What this artist has to be thankful for

Happy Thanksgiving all!

I woke this morning and felt the need to give thanks for at least some of the things I am grateful for. Sometimes feeling gratitude just needs to be expressed, and what better day to take that opportunity than this day of Thanksgiving.

Firstly, as an artist I am grateful for the creative vision I have. It could have been something different, but its not. And I am grateful. Not that it couldn’t also have been better. I’m not blind. I’m not naive enough to think I’m the best there is. There are plenty of better artists out there. But even so, the creative playground where I indulge my experiments is my own special province. Its what I know best, and its also what I know better than anyone else. And even if its not as good as some, I feel the world still needs it. Its worth expressing. And apparently I’m the one to do it. Utopia wouldn’t be everyone only drinking from Michael Simon teabowls. It would be a diversity of greater and lesser pots, each with their own unique gifts to offer the world. The absolute truth is that beauty takes many forms, and the challenge is to see as much of it as we can…. So, yes. I am thankful for this creative vision that is my own to share with the world.

I am also grateful that there is an audience for my vision of what counts as beautiful. Making art is something I can contribute to the world. Its not a selfish act. Its something that I hope makes the world a better place. And when someone else sees the beauty of what I’m offering I know my efforts have not been in vain. And its not that everyone has to get it. And its not that the folks who see value in my work necessarily need to see the same things that I do. We all see the world in different ways, notice different things, value some things more than others. What matters is that someone out there saw something that made their world brighter. I’m not aiming at the lowest common denominator. What I’m giving to the world is unique and perhaps a bit strange. I am trying to teach people an unconventional way of seeing, a different sort of beauty. And so, when folks see beyond the expectations of a perfectly round form, see beyond the need for surface decoration, and take the chance to peer deeply, what they will find is a bit eccentric. What they will find is a form that has a bit of character, that can be approached from different angles to different effect, that has surface depth that is dynamic and incredibly varied. And somewhere amidst all that there will be something to find joy in. It may not be an easy beauty, but beauty none the less. And so I am thankful for my audience. And I am also thankful that we each see the world in our own way. We are not the drones of convention. We are not the apes of a particular prejudice.

I am also thankful for my students. I have said it before, but if it turns out that I turn aside from a career making pots, if I were still able to teach others about clay my life would have creative fulfillment. That would be enough. I think. And thankfully I do have a teaching position. And thankfully I do have some great students. Not everyone who takes a class at a community center is there to learn. Its not always about being a student of clay. Not everyone taking these classes aims at becoming a professional. Some don’t really aim at getting much better. Folks take these classes for as many reasons as there are students. And so many try it out and then move on to different things. It may just not have been their thing. But at least they tried…. And I am thankful that they gave it a shot.

Not everyone gets clay, and not everyone necessarily wants to get it. But there are those who do. There are those who are caught by the creative fever, who can’t get enough, who do what it takes to come back term after term. And while I am thankful for ALL my students, I am especially thankful for these dedicated ones. Almost all of them have significant other lives outside of clay. They have jobs. They have careers. They are in school for something else. They have children to raise. Not everyone has the space in their lives for it to be more than a serious hobby. But they see it. They see why playing with clay is important. They see the value in making pots. And they see the value that pots bring to the world. They are kindred spirits on this path. They believe that what an artist has to offer is not irrelevant. And because they are more familiar with the process and how difficult it is, they can also better appreciate the extraordinary quality that fine pots bring to the world. And it gives them something to aspire to, even as amateurs. And so I am thankful for my special students. Without them I would be a lot lonelier on this journey. I am grateful I get to share so much of myself with you. You are a bulwark that sustains me. Thank you……

I could go on, but I suppose that is enough to express here. The one last thing I will cast out is that I am deeply thankful to be a part of this great clay community. I have met so many interesting people and some really special friends. The one thing I can say about potters and clay people in general is that we are an outstanding bunch. And I am grateful to be a part of that. Thank you all. And thank you to ALL artists out there. Together we help make the world a more fascinating, more beautiful, and a better place to be. Thank you for adding your vision to our community and thank you for adding value to my life. Thank you….

Peace all!

Make beauty real!


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, Beauty, Ceramics, Clay, Creativity, Pottery, Teaching. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to What this artist has to be thankful for

  1. zygote says:

    I am thankful to count you as one of my teachers Carter… Thank you so much for sharing yourself 🙂

    • The admiration is mutual, my friend…. I’m so glad to have met you in this here internet clay community, and I am indebted to you for the many wonderful things you share about your journey as a potter. Thanks so much for being there!

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