A friend just posted on facebook that she had a dream where her studio was split between several media that she couldn’t decide between. “I couldn’t decide which one I wanted to do and then I moved from table to table to table and they were all either too tall or too short. And I could not decide what forms to make. It was all quite stressful. Luckily when I actually went to my studio (when I was not dreaming) I knew exactly what I wanted to make and everything was just right….” My response was this:

The lesson I would take from your dream about indecision is not that you need to know what to make but that you can’t let not knowing hold you back. Having ideas is not the only staring point, and its not even the most important. Get to work, on really anything, and the ideas will start to flow. That’s my dream interpretation at least! Good luck!

As with the idea behind my previous post, knowing is not always the answer. Certainty is not actually a goal that is worthy of an artist. Rather, it is the exploring, the discovery that counts. And for this, having an idea of what lies ahead is only minimally important. Planning will only get us so far. Its as if before we step into the water we need to have an exact calibration of the temperature, whether there are man eating sharks and other hazards about, a chart of the wave patterns, and a program for which waves will be ducked under and which will be ridden in to the shore. Who actually does that?

With something as important as creativity is it actually necessary to wait for permission? The permission that its alright to start only once we know what we are doing? Creativity does not need permission. Creativity only waits for those not brave enough to plunge right in. Be brave! Be your own permission!

Peace all!

Happy potting!

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, Creativity, Imagination, metacognition. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Indecision


    ”– you know, I’ve either had a family, a job,
    something has always been in the
    but now
    I’ve sold my house, I’ve found this
    place, a large studio, you should see the space and
    the light.
    for the first time in my life I’m going to have
    a place and the time to

    no baby, if you’re going to create
    you’re going to create whether you work
    16 hours a day in a coal mine
    you’re going to create in a small room with 3 children
    while you’re on
    you’re going to create with part of your mind and your body blown
    you’re going to create blind
    you’re going to create with a cat crawling up your
    back while
    the whole city trembles in earthquake, bombardment,
    flood and fire.

    baby, air and light and time and space
    have nothing to do with it
    and don’t create anything
    except maybe a longer life to find
    new excuses

    -Charles Bukowski

  2. Scott Cooper says:

    Because I grew up in SoCal, I have to ask: Are we allowed to observe posted signs for rip tides?

    • I’m not exactly sure how to interpret this! Are you referring back to my ‘Riptides’ post and the dangers of tapping into a consumer market? Or are you just comparing a potter’s generic dilemmas with ocean going dangers?

      I would say that indecision is only one of the things that can hold us back, and that there are indeed other dangers and treacherous waters out there for the unsuspecting potter. For instance, a bad back can put the kibosh on our creative generation, as you well know. The warning signs of back trouble are like those markers on dangerous beaches: Don’t play here!

      I think my point in looking at indecision was as a complement to the Chuck Close idea that you don’t need inspiration to start making things. Its not a prerequisite. Sometimes its great if you have it, but its almost never necessary.

      Of course there are plenty of other dangers that hold us up. For instance, needing to pay the bills with just this one source of income. That too can be onerous pressure. It can kill the dream as quickly as anything else.

      The interesting thing for me is that indecision takes a look inward but frames it in an extrinsic capacity: That we are motivated to do this creative thing only by having some internal plan handy to point the direction. Its as if the object of our planning were more important than the process of making these things, whatever they are, whatever comes out…..

      Interesting, right!

      • Scott Cooper says:

        Perfectly interpreted, as I expected. Yes: bad back = treacherous waters. One of several examples that came to mind. Sometimes it’s best to dive in without a second thought. Other times, you discover a submerged rock with your forehead, and only in hindsight realize you should have asked the locals if this pond was good for swimming.

        Thanks for explicating what I couldn’t manage to put together!

  3. Joseph says:

    Slowly started working in clay again as the oldest returned to school after the long summer break. I got back in the studio not knowing what to make, only that I no longer wanted to work as I once had trying to crank out work as quickly as possible.

    With not a clue what to make except that my wife wanted me to make a new dinnerware set as we have had lots of accidents with the mass produced pieces we always had.. So I started to throw bowl forms, and then found my cheese cutter and thought “why not” so have slowly and with consideration been making faceted bowls which keep evolving and changing until I find something I want to settle on.

    I went to two workshops in earlier in the year and the advocated using a high ball clay stoneware, which they mixed themselves, it reminded me of the clay I used when I was an undergrad so I am hoping to source some from the producer this week when I go to Stoke on Trent for the British Ceramics Biennial.

    Also plan on making tiles to plan around with some surface pattern, using my reclaim and few remaining bags of clay I used when we had the studio.

    I have had people recently suggest I go back into business, but there are no plans to at the moment, as the uncertainty of making in clay is too relaxing and fulfilling to spoil with searching for a saleable product.

    • Joseph, I am rooting for you!

      I’m sad to hear you finally gave up the business side of it, but I’m so glad that you have found a way back to making things AND enjoying what you make without the pressures of the marketplace.

      I wish you the best of luck!

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

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