Cara’s comment on the serious topic

Those of you who know me by now realize that I absolutely love the dialog that can happen between folks out here in the ether. And if it were up to me many of these conversations would be full of interesting ideas and careful thinking and would not shy at being possibly ‘too long’. So just as a word of encouragement let me say that I don’t mind if the comments on my blog get a bit wordy. Sometimes good thoughts just can’t be captured in a few words (sometimes they can, but this usually defies me). And you would be hard pressed to be more long winded than I can get. Just look at how long it took for me to get this simple thought out….

So occasionally I will receive comments on my blog that are worthy of a post in their own right. Occasionally a reader will accept the challenge of wrestling an idea to the ground and tying it up with however many words of their own. Cara is someone I count on to keep me company on this adventure in idea wrangling, and she always has something provocative and profound to share with us. Unfortunately after a topic has been posted not many readers go back and digest the thread of comments, so plenty of great ideas are simply lost in the void. What Cara just wrote the other day in response to my previous post is one such comment, and I simply can’t let it pass by without sharing it.

So here goes:

“I apologize sincerely for my last comment, and blame my lack of decorum on my twisted mind, and three days spent with a two and four year old. So my perspective (before it was so rudely interrupted) on serious fun comes from the effort to engage two young minds and bodies: meet their needs physically, emotionally, developmentally, intellectually, while taking care of my own. I don’t do this well. Of course I love my grandbabies, but they are not my life. My most intense need to engage in clay play is seriously hampered when I have them for this extended amount of time.

What I’ve come to discover is not only that they each require an inordinate amount of time, energy, and attention, but that they are so completely different. The constant shifting of gears and effort is exhausting. And I wonder if I can make a correlation between this and the reference you made, Carter, to having to switch gears between wood firing and electric. Which leads me to wonder if that’s why some potters can find ‘success’ and stay there—is that just easier? I can’t say it’s more fun or more serious, I can’t even really identify with it . . . but I wonder, as you do, if this is a destination worth mapping? Can I ever get there? Do I really want to?

I love that when I am in the studio, I can find the flow of (seemingly) effortless creativity, but I believe a lot of people are fooled by this. I admit that I want to fool myself. Then I walk out the kitchen door across the driveway, and into the studio, and see the shelves of pots that need to be loaded, bisqued, and glaze fired, and I remember that even while I love to load a kiln, glaze bisqueware, and crack open a fresh fired glaze load, there is a lot of work involved basking in the glow of the flow.

Oh we haven’t even gotten to the process of pricing, marketing, schlepping, groveling before a customer, working and wandering toward self sufficient sales. Accounting? Ordering materials? Maintaining inventory? That we even consider this surely speaks to our seriousness. Doesn’t it?

I agree completely with Scott, that you’ve said well what needs to be said, but have also to add how greatly I hope you continue to wrangle with these ideas and your work (serious as it may or may not be) as a potter. I’ve never been one to ‘suffer’ for my art—but I do believe my success as an artist (thanks Tracey, for saying it for all of us who don’t ‘fit the mold!’) is in direct proportion to the amount of challenges and obstacles I overcome (nod to Scott) to germinate the seminal idea within me into a physical manifestation of that initial inspiration.

So here’s to stubborn and slow learners. Here’s to making ‘mistakes’ (though I don’t believe in these), and getting bored easily, relative or not, and the power of a changing mind. Here’s to a new paradigm, one where we expand our creative energy to capacity and beyond, in delightful exploration of what’s within us, relative to and made manifest in our medium of choice.

I’m determined to be an eternal optimist in this, or maybe I really was just born a Pollyanna. Maybe it’s just enlightened selfishness, but I can’t help but hold to the certaintude that my path, however goatlike it may be, is the one for me. I can’t do it any other way, not because I’m incapable, too serious, too goofy, but because this way is the way for me. The payoff may be only that, that I was true to the spark within me, but my experience so far has proved otherwise. I believe will continue, so I put my effort into that faith, but even if it doesn’t I’m not sure I have a choice. I didn’t really choose clay, it chose me—and I’m seriously, funnily, glad it did.”

Thanks so much for sharing these thoughts Cara!

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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One Response to Cara’s comment on the serious topic

  1. You are so welcome Carter, though I fall far short in word wrangling, it’s incredibly cathartic for me to be able to wrestle with the ideas you put out there. Thank you for being the inspiration– and for providing the forum to work out these ideas.

    It’s kind of funny in a way, while I don’t ‘sketch’ things out before heading to the studio, your ability to frame an intangible idea with words really helps me work things out in my head when I’m in the studio. It’s your willingness and ability to paint word pictures, generate intangible ideas, and provide incredibly thought provoking insights that gives me something to chew on while the wheel (and my brain) goes round.

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