A belated Valentine’s Day post and story of True Love

“Often, stepping into another artists’ home is like a reassuring brush with the truth that we’re not the crazy ones; that it’s the rest of the aesthetically bankrupt world that’s got it wrong. I love that.”  – Scott Cooper reflecting on his visit to Michael Kline’s

There is so much for me to love about these pots pictured above! They have been in my life for so long that they are unquestioned companions of my waking hours. They are part of my life almost like a sort of relation. My clay brothers and sisters.

Pots can be like that. Many art objects and ideas can. They are more than just anonymous furniture. They are not simply props. They are characters. They are not simply acted upon. They are acted with. They are personality driven agents with their own stories to tell. And they make a difference in our lives: A favorite book whose edges are worn and cover tattered from the many times you carried it with you to coffee shops, on camping trips, and paged through it on lazy afternoons…. A movie so ingrained in your memory that you can quote all the lines…. An idea that becomes internalized and changes how we see the world…. The song that was playing when you met your future husband or wife…. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.

These are the kinds of things we choose to surround ourselves with. Sometimes pristine, but all eventually worn and showing the signs of a life well lived, through hardships and joys…..

Some survive us, others do not. But how is it possible that love, our most perfect virtue, can involve things that don’t last, and which in themselves are not perfect? Isn’t the perfection of love diluted by the imperfect object of love? Like trying to bake a perfect cake with imperfect ingredients? Are these imperfect things the weak links that dissolve the chain? Is love something  ‘pure’ that is only contaminated by the broken and flawed real world bits? Is it?

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As Robin Williams’ character tells it, its how we feel about the imperfections, the idiosyncrasies, that shows we are in love. And this means that love is sometimes at odds with the notion of perfection. Not ‘love’ as an idealized or superficial infatuation, but something deep and abiding. Something personal. Whoever said “love is blind” was probably blind. But not from love….

There is a difference between seeing someone as a person and only seeing their parts. The person includes all the foibles, all the mistakes, all the farts in the night. If we love the person its not exactly despite all the messy bits. If our love is not conflicted then we must make peace with the whole person. And this despite the reality that there are always surprises and the mystery continues to unfold…. By all means, love the parts, but don’t forget to love the person too.

Its really the idea of perfection that betrays us. It sets up unrealistic expectations. The idea of perfection only holds water in small bits. The larger and more complex they are the less perfect they seem. Perfection is mostly a fantasy. Its a noble idea that has few if any members. And it asks us to ignore or psychically amputate the less perfect real world parts. In other words, its sort of a mutilation. How can love be something that asks that of us?

In fact, I’d almost say that an idealized ‘perfection’ and ‘love’ rarely belong in the same sentence. Maybe just in romantic poetry…. Its as if from ‘love’, ‘ perfection’, and ‘human’ we can have any two together, but never actually all three at once. ‘Human + love’ excludes perfection, ‘human + perfection’ excludes love, ‘love + perfection’ excludes human…. Just think about it for a while….

As the Robin Williams character says it, “You’re not perfect sport. And let me save you the suspense. This girl you met, she isn’t perfect either, but the question is whether or not you are perfect for each other”

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And maybe so it is with pots. To truly love a pot you need to be so intimate with it that all those little idiosyncrasies are cherished in their own right. They are not ‘flaws’. They are not mistakes. We don’t love these pots despite those qualities. Rather, those qualities are part of what we love. Its the whole package, warts and all. Farting in our sleep.

And so, you can usually tell a pot that has been adored by the rough edges, by the worn surfaces and banged up shape it is in. Glued back together and strapped with duct tape. Kept in use by any means necessary. Not discarded because of some superficial ‘flaw’. These are the marks of a life well lived. They are its battle scars. The scraped knees. The bruises and cuts. Pots earn these marks as the proof of their place in our lives. And if we hide them away because they are ‘too precious’ to use, doesn’t that mean we only love these pots at a distance? Is that really a true love? Or is it like an infatuation with an unapproachable celebrity? Aloof and uncaring? Doesn’t love require at least a little ‘mixing it up’?

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Here are some of the pots I truly love, a plate by Ron Meyers, and a cup and teabowl by Michael Simon. Both were my teachers at an early point in my career, and I cherish the pot in part for the story it has to tell.

Here are some of the little farts that are a part of what I love:

That little corner that’s missing on the handle kind of digs into my finger and reminds me its there. Not uncomfortable but a quirk that reminds me not to take this pot for granted. If we couldn’t feel the pots we use how would we experience them? This pot lets me know its there, like a quiet voice in the background or dirty socks left on the floor.

This chip in the rim is where some of the slip and glaze separated from the clay body. Its an oddity that I have come to cherish, part of its charm. This plate is perhaps the most used item in my kitchen. As Robin Williams’ character said, its not whether I or the pot are perfect. Its whether we are perfect for each other. And I’d like to think we are….

I think I could spend all day looking at this pot and never tire. The paddling took it hopelessly out of round, but that doesn’t matter. The rim is all sorts of wobbly, even without the ding, but that doesn’t matter. They say that love is blind, but I’d dispute that. My love for this pot includes all these inconsistencies and contradictions. And if there’s something I’m less charmed with I also realize that the pot would not be what it is without those qualities. In fact, the good things are sometimes only made possible by what was given up to achieve it. You can either love the whole pot or individual parts of it. As much as I adore certain parts, I am also taken with the whole package, warts and all….

Peace all!

Make beauty real!

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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 advocacy, Beauty, Ephemera, Imagination, metacognition. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to A belated Valentine’s Day post and story of True Love

  1. gazooza says:

    Great to see some of the pots in your kitchen up close like this. Also reassuring to know that other potters think like this, about certain pots they know well as if they were people or part of the family. (Bob the cup was it?)

    Also, I really like the section pauses you’re putting in: line break, dot, line break. It gives that moment of pause to consider the seven big ideas you just hit us with, recommends a big breath in and a sip of coffee before continuing on. Nice work, CG!

    • gazooza says:

      Can you imagine some gold in that chip on the St. Simon handle?! Holy crap that’d be awesome. Tell me where to send my Paypal donation.

  2. Damn! I actually didn’t even consider that! I’ve got an MS teabowl that split perfectly in two parts and I only have it superglued together for display. I’d so love to be able to use it again!

    Dr Cooper strikes again!

  3. Pingback: What was I thinking… in 2013? | CARTER GILLIES POTTERY

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