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Things I’ve learned from Ceramics/Pottery

I admit I’m a bit thick-headed. Sometimes I don’t learn lessons that I logically understand but in practice don’t until something teaches me the same lesson but differently. Then I’m all, “ooooohhh, I get it now.”

I feel like before I put my hands onto clay, I floundered a lot when it came to art. I questioned if I belonged and how I fit in the art community. I felt not good enough, and I felt like I made too many mistakes. I couldn’t make anything perfect enough. I didn’t even want my husband and kids to see things I made; I was often disappointed in myself.

Creating ceramics taught me what other mediums, thus far had not and boosted my confidence all around, not just with clay.

  1. Mistakes can be the best thing that ever happened. I have never been able to live with my mistakes in other art mediums. I would toss said creation out and start all over before finding a way to work with the mistake or hide it. Now I roll with it. If a mistake happens that completely kills what I was going for, I ask myself what else I could create from what I have already. I’ve ended up with some beautiful results from things that were never planned to be. I’m finding myself more and more creative as I push myself to think up new ways to handle things “gone wrong”. And worst-case scenario- I have pieces I”m not afraid to experiment with glazes on.
  2. Mistakes always teach you something. Last weekend I spent the entire day prepping for a project which I figured I worked out in my head so knew what had to be done. It was another case of – I needed to work that plan out on paper. Instead, I used up all of the pieces I prepped and ended up not being able to make what I wanted because I got the angles wrong. I was so mad at myself for “wasting the day” and then I forced myself to rethink it. Let’s not make it a waste of the day- what did we learn that will help me actually bring the project life next try. I learned to double-check measurements and angles, and that I want to build an armature to work with. I learned to work with my new heat gun. And I now had a bunch of slab pieces that belonged to nothing that would become something else.
  3. Planning can be the right thing to do or a detriment. When building Ridgid things planning can be key- in all things especially ceramics. However, if you’re decorating- sometimes it’s best to have an idea or ideas you’re thinking of but don’t get so stuck on them that you’re inflexible and your piece feels forced. Relaxing and going with it can have amazing results.
  4. If life gives you lemons, use them as part of a still life. I don’t in general like equating trauma and emotionally heavy things to lemons but I admit it amuses me when I think of it in these terms. Take that thing that life tossed you and work it out in your art. It’s so *ahem* cathartic *ahem* and you can end up with pieces that mean so much more to you and maybe help someone else as well. So take that lemon and paint it or sculpt it but let it out!
  5. Don’t fall in love with things, fall in love with the act of doing itself. I would hate ceramics if I didn’t love the feel of clay in my hands and the process. There are just too many ways for things to go wrong and for pieces to be completely destroyed. Don’t love a freshly sculpted, thrown, or hand-built anything, don’t love a bisqued sculpted, thrown, or hand-built anything, don’t love a glaze fired sculpted, thrown or hand-built anything (but you can maybe have strong like for it at this point); it’s a one way trip to heartbreak as the process is so frustratingly fragile you can lose it at any point throughout or after completion. I watched my son drop a full stack of glaze-fired beauties- trust me it happens. If you love the moment you are creating, the process of it you will never end up completely heart broken when things don’t work out because you still got something from it, even if it was not meant to last.
  6. Nothing lasts forever. A throwing streak, a finely made anthing- things change in a second (see above) be flexible and you will be more happy.
  7. If it were meant to be perfect a machine would make it, loosen up I’ve been super super anal in the past about my work. If you do that with ceramics you end up with a pile of clay shavings, perhaps a collapsed bowl on the wheel but not much more. It’s handmade, as is most art, therefore there is no perfection so stop beating youself up for not achieving it and move forward.
  8. Play is not only relaxing, but a learning experience. Stop worrying about a waste of time or waste of materials- play. In ceramics, that’s what a fuck-it bucket is for! If you don’t ever play and just see what you can do you will always be limited by time, money, lack of expereince, etc. You can learn so much and expand your can-do list if you don’t make all of you time about what you know to do, or what you “should” do.

(1) Comment

  1. David K says:

    Love seeing you grow and being a part of your journey.

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