How I fell in love with pottery

When I was first starting out in clay it was the perfect distraction from my graduate degree work in Philosophy. I needed time away from the cerebral stuff of my normal day, and sitting in front of a wheel with a piece of clay was perfect for that. But I think the more invested I became in enjoying the process and the results the more it seemed worth thinking about. And rather than the sometimes ridiculous cerebral antics of my degree work this was something where thinking well obviously pays off. The more I fell on love with clay the less satisfied I was only knowing it through touch and sight. I wanted to also know why. I wanted to know what things were possible and what things I should avoid. You can only blunder around for so long before the lack of mental investment starts to show…..

I said this a few weeks ago in a comment somewhere and it seems worth sharing. Other thoughts:

Imagine a torrid love affair. Imagine passions so strong that sometimes you can’t live with it but you also can’t live without it. Imagine a slow burning and steady flame where its keeping things just warm enough to continue. Imagine a passion so bright that it burns out in a sudden massive conflagration, destroying everything in its path. Imagine a passion that is all in when its in, but changes direction at a moment’s notice and easily moves on to other things. Imagine just needing an occasional break. Imagine a commitment through thick and thin. Imagine a relationship that makes us guilty and self conscious. Imagine a relationship that thrives on our humiliation. Imagine a relationship that brings the best out in us and allows us to flourish in ways we never could have on our own.

We have a relationship to our art, to the clay beneath our fingers, to our own imagination. What is it? How do we feel about it?

Do you love what you are doing enough to explore it further, or do you love it so much that anything outside your scope is a threat? Do you love it so much that the unfolding mystery keeps that love alive, or do you love it so much that you want it preserved exactly as it is, a moment in time bottled up for safe keeping, like pictures from a vacation or a fly trapped in amber? Do you love it so much that you surround yourself with the expressions of other artists to see what someone else has to say, a conversation in an aesthetic language of form and possibility, a conversation evolving through your own fingers and exposure to what others think is true, or do you love it so much that nothing else matters besides what you have to say, what your own opinions are? Do you love it with certainty and conviction or with hope and humility? Do you love it as something that when shared takes on a life of its own, and that this is its natural fulfillment, or do you love it so much that letting it out of your sight is a betrayal and an act of abandonment? Do you love it so much that finding it a home where it will be loved by others is sometimes more important than getting paid or other fair compensation? Is what you are doing, what you are making just a means to an end or is it sometimes an end in itself? Do we love it so much that we only want it to express our ideals, or do we love it so much that we accept it for what it is? Is the relationship bigger than ourselves or does it turn with only us at its center?

Imagine we were instead talking about a friend, a family member, a son or daughter, or a partner. Does it make sense to treat our creativity differently? If so, why? And what does that tell us about our relationship to what we are doing? Is it just a job or is it bigger than that? A passion? A love? What does that mean for us?

So this is what I sometimes think about. Because I care. Because I refuse to blunder through these things with the blinders on and too much unnecessary trauma left in my wake. If I’m not going to care enough about my art, what should I care about?

No right answers. No universal ones, at least. But what do you all think? Like everything else in life, there’s no one right way of doing it, but if doing it matters then maybe it is worth thinking about……. Maybe its worth finding a way to love what you are doing that makes the best possible life to live.

All for now!

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

2 Responses to How I fell in love with pottery

  1. Scott Cooper says:

    Great questions.
    “Is the relationship bigger than ourselves or does it turn with only us at its center?”

    I’m starting to think even the relationship is an illusion — that the art form/pots/process don’t actually exist, outside of myself, but are a stand-in or a mirror or a backboard or a form for hammering myself out against. Obviously, they exist, in a physical sense; but in terms of what the significance is to me and why I do it, it’s more an exercise in creating my self than in creating something external.

    Or maybe that’s all complete bullshit. Just a thought!

    • Oooh! Ooooh! I love that!

      Or maybe not that its significance doesn’t exist outside yourself but that its primary (?) purpose is to function in your own self evolution? I think maybe it can be more than one contradictory thing at the same time ( 🙂 ) When I think about it in those terms I definitely feel you are on to something important 🙂

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