Sunday, January 24, 2010

Hubris, Detachment and Making Pottery

“You can’t always get what you want

But if you try sometimes well you just might find

You get what you need”

Through the years I have found that, of course, Mick is right.

The information I need to make a decision, the lesson I need to learn, the missing piece to the puzzle are all there right before my eyes: all I need to do is pay attention. And a lot of this “paying attention” I’ve learned through the practice of making pots. I can just sit at the wheel and throw a pot and move along. But every so often I am reminded to stop and pay attention, to listen to the clay and listen to myself. And that is what just happened this weekend.

I wanted to get some greenware fired. I had some pieces I had made for an exchange that the Etsy Mud Team is having. I also had some pieces for a commission that I wanted to finish. And, most of all, I had some new pieces: two boxes that had turned out beautifully! I knew that some of these pieces were not yet bone dry but in my hubris I thought I could handle that. I packed the kiln and turned the bottom ring on for most of Friday afternoon, checking the boxes to make sure all was well. I turned it back on again on Saturday and let it run for several hours. Things were looking good so I slowly took the kiln up in temperature and confidently left the studio. When I opened the kiln up today, this is what I found.

The boxes exploded in a shower of bisque shards that landed on every shelf below and in a pile on the bottom of the kiln. All the commission items were hopelessly cracked. I had to laugh at myself! I knew better! What made me think that I could get away with it? Arrogance, of course.

I actually did laugh at myself when I opened the kiln. At another time I might have cried in frustration. I don’t know when I learned this detachment but somewhere along the last few years I stopped attaching so much importance to the end result and focusing instead on the process. [For another perspective on detachment, read Laurie Erdmann's recent blog post.]

In addition, this kiln mishap has provided me with an opportunity to approach the clay with the spirit of learning, to once again sit at the wheel to study the process of making a pot. The centered lump of clay is filled with opportunity to become shards at the bottom of the kiln or a fabulous new pot.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Kiln Goddesses

I am a member of The Mud Team, a group of potters who sell their work on Etsy. Periodically, we have challenges and exchanges (we recently had a casserole challenge and a mug exchange).

Our current challenge is to create kiln gods. Those are the amulets that we place on our kilns to ensure a safe firing. I currently use a variety of amulets as my kiln protectors (see April 25, 2009 posting) and have often thought about actually making a kiln god (or in my case, a goddess) of my own.

I am back in the studio after the holiday hiatus and found myself with some brown clay in my hands as the thought of the kiln goddess played in my head. It's awfully cold and I do my best to keep my studio warm with the portable heater, but I had to bring a second heater this week. So my mind was full of thoughts of spring and here's the first goddess that emerged: a female torso pregnant with new growth! It evokes creativity and potential and is just the lady I need to look after my firings.

I still had some clay left over so I embarked on another goddess. The thought that came to me then was of stages in life. One of my daughters recently laughed that by the time I get up in the mornings she's had what seems like a full day. I replied that I thought that was as it should be because I am (finally!) retired and she is responsible for a home and two lovely children. My first goddess is the young mother~~my daughters. The second goddess is the crone~~me! Here she is. Once fired, the witness cones in her hair will bend to their particular temperature and, I hope, she'll look more hag-like (and not like the Statue of Liberty or the Geniol ad!)

I do hope that these little sculptures make it through the firing because I'm already a bit fond of them given that I am not a sculptor and this is the first time that I try my hand at something like this.