The difficult news……

Okay, I don’t know how to say this the right way. There probably is no right way, and saying it is never going to be easy. Some of you may have heard, through us being friends on facebook or through the grapevine, but about two months ago I was diagnosed with cancer. Stage four cancer. Not good news……

It has been just over a year since I last posted on this blog, and I now understand the reason my voice has been absent so long: I have been dealing with an illness that stopped me from doing much of what I took for granted, much of what I enjoy doing. For some time I have been thrashed by this thing growing in me, years apparently, and it is only recently that I’ve begun fighting back. The previous 6-7 months have been the worst health in my life. And now we know why.

One sad thing is that I may not get to do pottery anymore. Possibly. We’ll see. I will need chemo for the rest of my days and my immune system may not be so happy subjected to a clay environment. I am hopeful that won’t be the case, that eventually I will regain some vigor and take up my sponge and metal rib, plunge my hands back into a bucket of liquid clay. I have so many things left I want to do! I have so many things left I still need to make!

Since I started treatments I have also been a bit fuzzier than I like, but hopefully that too will improve along with my general health. I enjoy thinking things through, and it hurts to have those skills impaired. I have things I want to talk about. Really! 🙂 I’ve been so grateful that some of what I share here on this blog finds an appreciative audience. I must have written close to a million words! That takes commitment! There are 410 published posts (@ 2,200 words avg) and an amazing 409 that are stuck as drafts. I hope these essays will continue to make a difference long after I’m gone……

So this is my new reality. I don’t really know what the post-diagnosis me is going to face. Too much is unknown. Will I respond to treatments? Will I be able to some day resume making a living as even a part time potter? What I do know is that the steps moving forward are going to be different.

Thankfully I have been surrounded by some really great people, and many of my needs are being taken care of. Folks are bringing me meals or having them delivered. Groceries are getting dropped off at my doorstep. People have organized the clutter in my house, gotten rid of so much unhealthy excess, and even taken control of my languishing garden! I am truly humbled by the caring and generosity that has been shown to me…. I’m amazed and humbled that my friends have all come together and made this transition less filled with dread. It’s just a shame it often takes a tragedy for the wonderful people in our lives to shine their brightest….. I imagine my health will get worse in time, but right now I feel so blessed with the community supporting me ❤

Thus far this blog is a sort of hidden community. I know so many of you reading this will be potters like me, and I will be very glad if you (if everyone) have me in your thoughts. If we have met or communicated here I’d love to hear from you again! If you have not yet introduced yourself I would be interested to meet you! If there are essays that made you think differently or that you find some value in I’d be glad to hear about it. 🙂 It is hard knowing who’s out there. Writing a blog can be a lonely exercise. But it seems worth doing! I’m not giving up yet!

For those with the resources and interest, my friend Carrie set up a Gofundme project that is helping me change my situation into something more manageable and will contribute to paying some of my bills. It is also important that I replace the income from at least one missed pottery sale season. Feeling as sickly as I did to start the year I was never going to be ready for my June sale and the diagnosis made sure I wouldn’t even attempt it. I hope in the next few months I can resume potting to prepare for my Holiday sales, but otherwise my income will be stalled out…. You can donate here (I feel bad for even asking, but some folks will appreciate the chance to do something to help). Thanks everyone!

And a last plea….. Don’t wait too long to get yourself checked out! By the time I realized something was wrong it was already too late…. Be smarter than I was!!!!

All my best,




Posted in Uncategorized | 10 Comments

The potter’s place

Something I had written a few years ago:

“Being a potter isn’t a ‘job’. It’s being the nexus of a very special community that forms to create and sustain beauty in the humble corners of daily life. Every time you add something new and beautiful to your life or share a pottery gift with someone you know the circle has a chance to get that much larger, helping make the world more a place where handcrafted beauty is welcomed and local craftsmanship is nurtured.

Thanks for all you do!”

Tony Clennell, Steve Driver, Ron Meyers and me a few years ago at Ron’s studio. So grateful I get to share community with those folks ❤ 


Posted in Art, Beauty, Ceramics, Creative industry, Creativity, Imagination, Pottery | Leave a comment

Pottery sale this weekend (!)

I am almost done glazing and firing for the sale this weekend at my studio! If the rain holds off today I will get the last load in and be able to start cleaning the studio (don’t want to kick up too much dust while pots are ready for glaze!). If you folks know people in the Athens GA area, tell them to come on out and see some pots 🙂 You too if you live close enough!

The sale is this Saturday and Sunday (June 3 & 4), 10am to 4pm both days. The studio is located behind the purple house on the speed bump at 572 Nantahala Ave.

Hope to see you!

Here are some pots in the meantime:


Posted in Art, Ceramics, Clay, Pottery | 3 Comments

Being There for the arts

Chance the Gardener: Yes. In the garden, growth has it seasons. First comes spring and summer, but then we have fall and winter. And then we get spring and summer again.
President “Bobby”: Spring and summer.
Chance the Gardener: Yes.
President “Bobby”: Then fall and winter.
Chance the Gardener: Yes.
Benjamin Rand: I think what our insightful young friend is saying is that we welcome the inevitable seasons of nature, but we’re upset by the seasons of our economy.
Chance the Gardener: Yes! There will be growth in the spring!

An interesting discussion on Barry Hessenius’ blog concerning the public perception of the arts and what to do about it. This is the issue, as Barry phrases it:

What is the Arts Brand – not that of any individual arts organization – but the whole of the arts?

I think over the past couple of decades we have succeeded in increasing the brand’s image as a sector that has an economic component valuable to both the local and national economy; as responsible for jobs and economic benefit.  We’ve moved the dial in the perception of the brand as valuable to placemaking, and as an important part of overall education.  We’ve expanded the brand somewhat to include a wider consideration of creativity and its importance.  And there has been much discussion of the wisdom of the brand emphasizing the ancillary values of art over the intrinsic values.  Both are part of our brand. While audience attendance may be down in many situations, online involvement is up and the choice of arts experiences has never been deeper.

But despite those developments, we still suffer from our brand being regarded as a  frill; something elitist and exclusive and, the evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, as not a priority item when it comes to support – both financial and otherwise.  While we may legitimately think of the arts as essential to the very fabric of society, alas, that’s not our brand image.

How do we change that part of our brand?


Somehow, we have got to figure out a way to move the brand in the public mind to being considered a value of such magnitude, and one without any reasonable disagreement, that the consensus is that the arts are as important as the ecology, as necessary as education, as valuable to the individual as health.  Unfortunately, the overall brand is more than just the sum of the individual brands of the thousands of organizations that comprise the field.  It is both a part of those individual brands and something distinct and separate from them.


Mind you that effort is not simply a catchy slogan or fancy logo. While the Art Works phrasing initiated during the Rocco Landesman NEA era is of value, it simply isn’t, by itself, enough to have changed the public’s brand perception.  Partly that is due to the fact that for the most part, the audience for the slogan and the meaning behind it, is largely us. It is  principally directed inward. It preaches to the choir as it were.  We haven’t had the money or other resources to mount an effective campaign to make the public aware of it.


The alternative is to simply let the Arts brand mean what it has meant (not to me, not to you – but to far too many) – an elitist pursuit that while valuable, is a luxury society can often ill-afford when compared to higher priorities – despite its contributions to society on other levels, and despite its theoretically widespread public support.  (I say theoretically, because while public opinion sampling polls invariably show substantial public support, the perception of us as an elitist frill still dominates decision making on every level.)  People say we are important, but rarely translate that belief into actions.

My response was:

Quick thoughts:

You differentiate between messages that are directed inward (preaching to the choir) and outward (often leading to the interpretation as an elitist identity). You either are speaking to insiders who get it or to outsiders who need to be told.

The problem I see is that as long as we phrase the message as being *for* outsiders there will always be an ‘us’ and ‘them’ type divide. Art will always be what other people do. And no matter how well we link it to social values like benefits to the economy, outsiders’ connection to the arts will always be tangential and conditional.

Which suggests that we *need* to make the message an inward directed version that simply includes more people. Make the message something that highlights their inclusion, that they already belong. Phrase it in such a way that they get it. If you have to make the message either inward or outward, and outward has this built in limitation, what is needed is an inward directed message that simply starts from a wider position such as to embrace more of the people who can feel as though they belong.

The thing most people take for granted is how embedded art is in our lives, and so we need to remind them that they *do* have a stake in art. Not for the economy, but for their own way of life.

Imagine the world without art, and you have a comparison of how much we depend on art for our existence. Every parent has a kid who learns the world through creativity. Ever adult was once a child who drew pictures. Most people’s homes are decorated with creative flourishes, and these are far from incidental. *Everyone* recognizes beauty and includes it in their lives. Everyone listens to music. What would a world be without music? If folks can even imagine that we have a case for the human necessity of creative acts and for the requirement of art for a human life.

The best brand for the arts as a whole will be a reminder that art is not optional for human life. The confusion has been that the individual brands for individual art forms and institutions have the tendency to overreach. It is not the case that Opera is itself necessary, and it is only our attachment to it that offers up a claim along these lines. We need to think deeper. Spaghetti may be optional, but food is not. Imagine a world without any food. We cannot argue the case for food simply on the merits of spaghetti….

Barry said:

I agree with you too Carter. But see my reply to Margy above. How to we implant the message in the public consciousness? I am less concerned with what the message ultimately is. I believe smart people in our field such as Margy and yourself can help create smart messages – but how do you get them into the public mindset? That’s the issue.

And taking the idiom of planting and fields to heart I gave it my best Being There, Chance The Gardener, metaphorizing:

I think there is also a dichotomy here as well, between what one puts out positively as a message promoting the arts and what needs to be done to silence the negative/counterproductive messaging that stalls people’s identification with the arts. In other words, it may be more important to *not* say certain things that would otherwise orient perception of the arts in a polarizing and marginalizing way.

Human psychology is endlessly weird, but also strangely predictable. With entrenched world views there is something frightening about how pervasive and deeply situated our motivated reasoning, our confirmation bias, and also the backfire effect seemingly are. One of the hurdles we definitely need to transcend is the negative perception of the arts, based in part, as Margy points out, on the way we frame things. We simply need to stop feeding this negative framework. You don’t often change minds with direct rational appeal, but rather need to open the cognitive space in which new ideas can flourish.

Consider it something like weeding a garden patch before sowing seeds. The soil must first be prepared. And it is little wonder that the positive messaging is so fruitless when sown in hostile and barren environments.

So yes, I too believe that folks like Margy will come up with great ideas for the branding the arts need, but in the meantime we can do the work of clearing the field and removing the stumps and boulders. For a crop to be planted and eventually harvested we need to have a soil that can support what we hope to grow.

So the question for us field laborers becomes, “What are we doing that marginalizes the arts? What do we need to stop doing so that the soil will have a chance to become receptive again? What messages and actions undercut the value of the arts in general, even if they are enacted in the name of specific arts and specific art causes?” Anything on this list needs to be looked at closely and weighed against the goal of the more arts appreciative society we hope to one day build.

My two cents worth, at least.

Then a day or so later Joe Patti wrote a blog post that specifically highlights the activity of ‘clearing the field’ necessary to reorient perception. The examples were the practice in Korea of using English names to circumvent the traditional attitudes of hierarchical interaction that were embedded in the practices of only referring to people by honorific titles, and in Japan conducting board meetings in English to, “break down the hierarchical, bureaucratic barriers that are entrenched in Japanese society.”

If arts culture and culture at large are something like a garden we cultivate, what we do positively in messaging our values only thrives to the extent that it is permitted to grow by the conditions of the soil in which it gets planted. And to amend the soil it is sometimes necessary to remove the dead wood, clear the obstructions, break new ground, before the honest work of planting can even take place.

Peace all,


Posted in Art, Arts advocacy, metacognition, Wittgenstein | Leave a comment


A friend asked me to write an essay for her website and I happily obliged! The project she is engaged in is absolutely worth exploring. Having confronted failure in her own work, and seen the impediment it can be for all creative ventures, she decided she could help create a discussion and sense of community around the idea of failure and so strengthen our resolve in its face. She has asked artists to share their stories of failure to help remind us that above all it is something we survive and grow from. Because, sometimes we DO need that reminder.

Check out her website. This is the essay I wrote for it:


As if things are not hard enough on artists, as if they were not already tormented within sight of (if not exceeding) their breaking point……

The idea of ‘failure’ for artists is a sometimes overwhelming part of our lives and it can paralyze even the bravest among us. We can be crippled by self doubt, crushed by falling short, and otherwise hamstrung by not ‘measuring up’. Failure is notorious for artists. The ‘bad’ angel perched on our shoulder. It only sulks back into silent darkness amidst our great triumphs. And only then with a vengeful appetite to reclaim its lost hold on us, to resume whispering its insidious deflating innuendo….

Failure walks by our side at every stage. One small misstep or stumble in the wrong direction and our gift to the world is on life support. Often terminal, but always damaged. ‘Success’ hangs by the slightest of slender threads…..

Or that’s how it can seem at times.

But I also think ‘failure’ is too often very poorly understood: What’s not confusing about it? When it strikes we can go numb or sink in despair. It rarely brings out the best in us, and our rational sense-making can crumple in its presence. Sometimes our anger in facing it down is our only survival skill. So why would we think something this calamitous is necessarily that easy to get a handle on? We shrink from failure as we shirk this very question.


I believe there are at least two areas of failure that need better exploring, and both are matters of our judgement. One aspect of failure we should address is how we measure failure, and another is what consequences failure necessarily has. Failure is something that happens to us, so how does it happen, and why does it leave what it leaves in its wake? Are we simply the victims here? Or, is there some part of this that can be made to put the ‘enemy’ on its own back foot? Are we creative enough to figure this out? Can we ‘lose’ the battle but win the war? And even win the battle but lose the war….?

First off, to measure failure implies that there was something aimed at, something against which our efforts are weighed. Failure requires a thing, a standard, that our efforts did not measure up to. There is no failure in isolation. Failure only happens against a background of the criteria for ‘success’. Our work is not a failure in itself, only in relation to something else: The measure of our failure. Our stereoscopic vision is challenged to see our art not just for what it IS but for what we want it to be.

So how is failure measured? What is its measure? Is this the same for everything? Or are there diverse measure and unique ways in which failure can be assessed? For that matter, is failure necessarily ‘absolute’? Are there degrees? If a work aims at more than one thing, does well in most of them, by what means do we determine its success? All or nothing? Better than 85%? Simply the ‘most important’ thing we aimed at? Doesn’t it depend?

Complete failure is so rare as to be more myth than reality or so narrowly defined as to miss the larger point. It’s the boogeyman hiding in the closet. But we are often trained to accept only ‘the best’ from ourselves, and the intimidation of ‘failing’ can contort our sense of proportion. Any ‘failure’ becomes mythological, in a sense. It can make us resent our work and hide any but the chosen few results unscarred by failure. We sometimes lock them away or destroy them outright. Too damaged to be allowed to live in this world…..

In some cultures they put the sick and malformed babies out to die, as if the nature of their weight would drag the rest down with it…. Our creative offspring are at the mercy of terrible forces, unforgiving and stone-hearted judges. We have not learned well how to love our failures…. We do not often accept them into polite company. Our artistic failures are orphans if they can escape us…..

Which is why this project being put together by Christine Leoff-Dawson is so interesting, ambitious, and potentially important. There is no hiding that artists are rough on their failures. Sometimes we have good reasons, but more often it is a culture of responding to failure that throws each failure on the scrap-heap. We must unlearn these habits of mind, learn to place each ‘failure’ in its proper context, find what we can that IS worth loving, and together grow what can be grown from not simply the best of the seeds we have sown. We need to be better than the angry archaic gods smiting their disobedient children.

Because the truth is that our own judgment is suspect. What we like today we may dislike tomorrow. What ‘failed’ yesterday may surprise us later. If we are the gods casting judgment, we are not reliable in any permanent sense.

And we can’t even rely on being understood by our audience. It is a considerable miracle when anything we do gets understood the way we intended it. Art is a language we invent as we go, and as such communicates to an audience by the appearance of familiarity more than the grasping of essentials. The common ground of actual communication is mostly lacking. At best we have an apparent ground, and the audience likes or does not like what you do for their own considered reasons. Not yours, in any sense. Except, perhaps, in very rare circumstances……

New art simply does not have the cultural foundation to make sense widely. It cannot say what it means (the ‘words’ are lacking), and so it must show what it intends. The audience must grasp it in unfamiliar hands, apply the standard tools of judgment on this strange nonconformity. And the more our art diverges from their expectations the more we challenge an audience to go beyond their own limits. Expression and impression are more likely than anything that qualifies as ‘communication’…..

The only conclusion seems to be that ‘failure’ is a useful fiction and a temporary designation. There is no one standpoint which confirms it for all time. Neither the audience is specifically entitled to judge, nor are we the artists in an objective or fair-minded place for it. At worst failure is a dead end in our process, and the choice for that usually depends on us. We take things no further. We back away. At best failure is simply the stepping stone to our next destination, itself the stepping stone to further explorations. And yes, that step can even be a backwards one 🙂

Failed art is part of our own story, and we can play it as a tragedy, a comedy, or a thrilling adventure. There are elements of all those things if we see in the proper light. But the story itself is important. If we frame it right the failed art actually IS a comedy, it IS a thrilling adventure…. We too often lack the imagination to see it as more than a tragedy, but that is on us. And the question we are left with is “Did the art fail us, or did we fail the art?”

If we hope to do better there seems only one response worth giving:

Lock your shame in the closet and put your ‘Failed art’ up for exhibition!


Posted in Art | 2 Comments

Better pottery through accuracy and precision

“I don’t think you can talk about progress in art—movement, but not progress. You can speak of a point on a line for the purpose of locating things, but it’s a horizontal line, not a vertical one.” Donald Barthelme

Several folks in my community have accused me of being “a better potter” these days, suggesting that from where they stand it appears that I have improved remarkably. Thanks!, I guess….

But I confess this has also left me uneasy. What? Was I not so good that long ago?…. Or maybe I just can’t take a compliment.

Yes I am a curmudgeon. That I won’t quibble with! My response probably says more about me than either the people doing the complimenting or even what got said. Am I getting it all wrong? These people certainly mean well, and want the best for me. Why does it not feel like a compliment?

What, exactly, am I obsessing over? Don’t I acknowledge that some things I am doing *are* better than before? Am I not constantly trying to ‘improve’ my craft? Are they not simply noticing the consequences and effects of my hard work? If I can say with confidence (if not authority) that specific aspects of my pottery-making are better, can’t I also say that I am a better potter? Doesn’t ‘local’ improvement also imply a certain improvement ‘globally’?

The world is interesting enough that all those things may be true in some sense, and yet fall far short of another explanation. I am uneasy about being called a ‘better potter’ for, I think, good reasons. Let me describe it to you:


What is the difference between accuracy and precision? Sometimes they seem to say the same thing, right? But there is also an important difference that we can (need to) make sense of. Accuracy does not always mean precision. They come closest together when being accurate IS being precise, but those, it turns out, may be very narrow circumstances.

For example, accuracy has to do with how well we hit the target we aim for, but we have not as yet described what we are aiming at. The accuracy depends in some part on the kind of things we are aiming at. If the target is precise, then our accuracy itself may be drawn with precision.


“Take a dart board and aim for the bulls eye.” You either hit it or you don’t. Some misses count worse than others. There is a range of precision that determines how accurate we are. These are sectioned off in areas bounded by metal wire. The ultimate precision might be the Robin-Hood-splitting-an-arrow type, where ‘exactness’ is something absolute.


“Cut a length of wood 15 and 3/4 inches.” You measure the wood, get out your saw, make the cut, and check to see how accurate you were. You can eyeball the results and see that ‘within an acceptable tolerance’ you were accurate, or you were not. And the further away from the mark the worse your accuracy.

But how precise is ‘precise’ here? Is there an absolute? Or only practical increments? Degrees of precision? Do we need a micrometer to gauge our accuracy? an electron microscope? or is the relevant precision measured more to what the eye can easily discern? Do we care about being ‘exact’ to the nearest .0000001 of an inch? What, precisely, is ‘measuring up’ here?


“Park the car close to the house.” What counts as being accurate? In the carport? In the driveway? In the garden? What if the target is left open ended to a certain extent? What if the target itself is only roughly described? If there is no one absolutely accurate location are there even necessarily degrees?


Accuracy does not, it seems, always depend on precision. If you are not aiming at something precise, then measuring the absolute accuracy loses its potency. (We would be entitled to ask, “Is the garden ‘close’ enough?” And remember, we did not say “as close as you can”, merely “close”.)

We aim at ‘fuzzy’ and ambiguous things all the time. Not everything we do even counts as aiming. Sometimes it is ‘searching‘.


So what does it mean to be called a ‘better potter’? Is it like getting closer to the absolute center of the bulls eye? Is it being measured by a distance from an absolute point? Because I want to say that ‘accuracy’, measuring up, necessarily implies some sort of ‘aim’. And so becoming ‘better’ seems to indicate a target of some sort:

If I am a better potter now than I was before, what exactly am I aiming at? What do these people think I am aiming at?

Because the idea of aiming does seem to count for something. We assume that aiming is a necessary first step. We in fact assume that aiming is a necessarily desirable first step. But that is not universally the case, no matter how true it is in some circumstances.

For instance, sometimes aiming, and in fact precision in aiming, is itself counter productive. As behavioral economist Dan Ariely puts it,

Trying not to think about something is one of the best ways to ensure that you think about it constantly. If you try not to think about polar bears for the next 10 minutes, you will think more about them in those 10 minutes than you have in the past 10 years.

Aiming itself can occasionally be self defeating, in other words. Aiming is simply not everything. It is by no means everything important.


Let me give you an alternative way of looking at this: Being a potter is not just one type of thing, but many. If I can be measured as ‘better’ in some respects I can also be measured as ‘worse’ in others. Being a potter is not a simple or a unified thing. So saying you are ‘better’ than before (or better than others) ignores the complexity of what you are doing and boils-it-down to some essence that may or may not have anything to do with your own ambitions. That is, it may have little to do with the complexity and contradiction between the values you take into the studio on any given day, much less from one day to the next. 

Consider that carefully.

For instance, for many of us being a potter can be seen as something like the adventure of learning new games. If we are simply playing one game, by one set of rules, with one particular way of ‘winning’, then it IS simple. But making pots is rarely that simple, unless you are working at a production line. Instead, at one time we may be doing something like playing checkers: These operations with these materials with these goals in mind. And then we see something new that intrigues us, and before we know it we are playing chess: Same board similar pieces, but different moves and different objectives. (This is an important comparison)

Now if we are talking to someone who likes chess more than checkers, it will seem as if we are doing something ‘better’: We are ‘better’ at playing games because we are playing better games. And if we ourselves like this new game more we can affirm it as an improvement to our playing. Our practice is simply interpreted along the aim of the relevant people viewing it. Our values entitle us to make this claim.

But notice here that what we are measuring with is how we feel about particular games. We are measuring by our commitment to the games themselves rather than an independent calibration. We are measuring with our own bias, which may or may not be fair.

That we have these preferences is entirely understandable. And that we attempt to justify our choices could not be more natural. But if we say something like “Chess is more complicated, and therefore a better game” isn’t that also arbitrary? What made ‘complexity’ the right standard to measure by? What made it right in this particular circumstance? And complexity as measured how?

What if we next learned the game of Go? Similar pieces to checkers and even simpler ‘moves’, and yet arguably the hardest game to master. We need a new standard to make claims that Go is necessarily ‘better’ than the other games. And if Monopoly is our next game, what then? Risk? Scrabble? Trivial Pursuit? What if the game is as loose as two kids playing in a sand box where there are no rules beforehand and everything is improvised and invented on the fly?

What if we are occasionally potters without precision? Sometimes even without aim? What if we are sometimes explorers instead, and ‘accuracy’ is sometimes invented after the fact of having chosen our direction? What if we simply act, and figure it out afterwards? What if our ‘justification’ is simply how we reassure ourselves after we end up where we end up?

Sort of like this:


The point is that if we take away the notion that being a potter is simply one thing we must also dispense with an absolute sense of accuracy and the ‘better’ it entails. Perhaps also the idea of precision actually matters less in the abstract of absolutes than it does in the specific meanderings of what potters themselves decide they are doing. That is also worth considering.

We just care about different things. And so it matters what we think we are doing but also why. You can be good at chess and terrible at Trivial Pursuit. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? In chess you can be aiming at checkmate and also at a draw. Which is preferable?

There are a plurality of things worth aiming at, if aiming itself is even that important.

And assuming we are right to judge itself needs to be justified, it seems. We put the cart before the horse too often. We calibrate good and bad before we know what people are actually doing. We take our own measuring to be more important than understanding other people’s motives…. What consequences does this have?

The real world is ever so complicated. You can be aiming at just about anything it is humanly possible to imagine, and construct your own sense of precision and accuracy around those details. From the outside isn’t is simply easier to make assumptions? What looks like failure might end up as a new interesting direction. What looks like ‘success’ can be a dead end…..


An artist’s own understanding can be difficult to pin down. It doesn’t always work out that the ideas I am experimenting with have uses in all the contexts I apply them to. Or, the question is sometimes having specific ideas in mind and then assuming they translate into other projects.


“I’m sure you know what ‘transparent’ means, and what a ‘red line’ means. I hope I don’t need to explain it to you… (laughter) You need to draw a red line with transparent ink.” This is what happens when we try to play chess on a Monopoly board using the rules of scrabble. Would we say that “Seven red lines all perpendicular drawn with green and transparent ink” is something ‘precise’? It sounds precise, at least, but the individually precise parts do not add up. How would we measure accuracy in aiming at this target? What would ‘aiming’ even be like here?


Lots to consider! Big questions rarely have simple answers. Sometimes a better understanding is the one that leaves you with fewer illusions, even if the things that remain are not as sparkling and absolute as what we had hoped for. As Julian Baggini puts it, “Clarity of thought often replaces vague confusion with bewildering complexity. Better understanding just leads to a better class of headache.”

Peace all!


Posted in Art, Creativity, Imagination, metacognition, Pottery, Wittgenstein | Leave a comment

Six Friends show at AKAR

If you know me you know that I don’t do a lot of self promotion here on the blog (This is a guy who as a kid used to hide under the table as his friends sang Happy Birthday to him). But It turns out that I am in a show, with some friends, and I’m honored to be there with them. It would be ‘unfriendly’ for me not to promote their work, because this is in fact a really great show. Let me show you how great:

Kyle Carpenter

Scott Cooper

Scott Cooper again

Michael Kline

Ron Philbeck

Brandon Phillips

Brandon Phillips again (If no one buys this in the next few days I am all over it! (I am doing my best to resist buying from this show so that other people get the chance, but I won’t be held accountable for the failure of the audience to *do*the*right*thing*))

Make sure to look at the pots in the 360° rotation view!!!!! The new AKAR site has done all sorts of things to improve the user experience, in addition to the images on a non-gradual background.

Check out this show!!! Plenty of great pots still up for grabs.



Posted in Ceramics, Pottery | 4 Comments