The low down

Well, its been a full month since my last post, and I seem to have hit a wall. Its not that I don’t have plenty to talk about, but the passion that kept me up late at night in flurries of keyboard activity seems to have been sucked out of me. And I’m not as sure of my attempts to get my thoughts in order. So part of it has to do with confidence, but mostly I’ve been doing other things. The Holiday crunch has meant late hours in the studio getting ready for upcoming sales. And of course this is a welcome change from the summer, when I was only potting sporadically.

While part of me misses the healthy back and forth banter of some of my posts and some of the blog conversations that have been going on, I don’t seem capable of being drawn out. I thought for sure I would blather out a response to Don Pilcher’s latest expose on “Sawdust & Dirt”, but my timid forays into a response all dead ended very quickly. Still, I’m surprised only Jim Gottuso left a comment. It was a great response, so perhaps it summed up what many of us were thinking. Maybe I will eventually get my mental house in order and tackle that one too….

But in the mean time I have been reading other folks’ blogs and enjoying the role of consumer/spectator. Somehow my reader inbox dumps a good 20-30 new posts on me each day. Can’t say I read ’em all, but its good to know some folks out there are still blogging! For those who haven’t discovered it, one of my new favorites is “Brainpickings”. This is an amazing collection of links to and thoughts about the creative universe. Well worth a peek most days.

A few posts back they covered a newly published book by David McRaney titled “YOU are NOT so SMART: Why You Have Too Many Friends on Facebook, Why Your Memory Is Mostly Fiction, and 46 Other Ways You’re Deluding Yourself”, which apparently is a collection of essays from the blog, also titled “You are not so smart”. Of course this sounds right up my alley, like it was written just for me, so if the holiday faeries treat me well this year I may dig into my change purse and plunk for it. A quick perusal of the blog gives me high hopes for an interesting and humorous read.

These videos are trailers for the book and are darned funny:


Hope you all are doing well out there in potteryland, internetland, the Earth, and the Ether!

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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18 Responses to The low down

  1. Cara says:

    Scott’s not first? hehehe. but seriously, Carter, well done! love this blog! hope the holiday sales treat you very well indeed!

  2. john bauman says:

    Hmmm. I didn’t respond to Pilcher’s post in Sawdust & Dirt because for me, anyway, there is no longer a response box. I assumed Kline had changed his settings so there wouldn’t be any responses. I thought perhaps he either had received responses he didn’t want clogging up his blog, or he simply didn’t want responses that might require his attention. I don’t even seen Jim’s response. All I see is “John Bauman and Michael Kline like this”.

    As to the extremely quiet bloggosphere….for some reason that still evades me, some time this Spring people simply stopped reading mine. I used to faithfully track it with Google Analytics and suddenly, within a week or so — at a time when I was posting nearly every day (I had this certain goal that I think would, itself, be the subject of an interesting discussion), I dropped more than 75% readership. I even had some people drop from the list of “subscribers”.

    I never did figure it out. Musta been something I said, I don’t know. But the readership never returned and now if I post to the blog, I have only a tiny handful of people who read it.

    Anyway, it kinda cooled me on the blogging thing. I still read several of them — especially if a heading/title catches my interest.

    • Hey John, at first I was kind of scratching my head too, but the comment stuff just seems to take a while to load up. On my slow internet speed it seems to take almost a minute before Jim’s comment shows up. And if you wait that long there is still a spot to leave new comments. Still weighing my own response, but the time may have passed for active discussion. Maybe I’ll just send something directly to Don.

      That is totally weird about your readership decline, especially about the subscriptions. I’m not sure if it shows up on the tracking, but I usually read your posts in my Go0gle reader, and only click on the post itself when I want to leave feedback (which from my post above means almost never theses days).

      I hope you continue to post. I think your blog is a great contribution to this internet arm of the pottery world. I was so sad when Emily Murphy stopped blogging, and Michael Kline seems to have almost disappeared, and just a few days ago Brandon Phillips declared a sort of moratorium on his blog. Those were three of my must read commitments each morning, so I’d hate to lose yours as well. So keep your chin up, and know that there is at least one fellow potter who counts on your delicious insights and humorous anecdotes.

      Scott Cooper and I have discussed this, and I think we both agree that its probably best to consider our posts as sort of public emails to a handful of people who care about some of the same issues as we do. I’m not sure how many of us consider our blogs only as marketing tools and see our labors only justified in pots eventually sold via the internet. I think its more like a conversation, and a good conversation is not made less if only a handful of people are around to participate. It would be great if we could reach a wider audience, but I’m not sure what that would require.

      So keep up the good work if you can. Just know that I’m somewhere in the background cheering you on!

    • Scott Cooper says:


      A 75% drop in that short a time is huge; seems unlikely to be just because of the content, unless you really made a sharp turn in a new direction. In my experience, people just don’t change their browsing/reading behavior that radically.

      Are you sure there wasn’t some technical reason for the reported change? Something to do with your site’s availability, or some change in the way Analytics does it’s reporting? If I had to troubleshoot something like this at work, that’s where I’d look first.

      On the other hand, I do get the sense that a lot of people are gradually migrating their attention to pithier formats; Facebook, G+ and (god forbid) Twitter. Could it be that the golden years of pottery blog readership — all two of them! — are over, and our former readers now want and expect less?

      • Yikes! That’s a bleak prognosis! I hope you are right, and that it is something technical. Ever since I started bad mouthing etsy my sales disappeared. For a time I thought they had me black listed so that folks had a more difficult time navigating my shop than other people’s. They wouldn’t do that, would they?

  3. gz says:

    blogging ebbs and flows. Don’t worry.
    Perhap’s more blog readers ought to follow Zhoen’s request on her blog (one word)and just leave a stone (o) to say they’ve passed by.
    Same goes for John Bauman’s writings too, they don’t always NEED a comment, they just are!!
    Plenty will still be reading.

    • Thanks Gwynne! I thought that request on Zhoen’s blog was fascinating. And its true that in reading other people’s blog posts we are effected by so much more than we can respond to immediately. Its not always a conversation that requires active participation and dialog. Sometimes it means we need time to digest things, or we can be inspired to take it in another direction, only marginally tangential to the original point of the post. The posting of a comment can sometimes be a distraction or beside the point. But that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be interesting!

      I guess the important thing about this whole blogging phenomenon is that the reader leave with something, that they found something of interest. If you can add to that idea for others by commenting, then great. But as long as it has made some difference, if there is some take away, then the world just got that bit bigger. Our experience and understanding has evolved.

      I guess the reason I like the comments section in my own blog so much is that I always feel I am learning something. If its just my own voice on these posts, then as far as my own take away I might as well be talking to myself in a closet. I don’t have all the answers, and I’m happy to be shown a different way of looking at issues. There are just a few things I am not terribly open minded about, though I’m usually willing to listen to the argument defending things I don’t especially believe in. I don’t mind drawing the line between right and wrong, and then having to redraw it somewhat differently later on. Its human nature to be wrong at times, and that’s why humility and listening to other opinions is a sometimes necessary wake up call. If all we did was just go about confirming our assumptions, just where would that get us? But mostly, by recognizing my fundamentally finite understanding, I’m hoping that a conversation with other thoughtful people will push me in new and interesting directions, expand how I look at the world.

      The world is so much mystery, and unlocking those doors is sometimes an amazing and beautiful cause for celebration. What I find important is that I can still look out at the world with a sense of wonder. I can still imagine it to be something more than the numbing and degrading spectacle that it sometimes is. I am willing to dream, and I depend on there being hope. And the more of us that dream of a better world, the more shining lights there are to push back the darkness.

      And isn’t all art the artist’s dream of what the world is supposed to look like? That it have room for this beauty, and that? Isn’t art an attempt to recreate the world as something better, more interesting than it was before? If our art doesn’t add to the world positively, just what are we doing? The fact that some person enjoys their new mug means that in this tiny way their life has been changed: Joy has been delivered in the tiny embrace of a warm cup of coffee. It doesn’t have to be earth shattering to positively effect someone. Humble and delicate beauty and the hidden mysteries of serendipity have such huge potential in such unassuming packages.

      So, I would say it is important to dream, and share your dreams. Think deep thoughts, and keep an open mind. Change yourself, and be a beacon and inspiration of change in others. Embrace the creator that lies within you. Be the artist of your own destiny.

      Wow, that was a mouthful. I get carried away so easily….. Might as well post this…..

      • Scott Cooper says:

        CG said, “I might as well be talking to myself in a closet.”

        That’s an interesting coincidence. I actually write my blog in a closet.

        • That’s just too perfect! I wonder if you took it out of the closet whether you’d be more inclined to accepting comments?

          But actually, I know you are not just conversing with yourself. TW@SE is always saying something to me, so your closet still has an audience of at least one. That being said, one of my students who has been reading your blog admitted last night in class that she kind of tuned out once you went off on the Steve Jobs tangent. Maybe instead of soapboxes or closets our metaphor for blogs should be a few people on distant mountain tops with cans at their ears connected by a taut string.

      • Scott Cooper says:

        “I wonder if you took it out of the closet whether you’d be more inclined to accepting comments?”

        Well, technically I let it out when it’s done — but I only swing the door open for a second to throw it out over the wireless, then scurry back inside to hide from whatever small reaction it might cause.

        Re: talking to oneself, I agree. I write a fair amount, too, that — hopefully — will never been seen by another set of eyes. So it’s definitely intended as communication, but only on a very narrow, particular frequency amongst the vast spectrum of possibilities. (Target audience of one, and all that stuff I’ve rambled on about before.)

        I like your metaphor of cans and strings — a very primitive network, connecting sparse dots on the landscape. Perhaps as it should be. My admittedly odd reaction to your student’s lack of interest when I go off on a non-pottery-specific topic is, “F*ck yeah!” If it didn’t bore/alienate some of the regulars, then I’m either not trying hard enough or not sufficiently diversified in my other interests. Like elections, the it really hinges around the undecideds in the middle; the people who won’t know if they like reading a blog about Steve Jobs until they try it, and who probably wouldn’t try it without four preliminary years of pottery talk to lure them in.


  4. Scott Cooper says:

    Those videos are interesting, too. The first one is great — apparently we’re now in the era of making short films to promote books? It sounds like a ridiculous idea, but after watching it… I might buy the book, too.

    The second one lead me to this article on procrastination on the author’s site:

    My Netflix queue has about 200 items in it, so that pretty much nails it for me!

    • Great link! I hadn’t gotten to that one yet, but it couldn’t be more on target. My monkey brained candy wanting now-self has completely pawned off the glazing I need to do to my future-self, who I know can’t be trusted because that monkey brained idiot will snarf the first candy that comes his way too. Procrastination really is all about trusting your future-self to do the right thing, when you ought to know that he is just as weak to temptation as you are. Therefor, my new mantra is : “Trust not thy future-self. Moron.” Gotta call it like it is….

      Wow! 200 in the cue! If it is actually comparable, my collection of DVDs is somewhere over that mark, especially if you count episodes of TV shows. My guilty pleasure of watching old shows from my childhood has been hit and miss for quality. I have no idea what possessed me to fork out for the first season of “Lost in Space”. “The Time Tunnel”, on the other hand, has been all sorts of procrastinatorial fun. I just keep hoping they will release the 1960’s TV version of “Batman” at some point. See what temptation my future self has to deal with?

      • Scott Cooper says:

        With your blessing, my next blog will definitely be called “monkey brained idiot”. Perfect. (Although I’d also be tempted by Candy Snarfing Future-self.)

        I think the difference between the Netflix queue and a DVD collection is that, presumably, you’ve already seen most of the DVDs, so you’re making the reasonable assumption that your future self might like to watch it again.

        With Netflix, I’ve seen none of them, so it’s purely aspirational as to what my future self will want to watch. As that article elaborated so well, over time the queue grows to contain everything I think I should watch later — serious documentaries and weighty dramas — but rarely gets smaller as I routinely choose The Daily Show or some random NFL game instead. I’m procrastinating on watching the “good” stuff; offloading the responsibility onto the candy snarfer. Poor jerk.

  5. Kevin Carter says:

    Glad to see that you are back, Carter! I was afraid that we had lost one of the truly thoughful, and thought-provoking, ceramics bloggers left out here.
    I will post more later, about bloggers, but I have to run errands.

  6. Kevin Carter says:

    I had just written a super-long post, only to think better of posting it. So here is my new post, thanking you for a unique and thoughtful blog.
    Oh, and tell that student in your class that she was not alone when she clicked the back arrow on Cooper’s rantings, I usually do that as well.

    • Yo Kevin, I appreciate the thanks, but I’m not so sure about the jab at Scott. That being said, your response is probably exactly what he was hoping to hear. I can just see him cackling triumphantly in the background as he wrote in the comments above “If it didn’t bore/alienate some of the regulars, then I’m either not trying hard enough or not sufficiently diversified in my other interests.”

      Somehow I am surprised that someone who likes my blog can be anything but enthusiastic about Scott’s writings. If truth be told, Scott’s blog is the reason I even felt there was a place for the kind of ramblings I seem to devote myself to. This Week at Saint Earth will always be my inspiration. Scott is waaay smarter than I am, and much funnier and entertaining to read. And the deep thoughts are there by the bucketful. Its just that sometimes the pearls are still in the shell, and the clam is buried in a layer of misdirectional silt.

      But just because he’s not being obvious or laying it all out in the open for us doesn’t mean he isn’t providing wealth for our table. Often there is work to be done to tease the precious nuggets forth. We have to connect the dots ourselves. He isn’t just writing random off the cuff blathering. His posts are incredibly carefully crafted and well thought out. And if you look hard enough, if you dig deep enough, you may find the connection to your own practice, insight into areas that are worth considering, sometimes familiar, sometimes new. Rather than spell things out exhaustively, Scott will show you something important and then give you the space to think for yourself. It may look like he’s talking just about himself, but if you spend some time with the ideas he has presented, digested them a bit, then you can see he is pointing to issues that have a wide application, if not universal.

      For me what Scott does so well is bring it on home to issues that are relevant to my own situation. But maybe that’s just me. Maybe I’m just very similar to Scott in many ways, and can count my blessings on that score. His post from a few days ago revealed some interesting thoughts on the topic of self promotion, humility, and sincerity, things that any working artist has to deal with. The one before that on the relationship of advertising to an audience. These are things that every potter selling their work can benefit from considering.

      And then every post he did on Steve Jobs was chock full of valuable nuggets. Consider the 4 points of the last one: Respect and cherish the opportunities we have because in the end its not our ‘success’ that matters but how we lived our lives; the importance of second chances and not quitting; this amazing quote “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”; and then this other one, “That’s… the biggest message from Jobs’ life. Don’t try to be like Steve. Don’t try to be like anyone. Be yourself and work as hard as you can to bring wonderful things into the world. Figure out how you want to contribute and do that, in your own way, on your own terms, as hard as you can, as much as you can, as long as you can.”

      In the end, I would say that Scott is very much attempting to do that with his blog. And the fact that not everyone gets it probably just reinforces that he is onto something special, something important. There are very few blogs that get me thinking as hard as Scott’s. And for me, I’m grateful that he takes the time to share his awesomeness with my unworthy self.

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