the sentiment in that second anecdote where Ron (M) argues that ‘success’ is a reason to stop doing something. That’s great! I think success can be so dangerous because it lulls us into bad habits and lazy practices. That’s why creative powerhouses like Ron (M) sometimes deny it. ‘Success’ becomes an excuse to stop growing. And I have seen some potters not too far removed from beginner level make this mistake. They start to get positive feedback and they think it means that where they are at now is simply good enough. It always breaks my heart when I see them settle for what they’ve got and stop learning new things. An artist who is actively growing is an artist that is alive. Someone who has stopped growing is functionally dead.

    So its great when folks like you (Ron P.) don’t get carried away by the success of something. You don’t let it go to your head, but keep improving, keep trying new things. I don’t think it is a mistake to hitch your reins to something that is successful, just as long as you continue to explore where it will take you. Some folks use their reins to tie the wild beast down, to yoke it to a plow, or tie it to a fence post. The adventurous get a proper saddle on the beast and take to the prairie, follow the creek bed, head up over the mountains, and down in the low valleys. They use their success to see what the world has to offer, guiding it to new destinations and sometimes just giving it its head. And I think you are like that. I have been so impressed with how your work has evolved in the short time I’ve known you. In truth, you really put me to shame. So, if I were you I wouldn’t be too worried. You need to earn a living, and I’m glad these new directions are paying off for you. There is no guilt, just as long as you remember to keep honest and not let yourself get too complacent.

    Thanks again for the great comment!

  3. Lee Love says:

    Thanks for your post Carter. I have several automated Google searches delivered to my inbox everyday, and Ron’s name is one of those searches, so that is how I found your post. There are far too many great potters (and I live in a region full of them) to say any single potter is the best, but Ron is one of my favorites in the passel of potters I most admire.
    I came to pots after moving from Michigan to Minneapolis to study with Dainin Katagiri Roshi. After seven years, at his funeral, I was impressed with the plain pine casket he laid in, made by a traditional Hassidic casket maker. I was one of the folks who attended the body while it laid in state during three days of a meditation vigil. We had to change the blue ice we used to keep the body cool, because the body was not embalmed. The nailess pine casket was like shaker furniture. I was training to become a Zen priest, but I knew the temple where my teacher taught would probably veer off the traditional path he struggled to keep it on. The casket inspired me to give my hand at making pottery. I wanted to make funerary urns with the same mind as the casket maker. After 21 years of study, 8 in Japan, I am ready to start making them for people (I’ve made many for Akita dogs.) So, I came to pots from Eastern “applied” philosophy, and also from an interest in anthropology and archeology. A very different perspective compared to studio arts.
    Related to consciously changing one’s pots. The problem with “MFA pots”, is that they are frequently push by the intellect, which makes them loose their more subtle and intuitive expressions. I once heard a historian say, “The fall of a civilization can be marked when its love of novelty has become the love of the grotesque.” I am not so interested in making novel pots, as I am in making genuine pots. If you stick to what Hamada called the “feeling” of a pot vs. style, or what Coleridge called imagination vs. fancy, though it is a slower process, you pots mature in a more total way.
    On the other hand, I wrote this in a recent Studio Potter article:
    “The Japanese examples at the Kutani and Mino exhibitions helped me realize
    that copying oneself in order to repeat success is actually more problematic
    than copying outside inspirations, because it closes you off from exploration.
    Whether looking outside or inward, a potter needs to reinterpret, rather than
    to render.”
    I also like what Hewitt wrote in The Potter’s Eye, that in a living tradition, a potter must make what is relevant to the community he lives in.
    Related to the Michigan potter saying everyone in your area made all the same pots: At a panel discussion with Michael Simon and his classmates (Simon is another favorite, maybe you know him through Ron), Mark Pharis said he came back to Minnesota to work because there was a shared cultural vocabulary in the area which allowed people to understand his pots better. I understood what he said immediately. Actually, the potters sitting up there: Sandy and Michael Simon, Mark Pharis, Randy Johnston, and Wayne Branum do have things in common. Mark described the use of slips and the attention to surfaces in salt and soda firing was something that marked their work. I always liked the woodfire from this area, because it didn’t tend to be snot covered or encrusted with unmelted ash and for the most part, is brighter colored than many woodfired pots.
    Anyway, I have rambled. Kintaro needs a walk. Thanks Carter and Ron for the thoughtful discussion. –Lee in Minneapolis

    • Wow Lee!Thanks for rambling on over to my blog. Its great to have your thoughtful and considered opinion. As I know from being your friend on facebook you are a trove of information. We probably agree on more things than we don’t, but I love being challenged to think things through more rigorously. Cranking out a blog post usually means only a cursory rewrite, minimal editing, and a whole lot of flying by the seat of my pants. So thanks for making me look at things a bit closer!

      I just love the quote you put down from your SP article. It looks like I need to re-up my subscription! I totally agree that something that closes you off from exploration is a cause for concern, and that you have hit the nail on the head about the inherent limitation of only copying oneself. I also would agree that exploration is not the same thing as seeking novelty. The intention is different. I too see the dangers of academic fascination with novelty for its own sake. Much of the stuff I have witnessed in art schools strikes me as solipsistic spectacle and pointless indulgence. In my mind too many art departments have traded a demand for quality for a demand for the merely new. It almost doesn’t matter if what a student does is any good as long as it hasn’t been done before. Ugh…. The ivory tower is in serious danger of losing its way if its tenuous grasp on relevance is put under much more stress.

      But I don’t see the only alternative to be a reinterpretation of tradition or ‘genuine’ expression by the artist. This puts the actual art either mostly outside the maker or mostly internal (and the fact that people do it these ways doesn’t mean there isn’t a further alternative). What I am advocating is growth, or change, that comes from the natural explorations of an artist, unforced and unconstrained. A blossoming of human imagination guided by the floating target of intuition and interest. Change not for its own sake, but as an organic expression of the artist’s evolution. Growth as an ongoing relationship between the maker and the materials. Something where the relationship and the process take on a life of their own, neither wholly internal nor external. An evolving symbiosis.

      Observance of tradition and obedience to authority are cultural values that different peoples put different weight on. And one view is not necessarily superior to the other. Its just that each alternative will have its own benefits to a society and serve the customs and interests of its people in different ways. Each taken to its extreme presents dangers and negative consequences. The history of the world is filled with abuses of dogmatic authoritarianism and also abuses of willful self absorption.

      So, there have to be places in between these extremes that have positive lessons for us. We should be able to learn from tradition but not be chained to it. We should be open to new ideas but not unable to build on our knowledge. So while I have great faith in the wisdom of people like Hamada I also recognize that wisdom wears many faces. I like a lot of what Hamada has to say, but I like it because it makes sense to me, not because he said it. I’d rather be wrong on my own, with an open minded possibility of still figuring it out, than blindly put all my trust in someone else’s thinking. But I also believe that ‘truth’ is worth investigating. Just because all our edifices are rife with opinion and interpretation doesn’t mean that we should give up in our quest.

      And maybe that’s just me. Maybe I’m only speaking for myself (or so I hope!). Perhaps I’m giving voice to things that only matter to me. But I really do believe that no single person is ever a static being, no matter how indifferent, close minded, or obstinately egocentric we are. Everyone starts as an infant and morphs into something older. We step in the stream of life and are bombarded by stimuli. And we are not unaffected. We experience new things. We change what we think and believe in. We are influenced by new circumstance, and our likes and dislikes evolve to color our imagination and perception of the world around us. We change. We feel differently. And this is as natural to us the air we breathe. And if we are so variable, why would we want our art to be anything less than that? What does “genuine” mean if it doesn’t accommodate this? Are we not genuinely different throughout our lives? Is it not authentic that I am sometimes torn by conflicting emotions about the same things?

      If I one day realize that I no longer like what I have been making, why would I not explore new interests? Would I expect to keep on with the same old same old despite the fact that I no longer enjoy doing this? That I have moved on to new interests? But if someone is hooked on tradition, more power to them if they go with that. If it works for them, that is reason enough to be doing it. And if someone has found some one expression that suits them for all time and in every circumstance, go right ahead and do that. I won’t weep for them if that’s what makes them happy. And if they explore things at a pace of glacial slowness and it suits them, well, I won’t argue against that either.

      Its just that not everyone is like that. Nor should they be expected to be. Both Ron Meyers and Ron Philbeck (and countess others) are true heroes in my mind because they are unafraid to take new risks. If they want to try something different, they do it. There is nothing holding them back. These artists are not ruled by a fear of change. They are not pursuing novelty for its own sake but moving in new directions simply because they are fascinated by something different. It calls to them from a distance, and they move toward it to find out what it is. They are curious. Nothing more, nothing less. The siren song of hidden possibility calls to us all, but some have learned better than others to pay it heed. Or, remembered. As we get older we lose our innocence about wild untamed exploration. We lose our flexibility. We ignore other possibilities, and turn a deaf ear to change. Some might call this “maturity”, but I would call it “stagnation”.

      But maybe Ron Meyers takes it a step further, and seeks out change as a direct challenge to his own way of perceiving things. Perhaps he said “Everyday seeking something new. Trying something different everyday” because he looked around him and saw too many artists become a parody of their former creativity. Its not hard to pick out the ones who are living off the fame of their former glory, who have become stereotypes of themselves and are only capable of regurgitating something stale and lifeless. They may be cranking out ‘art work’, but the creativity has died, along with their search for something new. All that’s left is the dessicated corpse of what once used to be a living, growing artist.

      The creative process is dunked in a pit of molasses when exploration is abandoned, or it is bound to tradition or some other kernel of unchanging authenticity. “Signature style” is one of the guiding principles of artists who have rejected the need for or desirability of change. But it is only an excuse for their timidity. It is a comfortable box with familiar confines. It is a justification to always stay the same. But as Emerson once remarked, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds”, and I would say that standing firm against artistic change verges on that, no matter the excuse or rationalization. If you choose to cut yourself off from the wealth of possibility you are choosing something a lot smaller than is necessary.

      There is a huge world of things it is possible to do. Not all of them are worthwhile, but some are very interesting. And we sometimes choose to settle for what we already have, or the tradition someone else put the tracks down for many years ago. But we are thirsty sitting beside a great river, and we drink only from the small brackish puddle at our feet. The truth is that we close ourselves off from so many things we might otherwise have been interested in. And we will never know what’s out there unless we take the plunge and go see for ourselves. We are sometimes like the timid, stodgy, and inflexible patriarchs of our own lives. We are afraid to get our feet wet while the kids are all scrambling to get in the water and playing in the waves.

      The question, I guess, is whether we believe in free will. If the answer is “Yes”, then it can’t be “yes, but not for artists”. “Yes” means that the only rules are the ones you choose, or that the only rule is that there is no rule. You get to decide. There is no outside authority to give you permission. ‘Playing by the rules’ is entirely up to you. And if you choose obedience to tradition or unwavering fidelity to an ideal, that is still up to you. And if the answer is “No”, then it still actually looks like we have options, even if only on the surface. The kinds of art we make should be no more constrained than anything else we do with our lives. If we can change careers we can change the pots we make. If we can swap our clothes from one day to the next our pots should be just as variable. If we have been predetermined to eat something different for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day of the week, then it is just as inevitable that our pots have room for this diversity as well. Even if everything in our lives has been entirely determined, the only thing that doesn’t change should not be our art.

      But that’s just what I’m thinking today. I may be wrong or I may change my mind at some future time. I care about it now, but I may lose interest tomorrow. At this moment I don’t have the burden of success to overcome, so it is perhaps easier for me to rationalize my flights of fancy this way. But next week I could suddenly get famous and galleries and collectors will pressure me to only make one kind of pot, and I might cave in to this outside demand. And right now I see the world as full of wonder and hidden surprises, but I may someday lose interest in surprises and fail to see where the wonder, ecstasy, and the sacred come in to the world. I may become addicted to looking at things in only one way. I could get bored by serendipity. I could develop an allergic reaction to change, or have some toxic experience that shocked all the change out of me. I could someday join a cult where a guru decides for me what I’m thinking and what I’m doing. I could read something somewhere and be so profoundly struck by it that I no longer see the need for independent thought. But not today…. Today I’m interested in the adventure of exploring, creating, and self determination. Today I’m going to make things as freely as my heart desires. How about you?

  4. Lee Love says:

    Related to: “If you meet the Buddha on the road what do you do?”
    In Asia, the shocking response is “Kill the Buddha.” It is an important koan for Asia, where the society is stressed much more above the individual, the opposite perspective from our society.
    “Killing the Buddha” or “Emptiness”, when used to empower the ego, is misunderstanding the point.
    First, you have to “Meet the Buddha.” Like Hamada said, “The philosopher has Beauty. But all the craftsman only has is his character.” He also said, To understand his craft, the craftsman has to completely digest the tradition. When he has taken the food of the tradition and made it a part of his own body, then something new can be created from his finger tips.
    So, meet the Buddha on the road, first…

    • Lee, you are much more the authority on this issue than I, but I was asking the question in a different sense. I was just pointing out that when someone thinks they have it all figured out they are only fooling them self. The buddha you meet on the road is false, and therefor it is the search, the practice, that is important. Not the illusion of a destination. If we think we are where we are supposed to be creatively, it is only an illusion. Thinking we have found our perfect expression is actually evidence that we have not, because it is an obstruction. It stands in the way of our journey. The creative quest itself is what matters most, not some imagined perfection or a single way of doing things, not tradition and not a personal signature style. Anything that stands in the way of our creative exploration is an impediment. Kill it and move on.

      I found this statement from a Buddhist blog to show what I’m talking about:

      “Whatever your conception is of the Buddha, it’s WRONG! Now kill that image and keep practicing. This all has to do with the idea that reality is an impermanent illusion. If you believe that you have a correct image of what it means to be Enlightened, then you need to throw out (kill) that image and keep meditating.” Hope that clears up the confusion….

  5. togeika says:

    Carter, the dominant social paradigm always compares in a black and white manner, which is always detrimental to an alternative perspective. Faux Newz is the ultimate example of this kind of logic, where they move the ball to the right by having Tea Baggers on one hand, and commie pinko Obama (actually a corporate Democrat), on the other. That makes the middle just right of Attila the Hun. ;^)
    Traditional approaches to creativity have been all but demolished by the dominant materialistic/consumer oriented perspective that artist find themselves living in today. They are dismissed, even though the solutions to the sickness of modern consumptive art can be found within them.
    I quoted Hewitt when he explained how a living tradition works: You learn the tradition completely, and then the craftsman makes something relevant to the community he works in. Hamada said: A philosopher has Beauty. But the craftsman only has his character. (Character is the key to genuine work. It is totally glossed over at the University and in the related art marketplace.) Hamada also said: The job of the modern craftsman is to totally digest the tradition, and then make something new come from his fingertips. This in no way means you need to work at the extreme end of the scale in relationship to the ego driven, over intellectualized, consumer oriented.
    Knowing the Craft first, is very similar to the quote about “Killing the Buddha.” First, you have to meet the Buddha. You don’t meet the Buddha with a Google search. It is through craftsman-like practice. Like my late teacher used to say, the Zen practitioner is like an artists, except he has no separate canvas. His life is his canvas.
    I met Ron Meyers when he was here for his first Regis talk. He said he best liked his pots without animals on them. But they are the only ones people buy. But he still makes non-animal pots for himself. I really like Ron P.’s pre-animal pots too. I wish he were making those too.

  6. Scott Cooper says:

    “You don’t meet the Buddha with a Google search.”

    This gets my vote for best quote on the thread.

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  10. Liza says:

    Currently in the middle of an emulation project, and I chose Ron Myers to do exactly what you’re saying. To let go and let the clay do what it will. I have a very refined style but it’s gotten boring, but I haven’t yet been able to break away from getting that “just right” curve or ribbing it 1000x over. Ron’s style is so freeing to play with, and I’m already noticing the pressure I usually put on myself is waning. it feels damn good. Great article. I’ll be sure keep his bits of wisdom in mind.

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