The Summer of Golden Opportunity

For whatever reason, in our culture the summer often brings a change of pace, when some of us plan for vacations, and when some of us have a bit of down time from our normal routines. As professional potters this may mean that we are not pointing all our efforts in the same direction and with the same commitment that we have the rest of the year. Is this the signal for us to just kick back and forget about clay, or can we use it to our advantage? Is it possible that kicking back actually has payoff for our work in clay? Good questions to ask as the summer starts to unfold….

This morning I saw Brandon Phillips post on facebook that:

I’m working on a fairly involved making list for the summer…I have almost no obligations until the fall so I’m hoping to be productive. but no obligations so, ya know, not too productive.

To which I responded:

“No obligations” sounds so liberating! Maybe now is the time to try all the weird projects you would never have tried otherwise. I’m sure your imagination has a store of things you are dreaming about, things that may not necessarily be ready for prime time. No pressure to meet obligations (external) maybe means that you are now free to explore in directions that have nothing to do with those pressures. Maybe they will even lead to new forms or tangents that can be worked into your regular production. Or maybe it can be just about having as much fun as you possibly can. Man, I’m envious…..

Sometimes we are moving steadily in a direction simply because we DO have obligations. What is it like to suddenly not have to work under the pressures of external demands? Will we have room to explore differently? Will not hearing the crack of the whip allow us the freedom to enjoy doing things differently and to make for no other purpose than our own? Is there that bit more room for us to experience the lightness of what we are doing? Can the summer be this kind of Golden Opportunity?

This morning I also read a post by Whitney Smith, who is over in France ostensibly for a ceramics residency. In the post she relates that she has spent far less time in the studio than she expected. And now she feels a bit guilty. But in my mind just being in a new culture is the kind of creative work that will translate into fantastic opportunities once the new experiences have been digested. And sometimes that just takes time. Here’s what I had to say in response to her post:

Hey Whitney,

This sounds like a wonderful experience, and I have no doubt that it will eventually pay off in the studio as well.

Sometimes the most important creative project we can have is working on our own self. Sometimes the greatest change we can make is changing our attitudes, our beliefs about which things matter, and our ability to see things differently. Just soaking in a new culture can give us that change. Every time we experience something new, digest it, and then manifest it in some way in our lives we are evolving. Being open to new experiences is sometimes the most important thing we can do. How else do we get from childhood to being an adult? The other option is to close ourselves off, settle for what we have, and refuse to change…. Sometimes we decide to keep things the same, but is there really ever a right moment to stop evolving?

So it sounds like you HAVE been working. Living in a different culture is hard work when we let it affect us. There is so much to absorb, so much to make sense of. And all this work we do simply gestates for as long as it takes, and then it arrives in our art like a gift from the gods. You may not think you are doing a lot of work, not being in the studio so much, but you are preparing the groundwork. You are laying the foundation for great things to happen. That is, if you are willing to take advantage of all these new things you are learning. Everything you have seen, touched, and tasted is a part of the new you.

It may even have been important not to have done much clay work. Doing something familiar encourages us to find the comfort zone, to rely on habits and deeply ingrained preferences. If you had just stayed in the studio you may have come away from this trip with nothing but the same pots you’ve been making all along. And no new experiences. So its probably a GOOD thing that you avoided it. Think of all the new experience you did get to have by immersing yourself in something different. You had just this one chance to explore these mysteries and you took it. You did the right thing, I think!

And as all these potential influences work their way around your thoughts and feelings you may find that you are now so different that its a struggle to go back to being who you were. In some respects you are much the same. But you HAVE been changed, and its up to you how fully you will let this be expressed in your studio. When you are ready. Your experience has been an education. It can’t help but be transformative. Just what will you decide to make when the time comes? Can you ignore the new things you have learned? Do you want to? Are you finished exploring these new mysteries?

Good luck! I’m glad you are having fun!


What will YOU do to make this the Summer of Golden Opportunity?

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.
This entry was posted in Art, Arts education, Beauty, Ceramics, Clay, Creativity, Pottery, Teaching. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Summer of Golden Opportunity

  1. John Bauman says:

    Just opposite for me. Shows so stacked up that I can’t make anything of any scale for fear of not having the time to finish it. My summer will consist of: show–>home and make 2 series of something–>show–>home and make 2 series of something–>show–>home and make 2 series of something–>show–>home and make 2 series of something–>’til the shows are over with.

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