I’m back from my vacation visiting the folks in Cape May NJ. 10 days spent wallowing in the surf and dangling my toes in the waves while reading a new favorite author (Neal Stephenson as per Scott Cooper’s recommendation) has restored me. I hope.
Can’t wait to get my hands back in the clay, but one thing I’ve noticed over the years is that sometimes the time off is where I make my biggest creative advances. Its as if putting my nose to the grindstone without let up doesn’t give me a proper chance to digest all the things I am experiencing and thinking. Its as if I can’t see the bigger picture because I’m so focused in the moment. I sometimes need the distance so that I can stand back and absorb the lessons that are being thrown at me. Standing too close to the process I feel I am buffeted about and mostly playing catch-up to the swirl of information.
So now I’m back home and ready to do some experimenting with that decoration issue that I spent several thousand words and countless hours trying to get my head around. I have ideas, but the way things look in the cold light of reality only rarely turn out as glorious as they appear in my imagination. I suppose that’s the curse of working mostly by intuition. I tend to let things happen to see what new things I can learn. I move through discovery and letting the process inform the directions rather than being a planner and a plotter and having all my ideas carefully mapped out in advance. This seems to be related to my lack of 2D imagination (to me, at least). But maybe its a skill I can learn and not something we are either born with or born without.
Of course I should have taken some 2D classes while I was in school, but my path to ceramics graduate school was not as an art undergrad. Somehow they let me in the back door, and by then it was either too late, or I was permitted to carry on as if I already had a well rounded creative background. So I mostly learned by playing around on the wheel, and my fascination with pottery form has always outweighed my interest in the surfaces and especially in its decoration.
And of course when I got exposed to atmospheric firings in wood kilns and salt or soda kilns I found a surface treatment that had all the spontaneity and serendipity that I was working to put into my throwing. A perfect match, I thought. Purposeful decorating was the furthest thing from my mind. But when I was forced to move to firing my pots in an electric kiln I suddenly had a problem with how I was supposed to finish my surfaces. I have basically spent the last 5 years making mostly poor glazing decisions trying to reinvent myself as something other than a wood firing potter.
It took me most of that 5 years to figure out some glazes that have the random serendipitous character of an atmospheric firing, but of course I now have suddenly convinced myself that some purposeful decoration is probably the best way forward. So its back to square one of the learning curve, and countless more pots sacrificed to my ignorance and dismal 2D imagination. At least I have a fabulous Brandon Phillips brush to help make my feeble scrawling look acceptable (once again courtesy of my fairy godpotter Scott Cooper!).
Now for the adventure of figuring out if brushwork can be used in combination with my current glaze palette….