Friday, June 30, 2017

"Without Wonder, One Can't Create Anything."

I've been reading In Other Words, by Jhumpa Lahiri. It's fascinating. She is an Indian -American writer, who took on Italian as a preferred language. She lived (still does?) in Italy and writes in Italian; this book is about the process of learning and identifying, more or less successfully, as Italian. So, a creative person, stretching mightily. She says that, in Italian, she has a different voice as writer, is a different person.

The relevant part to making pots: She quotes Carlos Fuentes: "It's extremely useful to know there are certain heights one will never be able to reach". And says "I think that these heights have a dual, and substantial, role for writers. They make us aim at perfection and remind us of our mediocrity... I think that an awareness of impossibility is central to the creative impulse. In the face of everything that seems to me unattainable, I marvel.Without a sense of marvel at things, without wonder, one can't create anything."

I'm thinking yes, and no. It's not so just for writers, but potters too, actually anyone aiming for any action of quality. To marvel at wonderful work and be alert to the distance between that and my work inspires me and impels to improve.

But impossibility? mediocrity? It never occurred to me to aim at perfection. Maybe she does. All these extremes seem overdone to me. Her perspective is wonderfully unsentimental, though. No silly "shoot for the stars" nor "everyone is fabulous".

Back to work,  nose to the potting wheel.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Do Less Better

I've heard that often. I've said it often. But doing it!

In the past week, I've had my nose rubbed in this idea. I've played concerts, not well enough, by not preparing thoroughly enough. I've gotten pots back from 3 different firings, and most are seconds at best.

What are seconds? In the fruit market where I worked in high school, they were the misshapen fruit, sold for less. In some ways good, but not good enough to be fine. In my pottery, they are the pieces that are too good to be trash, but not fine. It's a judgement call, and one I find hard to make. It's about having and using standards for quality. Making less better means raising standards.

For example, this one is good, to my eye.

But  all these cups have serious problems. Trash?

 I love this glaze and I like the shape, and those things came out partly well. But each cup has spots where the glaze was thin enough to come out boring, and thick spots where the glaze crawled, leaving colorless areas.

And one has glaze where it shouldn't be at all  --  the glaze is white when liquid and I didn't notice it there. So hard to toss in the  trash.

That's another thing to learn, not to treasure each piece, or past effort. In Grossmont College's ceramics studio, I've heard, there used to be a bullseye target set up over a trash can. Students could express disappointment by hurling a bad pot at the target. That seems overkill to me; you learn by looking closely at failures too. But a good lesson in letting go. This is not only about pottery, of course. How hard is it to toss material relating to work I haven't done in years and won't do again?

I've recently seen very high standards at work. Helping unload Ellen Fager's kiln, I followed her judgements of the quality of her new work. Some beautiful things are seconds to her.

And I've been in a number of galleries in Portland, Oregon, that also reminded me what spectacular pottery looks like. Check out the Eutectic Gallery, And the Skutt factory hallway gallery

That's maybe 14 inches across,by Meira Mathison.

Yes, a nice set of Stephen Hill piece.

With all that help, I'm intending to raise my standards for my own work.  Not easy, but a step ahead.. Make less better.