Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Once a Cousin, Always a Cousin

The day is Tuesday according to my phone. But I wouldn't know it, being in a stir from all the traveling and returning home to an empty nest. (except for Jack and the chickens!) Somehow I find myself off the blogging wagon and not quite knowing how to get back on! So I will attempt by telling the briefest story of the past weekend as everything before that is even more of a blur!

I traveled to Seagrove to unpack my pots with the likes of Bruce, Samantha, Ron and Judith. It was all kind of abstract until we all converged on the Bulldog Pottery home base. All the planning and "shucking and jiving" associated with promoting a show didn't quite prepare me for the pottery get-together that we were about to have. It had been a while since I spent any time with Ron or Judith and when they unwrapped their pots it was quite overwhelming! (but, in a good way)

Samantha, Bruce, and I were reminded that this very moment was why we really created the Cousins in Clay shows! We relished every pot and swarmed around Ron's and Judith's tables. Selling and promoting our own work may have been our original intent, and inviting the most highly respected potters in the country to be our guests might have been a way to draw in our NC pottery collectors, but seeing the work by these guests and spending the weekend together has truly become an honor,  a privilege, and a priceless experience.

We have a very big family of clay, and it's great to come together, share stories, and hold each others pots every once in a while. Thanks go to all that helped make the weekend go smoothly and especially to Ron, Hester, Judith, and Royal for making it a very special time.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Time, Attention, and Caring

The story of the last few weeks is like so many sessions in the studio that lead up to a firing! But this one included a workshop tour to Cape Cod with Ron, and a spring break with the family to Florida! That's a lot of excitement outside of the studio! I can barely remember the events that lead up to last week’s firing, much less comprehend them now. Firing a kiln and unloading the results have a way of eclipsing anything I might have hoped while working the clay or the brush. Seeing the pots coming out of the kiln lead me to question my prefiring-self with questions like, “why did I do that?” or “what was I thinking?” my prefiring-self just sits there with eyebrows lifted together and a head slightly tilted with a sheepish grin.
The gears are turning in my head as I make notes for the next firing cycle in hopes that I will have learned anything about this process, this clay, and this kiln. One thing is certain, I’ve hit rock bottom with that sort of pace! I will be spending some time this week, while I make the long drive to Austin for Art of the Pot, rethinking my work-flow in the studio and what I need to do to avoid burning out doing what I love. The saying, “one day at a time” is fine for a while, but comes a time before every deadline that a certain reality has to be faced. For me that day is when I look around the studio and find myself surrounded by stacks of plates, armies of vases and jars, all wanting to be dressed in ribbons of vines!
Somebody said in a blog post (somewhere, recently???) that pottery takes time. I read it quickly with an under my breath, “yeah it does” and read on without much further thought on the real big idea that it was trying to get across to me. Not only does pottery take time, but time is the essence of anything that is good. Especially something handmade. Think about touching clay, even in the most minor and inconsequential way. Touching the object over and over again to smooth an edge, to attach a handle, feeling its weight, these actions represent caring. Caring takes time. Caring makes stuff good.
I guess this answers my questions to the prefiring-self. Maybe? All that time I spent in the studio I was caring that the form was good, that the weight was right, that the edges were attended to, that the painting was alive, etc. I do have a willingness to make these pots the best they can be. I am willing, but maybe not quite able.
The long hours and lack of sleep made me less playful, less joyful in my work. “The work” became just that. Oh yeah, there is always adrenaline, as my fellow potter Seth Guzofsky pointed out to me in a conversation, but that comes in a limited quantity, just like the sand in an hourglass.
But don't let me bring you down, I did have joy and it wasn't all work. That's just the melodramatic-me being just that! I feel that way after not blogging for a long time ;-) and especially  just after unloading a kiln full of pots!
So, now I head up the hill to take another look at the pots that wait to be sanded and cared for a little more. My joy meter goes way up after spending more time with the pots. It's a good way of trying to answer those aforementioned questions I have for myself. I will sand and sort all with the hope that  they will have a life out there in the world, maybe in your hands. Someone’s hands. Someone who cares. I guess that’s what it’s all about.