Sticks and a stone, some tape, and water…..

30 year old kiln with stone age repairs......

30 year old kiln with stone age repairs……

Talk about solving problems with band aides! Here’s a close up of that magnificent repair job. Please notice the chunk of rock lodged between the bottom and middle plugs. Short of another stick this was the only immediate way I could keep the plug from jiggling loose and providing a poor connection. I need to order a whole new set of plugs and sockets, but that will have to wait until after the sales. If its running like this I don’t want to do anything to upset the balance, although I may replace the indicator light that burned out on the bottom circuit.

A 'repair' job any electrician would be horrified at. Who uses stones in electrical work these days? Maybe I'm just out of step with the times....

A ‘repair’ job any electrician would be horrified at. Who uses stones in electrical work these days? Maybe I’m just out of step with the times….

My kiln, as you can see, is a patchwork of miscellaneous repairs. But as of right now its limping along, thanks to the timely rescue of two sticks and a stone and a piece of tape! To prepare for my upcoming sales I need a working kiln, and the pursuit of this has caused me a number of sleepless nights this past week. My fingers remain crossed that some sticks, a stone, and a piece of tape will continue to save my bacon! For a few more weeks, at least…..

Sam McNerney had this to say:

“In Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, two friends, Vladimir and Estragon, endlessly wait by a tree in the moonlight for the arrival of someone they both claim to know but neither would recognize – someone named Godot. While they wait, they talk about the Gospels, suicide, the past and the future. They exchange shoes and hats. They contemplate leaving. Most of all, they try to make sense of the situation. But doing so – trying to understand and control their circumstances – leads to anxiety. It is the attempt to make sense of the absurd that spells their demise.


The problem, paradoxically, is just that: we’re searching. Consider a paper by the psychologist Iris Mauss and three colleagues. They discovered over the course of two experiments that participants who sought happiness were less happy than participants in a control group. The idea is the more we value something, the more likely we will be disappointed, even when we obtain what we’re searching for. By analogy, imagine an academically minded student who considers anything lower than perfection a disappointment. Despite above average marks, he will believe himself a failure. The lesson here is not to lower expectations but to not emphasize only one variable. When we fail to do that we get caught in a Zeno’s paradox of sorts – no matter how hard we try, we’ll never arrive at our destination.”

Part of my anxiety has been looking at my kiln as a means to an end. Its a tool for finishing pottery, and those pots are the inventory I need to pull off my sales. Having a working kiln becomes important for that end, and an inoperable kiln makes the timing right now potentially disastrous for my sales.

But then, it seems, I am treating the kiln entirely as the servant of those goals, and the timing does become more important than other values and the results working out become incredibly pressure packed. For instance, my glazes right now have been thrown into confusion with a new source of Iron oxide, and I’m not getting the results I expected or, frankly, was counting on.

The lesson must be that I am running into trouble by not seeing the wider picture. The kiln is part of a process, but not simply a means to ends. If that process is an end in itself, if I enjoy making pots for the sake of making pots, for the sake of creativity and discovery, then the kiln not working may have interrupted the cycle, but being broken doesn’t also mean that my pottery making is broken. Delayed, perhaps, but not broken. And the results of my glazes being new to me is a reminder of the power and importance of serendipity. There are things about the new ways these glazes are looking that are so different and so interesting in their own right that I now understand I will be spending months if not years exploring them. And how exciting is that!

So, in the end it comes down to my own attitude about the little hiccups that life sends my way. I get disappointed when my expectations are not met, when the default attitude towards the lemony things in life gives me only sour fruit. But that’s up to me to interpret differently. Things only become obstacles when they intrude between means and ends. Ends become easily frustrated when they are not ends in themselves. David Foster Wallace said it nicely in his commencement speech from 2005:


Peace all!

Happy potting or otherwise creating!

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, Creative industry, Creativity, Ephemera, Imagination, metacognition, Pottery. Bookmark the permalink.

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