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Chris Campbell

On The Topic Of "soul" ....

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So when does soul come into a potters work?

Beginners work is a battle between clay and person ... a fight to master a process. Not much soul expressed at that stage.

So, put a some hard earned miles on the wheel and personality begins to emerge ... The potter learns to let the clay win some of the battles.

But when does work come to life?

Is it time? Is it within every potter just waiting?

When does clay come alive for you? Throwing? Trimming? Glazing? Firing?

Min likes this

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Dayum Tyler! For someone for whom English is a second language, I think you're very eloquent! Two thumbs way up!! B)

 

For me, my soul goes into whatever I create, be it in clay, fabric or even the garden, when what I am creating is for someone I like/love and know personally. I don't think I could ever become a production potter (not that there's a single thing wrong with being a production potter) simply because that would take too much out of me. It's not just technique, or technically precise and correct work, that carries my soul in the pieces that I make. It's how much I care about the finished piece, and how much I want the recipient to see the love, heart and soul that I've put into that work, just for them!

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Chris:

 

Hmmm.. so many places I could go with this, so many different perspectives. I think a lot about the motivations and personality traits of all artists, regardless the medium they use to create it. Oddly, as a comparison I use the art that Charlie Manson creates and compare that to the art that Micheal Angelo created. One is dark, obscure, full of evil images. The other is full of light, color, and portrays hope and joy. Those are opposing ends of the spectrum, and between those two book ends is every else. Is creativity a product of the soul, is it a wellspring of the human spirit: or is it divinely imparted to everyone? Can it be influenced by our surroundings, can it be altered by our upbringing, or skewered by the tragedies in our life? Do we choose our influences, or does our work reflect those influences that have already shaped us?

I often wonder if the colors we choose to glaze a form reflect our own personalities. Do bright and vibrant colors reflect joy and hope, a child hood memory, or a favorite location that inspired us? if that is true, does using dark colors reveal something about our outlook in life or reflect some unresolved tragedy? I wonder if any artist can sit down and fully articulate why they choose a certain form, or used a certain colored glaze. Then again I do not think there are any distinct boundaries between the soul and artistic expression. Creativity is instinctive; it intuitively knows what form, what color, and its final expression before the hand even touches the clay. Yet it is also impulsive; anything we see, hear, or feel on any given day can influence it. It is also inspired, the silhouette of bird flying over head suddenly is interpreted into the next form we throw.

Okay.. I am done pondering now...

Nerd

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Such depth and eloquence so early in the morning (for me anyway). I need to put the kettle on and sit for a while with a cuppa to think about this.

 

I think my soul kicks in at the design stage, working through all the ideas floating around in my head to come up with just one or two that I would really love to make. I start to make, full of hope that this time the end product will resemble in some way the picture in my head. Being still at that 'battle' stage you mentioned, Chris, I often don't even reach the end of the process.........soul destroying??? But when, occasionally, my pot comes out of the kiln looking good ( It doesn't have to be identical to the initial picture in my head, looking good will do just fine for me!) it's a heart-lifting moment.

 

Sally

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Soul is not visual for me it's tactile.  I have been making pinch and coiled pots some of them are quite large and I can feel the soul building along with the piece.  Often  it struggle against me and want to go in a different direction, sometimes the pot wins.  When I unload them from the kiln I feel like I am touching the soul of ancient potters.  The slightly uneven surface and not quite round has a quality to it that is hard to describe  you just want to feel it.   Denice

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Good question Chris.

 

I don’t think it matters if it's a potters first attempts at clay or if it’s from someone who makes work seemingly effortlessly. I think the soul or quintessence of a person is there all along and must come out; creating something is an extension of their existence. A take on Descartes’s “I think, therefore I am.†for a maker of things “I create, therefore I am.†Not that the two thoughts are mutually exclusive though.  :P

 

I have always been a “makerâ€, clay was the last medium I chose, if I take a break from it for too long I get fidgety. Doesn't matter if the results are stellar or not, (usually the latter), it's the process. Making things is what I need to do to stay sane.

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Dayum Tyler! For someone for whom English is a second language, I think you're very eloquent! Two thumbs way up!! B)

 

Oops!  I'm definitely a native speaker.  I was trying to contrast something I could speak comfortably with something that's a struggle (second language).  Lol, maybe I'm not as fluent as I thought. Lol

 

 

So, if English is a second language for a Canadian, is it a third language for an American? ;)

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I loved reading Chris' post and the responses so far. As a (very) beginning potter, I'm not sure anyone could see "soul" in what I've created so far...to me, many of our beginner pots in class look very similar. But what might not translate yet is the feeling I had from the first moment my hands touched clay - it was darn near divine.

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Well without a sit down and think moment or two, I know that if I was to get onto the wheel, with  my mind  full of busy stuff, or wow that other potter is so good, or oh my last try at this was soooo good/bad , hmm, I wont be on the seat long. Leaving all the busy 'I" stuff behind and the internal conversations, I get into a quiet space, maybe I'm not even there, and I work with the clay, yes initially I have the goal, or the gaol, up front, but then it falls away. and so "soul" of the pot, the clay and within does have the room to present, or not. "It Depends!"

Now off to feed the poultry!

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My soul is always with me, and within me, the root of self-awareness, and the tether to the vagaries of existence as I know it. I suspect the soul uncouples at or after death, and also ditches the physical body temporarily under certain still-alive circumstances (think dissociative experiences, Ayahuasca in the Amazon or LSD, prolonged torture, or profound meditative states). So, in terms of clay, for me "soul" is always first and foremost, good, bad, or indifferent, in the process and product.

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This is deep stuff - a heavy duty philosophical discussion over transference of an intangible quality called soul. Reminds me of the core theme of "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" which I re-read just recently. Excellent book, I think, but you've got to be in the right frame of mind for it.

 

Maybe turning the question round a little might give us a different insight? The term 'soul destroying' tends to apply to any activity that is mechanical, repetitive, unfulfilling. A chore of the most tedious kind. Usually the person doing it is unable to apply any originality or creativity to it; it just has to be repeated in a very proscriptive way with no room for personal involvement. Like a tax return. An activity that needs no human quality to carry it out. So if the absence of any human input other than a mechanical function is deemed to destroy the soul, then maybe any action that involves human qualities such as creativity, original thought, design, artistry, love, could be said to 'feed the soul'.

 

I certainly feel that when an artist or craftsman is functioning well, the extra touch or flourish or fine detail (be it ever so subtle) is there for all to see or hear. It's there in music, literature, paintings, sculptures, buildings, pottery, photographs, furniture, glassware, etc. That's when I smile in recognition of the individual's personality showing, as an integral part of that work.

 

So is that when we recognise the 'soul' in a piece?

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