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Tyler Miller

Anxiety Over "the Leap"

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There’s a moment in creating things that gives me a great deal of dread.  It doesn’t matter if it’s writing, ceramics, painting, metal work, or even knitting.  That moment exists.  It’s when what I’m working on stops being a lump of raw material and an idea, and starts to become a thing.  Suddenly, my relationship with the object changes.  I’m no longer creating a work, I’m trying to do justice to a work that exists.  I've heard philosophers call it "the leap."  In one moment it's a potential something, the next, it's real.

 

I get the feeling that for some, it’s emotionally easier after the leap.  The work now tells you what to do.  I think this is why some people draw out their work in precise details or outline their writing to a fine degree.  And I think this works if you’ve got the skill to do so, but I’ve never been so confident.

 

It’s fine to see an idea fail before it makes that leap into existence, but once that leap has happened, the value of the work becomes apparent.  The thought becomes “my failings as an artist could destroy a potentially valuable work.† A lot of pots stay leather hard a lot longer than they should because of this fear, a lot of swords lack handles.

 

I’d be interested to hear your take on that moment when your work stops being an idea in your head and starts being a physical object, separate from you.

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I find it cathartic to let go of a project that is failing. I don’t see it as giving up but rather just part of the process of probing and maturing of the task. Whether consciously or not the thought and creative processes will hopefully be absorbed somewhat and will make the next go more successful. If not then I think of it as accumulating knowledge, and there being no such thing as wasted knowledge this is fine too. Might be months or years before the essence of a failed project is reincarnated but as long as my memory is good then the project is just on hold. 

 

Regarding ceramics I think my work got better when I bought my clay mixer/pugger. Made tossing something so much easier when I could more or less instantly grind up a flop and re-use the clay within minutes. What I do have problems with is tossing something that comes from the glaze firing as a flop. I usually let it sit around for a few weeks then it’s easier to take the hammer to it.

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The artist carries the "failure" not the object, it's just a part of hte process not an endpoint , dot in your landscape, or a speck of sand... Linger on it and you have stopped moving. The "Leap" well, can't see how to land?,  turn the canvas to the wall, and see it with fresh eyes, more informed?,  another time, but as Min writes, just move on.

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Tyler,

 

For about the last year, I've been sidetracked by a project for a client (okay, I only have one) that is moving from idea/vision to implementation. Actually, it is a lot of small projects/pieces that come together in one big idea/vision. And, you've hit the nail on the head -- moving from ideas on paper to reality can be both exhilarating and dreadful. Everyone bought into the vision, now they are looking for delivery. Not sure if it is easier after the "leap", though. I now think of a million small things that tend to cloud the bigger vision, even though they are not directly my responsibility. You want to do justice to the idea/vision; and when you have dependencies on others, it becomes that much harder.

 

In a pottery sense, when I learned techniques from Akira Satake, Eric Serritella, and others, as I applied them to my own work there was a lot of worry over doing justice to what they taught and that my final product would be worthy.

 

Bruce

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For me, it's the time before I start that is the most terrifying. It's easier for me to recycle a leather-hard, carefully trimmed, half-carved pot than a flop straight off the wheel. I think it's because at that point I know I've given it my best shot and it just isn't going to work, so I consciously let it go.

 

When I decided last July that I was going to start selling functional pottery, it started a scary period where I felt lost and panicky whenever I thought about pottery. I finally realized it was because I was at the beginning of something and I could go in any direction, with so much potential for failure. The colors and decorations I chose, the forms, all could be successes or flops and I wouldn't know till I tried them. I finally decided to take the sick feeling in my stomach as excitement rather than fear and gave myself the freedom to make whatever I wanted whether it succeeded or not. 

 

I know so much more about what I want to make and what techniques I prefer to use now. I'm starting to see what will sell, and I have a definite direction ... but I'm very aware every day that I'm still barely on my way, I know that in even one year things will have changed beyond recognition. It does help me to sketch out ideas but those paper ideas take on a life of their own in my hands and often I find myself making unexpected changes as I go, but I'm able to work with confidence as long as I have the clay in my hands. That fear is only there in anticipation, so I find that the more I work, the less it paralyzes me. 

 

On a side note, I very rarely give up on a project. If I'm stuck, I'll sleep on it and literally dream up solutions. They don't always work but they do lead the way to an eventual success most of the time. If I keep working through the block, I always always ruin it, so I've learned the hard way to take my hands OFF and walk away! 

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Tyler,for me 

 

This one thing i do,forgetting those things which are behind..i press toward the mark.........

Äny practice is a practice when its done over a period of time without any gap,steadily ,respectfully,honoring it everyday .Only then does it become firmly established.

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Tyler, I love you even more now that I know you knit!!!

 

I try and think of everything I make as utterly disposable and not precious in any way.

 

At all.

Ever.

 

This way, I can make all the mistakes I want, and it's all just information. Not good or bad, just information. If I can approach things with a certain sense of curiosity and playful exploration, then it's all very much about the process and not about product. To make my work about product..that way lies madness. I have to allow myself to be vulnerable and curious through the whole process, or I get quite neurotic, and frozen. Critique and evaluation of the work always comes after its finished, leading to the next set of ideas and questions to be answered. I fnd an idea has to be allowed to be fully completed before it can be properly evaluated as either a failure or a success. I am a huge believer in artistic *practice*. I sell my work because it is a by-product, and I have limited personal use for that many serving bowls.

 

Writing can be re-written, yarn can be frogged, clay can be recycled or even trashed. (I don't know about knife steel.). There are opportunities to try again. I am profoundly falable. It's not a question of "if" I will make mistakes, but rather a matter of how many. Rather than feel shame at them or my own inadequacies, I try to embrace them with a slightly maniacal glee (insert Bond villain gesture here!).

Somewhere in all this process, the side effect is that you gain skill, so your next piece is at least marginally better.

In this way, I do my craft justice. By doing the best I can with each iteration, and knowing even as I'm making it that this piece in front of me is not as good as the next one will be.

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Thanks for your insights guys, I ran out of likes for the day or I'd "like" your comments as well, Vinks and Diesel Clay.

 

The reason for this post was mainly because of two projects.  One a commission I had to terminate because the client was impossible to please, the other a sword blade I've been working on for way too long.  I'll be the first to admit that I put too much pressure on myself and treat my work a little too preciously, but I think these two pushed me into a bad place creatively.

 

I'll make a definite effort to crawl out of my own head and work on some fun things--and I'll make a strong effort to not feel bad if they fail.  I have a few silly ideas I've been toying with.

 

Thanks again for the great insights, all.

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Sounds like it's definitely time to make something only for the reason that you enjoy making it. And if you're having a problem with having "silly ideas", remember that at some point, someone stood up in a meeting and said "I think we should make a movie about a tornado full of sharks."

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Reading last night the comment of one ceramic artist who said that he didn't have to finish a work to get the fulfilment of his vison...How about that head set , Tyler?

I think I may have even said something similar myself at one point.  It's a nice mentality to have, but I'm not sure how realistic it is for me right now.  It's true that working with clay's a great thing (better than many other activities), but I'm hunting a different kind of satisfaction from it.

 

Sounds like it's definitely time to make something only for the reason that you enjoy making it. And if you're having a problem with having "silly ideas", remember that at some point, someone stood up in a meeting and said "I think we should make a movie about a tornado full of sharks."

 

Oh, I didn't mean silly in the pejorative sense, I meant it more in the "not serious at all" sense.  I've got my sharknado in mind, I think. :)

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I try and think of everything I make as utterly disposable and not precious in any way. This way, I can make all the mistakes I want, and it's all just information. If I can approach things with a certain sense of curiosity and playful exploration, then it's all very much about the process and not about product.  

 

There are opportunities to try again. I am profoundly falable. It's not a question of "if" I will make mistakes, but rather a matter of how many. 

Somewhere in all this process, the side effect is that you gain skill, so your next piece is at least marginally better.

In this way, I do my craft justice. By doing the best I can with each iteration, and knowing even as I'm making it that this piece in front of me is not as good as the next one will be.

 

I love this so much. I am not going to pretend that I succeed with that mind set 100% of the time but I can tell you right now that when I approach it from a problem-solving perspective rather than an "I failed" perspective the results are so much better. My goal is to think that way all the time and not waste my time getting depressed when I have disappointing results in my glaze kiln. 

 

Because I'm hungry, this is coming back to food for me: Always, always remember that at some point someone looked at a slimy disgusting translucent egg and thought, "I'm gonna eat that". And then they experimented until they had an edible result. If they had not, just think of all the delicious foods we would be missing out on. Cake! Quiche! Meringue! Seriously. Each of those represents a totally different approach to the same food with amazingly varied results and had to have taken many attempts to perfect. I don't know about anybody else but I cannot make a cake without a recipe. I like to benefit from the hard work and experimentation of others who went before me. 

 

Now I'm going to go and have a cupcake in all its' fluffy eggy goodness. 

 

 

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I am late to the post, but oh well, here goes.

I believe this is why we had apprenticeships for so long. The judgement would be too strong for anyone to ever believe that their work was good enough . Not every apprentice would have had talent,but those who did would have had the wherewithal to get through all kinds of self doubt.

This is how it works for me: when I am new to something, I don't always have a clear vision OR I don't have have a full understanding of how to attain my vision. So if it is the first, if I don't know what I am making, almost always it turns sour on me. I am not capable of just doodling around . So now I bring a vision to the table, and because my brain loves to complicate, I often don't know how to get there. This used to make me sick, because invariably the project would not turn out as well as I wanted.now I am ok w it , because it isn't terrible for me to do many projects to get to the one I wanted. Now the stomach only goes sour for a tiny bit, usually when I am faced w the truth that things are a bit harder than I thought. I have left my many steps to where ever it is I am going all over the place, and whatever else I feel, I like my work quite a bit. It is not what I thought to make, it is almost always something else, but I usually can imbue it with the feeling I was try to convey, and that gives me delight and satisfaction.

I feel it is very important for my process to finish the work, even if it is not up to my standard. It lets me let go of the whole thing if I don't have the same enthusiasm as before. If it is half done I am doomed to poke at it like a broken tooth, and if I toss it, I better be done w it, otherwise I keep pouring over what I did " wrong" . If I finish it, I can critique it, and decide if I want to try again. And I give myself points for having toughed it out.

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