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I am extremely hard on myself. I'm not 'allowed' to make mistakes. 

 

The past two years, learning to throw, have taught me so much about myself and how I handle challenges in my life. 

 

Lately I've taken to looking at an overwhelming task and saying to myself, "STOP BEING A PERFECTIONIST" because the reason the task is overwhelming is that I'm thinking I have to do it ALL now, all perfectly. I can't just wash the plates, I have to wash all the dishes, clean the stove, sweep the floor, wipe the counters. I can't just hang up laundry for five minutes, I have to fold five loads and put them all away. So the underlying problem behind these unrealistic expectations is that I'm supposed to be perfect on the first try. And if I can let go of that then I can take a step back, figure out what did and didn't work and know what I'm going to do differently the next time. 
 

It is a challenge but I'm starting to win. I do tend to work in fits and starts though. 

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By the way, I have found it's best to be VERY CAREFUL how much I watch very experienced potters. I do learn a lot but I also look at the fluid ease that they have gained with 20+ years of practice and judge my own beginner throwing skills way too harshly. It makes me feel like giving up and the only remedy is to go out and throw *as soon as possible* to get rid of that negative inner voice. 

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My tuppence worth... Over the water in Southern Africa we only have woodworking (for the boys), home economics (for the girls) and art as part of the school curriculum.  So most if not all of us come to love pottery at a later stage of life.  Some more than others (me...) I don't know the reasons that the other african potters have had to arrive at this destination, I'm excluding the african population who have a tradition of making and pit firing vessels, but my discovery was an accident of fate.  I was walking my dogs in a park and saw a small sign advertising pottery classes.  Somehow that clicked with me and two moths later I had started and had set up at home to make slab projects. A month afterwards I got my first wheel and the rest is current history.

Being of the older generation I knew that I would not achieve fantastic results immediately, but through practice I would achieve decent work.  I agree with all the comments about the continued expectation of immediate results, the internet as mentioned, My husband is a great believer in "if you want to know something, go to the internet".  Technology has grown in leaps and bounds from when we were young adults. Typewriters to ipads. 

 

I think that if you are really passionate about something it will "click" inside you and you just know that you will do anything to work towards your goal, be it an international success or a competent potter.

 

Personally I grow each time I touch clay. My soul soars with every contact and I'm content with life..

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Nerd...you hit the nail on the head. " A professional will make a hard job appear easy"  I mean really how hard can it be ...

you threw it in "like" 5 minutes.  Other arts and things do seem to take longer.  Painting or wood making even sewing, quilting, climbing mountains but pottery ...it was a lump of clay now it is a mug.  It has to be easy.

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When I was going through professional freelance photography school back in 1980, my life was dramatically changed by a class in Positive Thinking. The course was 9 months long and at the beginning of the course we were told that a professional photographer could complete the final portfolio in 2 weeks. The positive thinking class happened early in the course and as a result of what I learned, I decided that I would wait until the final 2 weeks of the course to start assembling my portfolio. It was a make or break situation. If I completed the folio, I'd get my certificate. If I didn't complete the folio...no certificate. The work was hard but rewarding, and on the final due date I submitted my completed portfolio and received my certificate of completion and graduated. I was now a "Professional Freelance Photographer"...NOT!

Here I am 36 years later and I'm still learning different aspects of photography.

My take-away from the positive thinking class was PMA or Positive Mental Attitude and I apply it everything that I do. The main objective is to set a goal...and pursue it. The are no failures, just steps in the learning process.

My foray into ceramics happened at the prompting of an 87 year old ceramist whose bathroom I remodeled. She gave me a kiln and suggested taking a course through a local Learning Exchange, which I did. The instructor said that, over the span of the 6 week course we were expected to produce just four Items, primarily wheel thrown. He was astounded when I had completed 21 pieces. That was around 10 years ago. Since then I've aced Ceramics 1 & 2 at a local community college and have accumulated everything I need to make ceramics a paying hobby, including converting a small studio apartment into a pottery.

 

As for expectations...you can never shoot too high. With the right attitude, you will accomplish what is necessary to achieve your goal. It's just that some goals take longer than others to reach. Just saying...

 

JohnnyK

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Guest JBaymore

I think to "re-frame" the idea behind the question I might add that it is not that expectations are too high (as Johhny K points out above), it is maybe that the level of work and time commitment that many individuals are willing (or not) or able to put in to achieve those goals/expectations is where the actual issue lies. 

 

Having goals, even somewhat lofty ones, is a good thing, and the power of positive thinking has always guided me and those whom I know who have achieved their goals.  But you have to follow through on what is necessary to reach those goals.  If for some reason you cannot follow through to the level required to meet the goals you have set for yourself......... then you need to adjust your goals to a realistically attainable level.  Otherwise, you'll be frustrated and unhappy.

 

That above being said, there ARE many factors in 'success levels'.  Some are things that, no matter how high we set our goals, we are unlikely to achieve.  Knowing this is what might be called "achieving wisdom".

 

I am a pretty good (snow) skier.  (Was better when I was a lot younger. ;) )  Started very young, had good instruction, and had parents (THANK YOU!) that supported that opportunity for me.  I lived near a small ski area....... which was basically in the backyard of my high school.  I skied every day in the winters.  Long story omitted here.......... that stuff lead me to eventually hold a professional certification in the snowsports teaching field that less than about 400 people in the USA also held.  Getting there involved skiing in situations and on terrain that most will never tackle..... and many grueling skiing exams. Physical training, equipment tweaking, nitpicking.

 

So.... were there any "Olympic dreams and goals" or something like that in my head?  Nope.  Why? 

 

I had the pleasure of skiing on a number of occasions with people whose names anyone familiar with Olympic level skiing (back in the day) would recognize.  Like Phil and Steve Mahre.  Alberto Tombo.  And so on.  The GAP between myself and many of those other 400-ish people I was a part of and the Olympic men and women was so amazingly HUGE, that the reality was apparent instantly on the hill when skiing with them.  Could I learn from them and make improvements...... of course.  Could I BE them?  Not a snowball's chance in *&^%.   Many aspects come into play with that fact. 

 

One is physicality........ to do the "job" well, your body has to be built to achieve such peak level performance in the specific field.  Another is the willingness to push that body....... to and even over the limits.  To literally take life and death risks.  To risk permanent injury.  I was not gifted with the perfect skier's body.  I did enough damage to my body in the pursuit of what I did accomplish... and was not willing to do more.

 

Another factor is the level of commitment that is required.  A whole life dedicated to achieving that single "standing on the podium" goal.  It becomes your total life.  Everything else slips by the wayside.  Not much of a life outside the endeavor.  I had other intersts that were important also (like clay!).

 

Another is opportunity.  I had good ones in my early development.  Most of the Olympic folks had great ones.

 

And so on.

 

The bottom line of understaning......... I was happy with where I was and what I had achieved.

 

So set realistically lofty goals for yourself... develop a plan to get to those goals.... and stick with the plan....... and you'll get there.

 

If you have not read this book.... "The Outliers" by Malcolm Gladwell ..............it is a worthwhile read:  https://www.amazon.com/Outliers-Story-Success-Malcolm-Gladwell/dp/0316017930

 

Also this one......."Art and Fear" by Bayless and Orland..............:  https://www.amazon.com/Art-Fear-Observations-Rewards-Artmaking/dp/0961454733

 

 

best,

 

.....................john

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A buddy of mine was going to take a ceramics class to fill his 12 credit requirement for some reason or other thinking it would be an easy A and not take up very much of his time (he works a full time job as well). He also knows I would be able to give him instruction. Well I had to explain to him that the ceramics class would take quite a bit more of his time than he thought. I think he took a world religion class instead. Creating good pottery takes skill (years of practice). Decorating pottery for aesthetics even harder. If your driven enough to be a studio/ production potter and can support yourself/ family you have spent great effort in doing so. My hat is off to you and secretly envy you. Ceramics is the one thing in my life I will not remember to eat or do the pee pee dance over and over because I don't want to get cleaned up to go inside and use the restroom. I know gross. I have thought about installing a urinal in the garage studio when I put in the sink. Probably won't happen but it would be cool.

 

I do see new students at the college level and a hand full maybe will excel at ceramics. Those are the ones I will encourage and challenge and introduce techniques to. Those in the teaching business know what I am talking about. Most people do not have the staying power and time it takes to be successful in the ceramics/ pottery world. Most will be discouraged. Mostly by comparing their work to someone who has been at this for five, ten, twenty, forty, fifty years. You really have to love ceramics to be successful and create great things. Sometimes I even get lucky and pull a rabbit out of the hat after fifteen years of trying. I want to make pottery I like so much I would not want to sell it. That is what I am after. Until then I will give most of my crap away which is actually pretty nice according to most people.

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I have been watching videos on brain surgery. I am now ready to put my learning to to the test: any volunteers?

 

 

JBaymore   Having goals, even somewhat lofty ones, is a good thing,

I have always been a man of instinct: which told me many things were being overlooked in crystalline glaze. I have never accepted, nor will I accept that all "variables" in glaze firings are truly variables. Some yes, All no. I have a reasonable expectation that many responses will follow, refuting my statement. :blink:

Nerd

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Guest JBaymore

I have never accepted, nor will I accept that all "variables" in glaze firings are truly variables. Some yes, All no.

 

This is very true.  A lot of studio potters typically think that they have all the variables under control... but there are ones that have impacts that many don't even know exist.  Industry gets its consistency level by controlling as many variables as they can.  But even they have ones that are hard or impossible to control (at least economically) ...so they have some "gotcha's" sometimes also.

 

The "unknown unknowns" are the places that the "phases of the moon" solutions start to circulate in the studio pottery community. 

 

best,

 

......................john

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 Fascinating topic...be it about social change, instant gratification, expectations beyond skill level, or the 20 years plus 5 minutes to throw the 5 minute mug.

 

I am trying hard to claw my way out of the existential tumor of "informed pessimism" that inhabits my being and threatens my joy of discovering I can still function somewhat creatively. So, for now, I have consciously chosen to approach clay in the manner of throwing the spaghetti to the ceiling and going with whatever sticks. That is abysmally ignorant and a shameful abdication of an excellent education in the science and art of ceramics, but at least, for me, it is a forward motion.

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 Fascinating topic...be it about social change, instant gratification, expectations beyond skill level, or the 20 years plus 5 minutes to throw the 5 minute mug.

 

I am trying hard to claw my way out of the existential tumor of "informed pessimism" that inhabits my being and threatens my joy of discovering I can still function somewhat creatively. So, for now, I have consciously chosen to approach clay in the manner of throwing the spaghetti to the ceiling and going with whatever sticks. That is abysmally ignorant and a shameful abdication of an excellent education in the science and art of ceramics, but at least, for me, it is a forward motion.

It can also bring a certain amount of freedom, Lee.  Freedom to do whatever the heck you want with that clay that is stuck to the wall or wherever!

 

r.

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Wow! It took me quite a while to read all the answers. I heartily agree to all your statements, especially that it is not a question of age or of education.

 

The situation in Switzerland (for instance) is the following:

 

Either you are a "kitchen table potter" (you have to pronounce that with pulled down lips at the corners, raised eyebrows and a distinct contempt in your voice) or you belong to the ceramics olymp (you don't need more than 2 hands to count the gods in there...). Nothing, or only struggle, in between. So starting in the ceramics business here in my country, you have to be very good very fast. End of sad story.

 

Don't ask! I am still struggling.... :lol:

 

Evelyne

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evelyne, we are all still struggling.  it is a disease.   if you are bitten by clay your body cannot resist the pull of the clay into the studio and the mind cannot escape thinking "maybe it i do it THIS way............."

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Rather than "a disease", I prefer to think of it as being sprinkled with magical fairy dust and then, thus, being unable to resist the pull of the clay, with it's delightful command to the mind & body to follow along. There's enough disease in the world...let's hear it for more fairy dust.    :wub:

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I guess I'm going to be the contrarian in this conversation. Though admittedly I have skimmed some of the responses, so maybe I'm not alone.

 

I don't see this problem, at least not in a generalized sense. When I taught pottery, of course I met some students who expected too much, or thought it would be easy. I can count them on one hand. For the ones I got to know better, I learned they were the product of some severe enabling by the people close to them. Unique situations, not general. I had dozens of students over the years, and most of them fully embraced the long term nature of learning how to throw. In fact, it was part of the appeal.

 

It has been many many years since I ever heard anyone at an art festival express that pottery must be easy. The last incidence I remember, a man started complaining loudly and laughing about the price of one of my pieces. But here's the whole situation. There were two other customers in my booth at the time. One of them was contemplating making a nice purchase. This man made such a (bleep) of himself, it somehow solidified her decision. "I'll take this."

 

Again this shows that rational and normal people do not think this way. People like this are rare.

 

Not only do I not hear "that must be easy" sentiments anymore, I constantly hear "I've tried this and I know how hard this is!" Sometimes they did pottery many years ago and gave it up for some reason. Sometimes they are only six months in, and struggling with centering, but madly in love. Sometimes they are five years in, and contemplating a career change. They all express copious respect.

 

I think that many of you have met a few people who behaved cluelessly, and are mistakenly attributing this to "people in general" or "kids these days" or something. When the truth is these types of people are very rare.

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Mea,

Your work is so classical, I am shocked that someone would behave that way, but then they are out there. I was at a fair in the early 70s next to Don Pilcher. He had some enormous covered jars there. Am man came by and asked "what do you use this for?". Don told him "marinating fish heads" 

I will never forget that.

 

Best wishes,

Marcia

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I think it is important to note that our perception of youth is warped by our own age. We begin forming opinions and ideas based on others of our own age, and become impatient with beginners (who are often times younger). Instead of offering whole-hearted advice, we give jaded responses that inadvertently discourage newbies. Not because we want them to give up, but because we know how difficult the road to "perfection" is. So it really comes down to a matter of persistence. Some are born with natural talents, others learn and excel to a degree that makes them happy.

 

Don't lower your expectations. Rather, give yourself more time to attain those expectations.

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Some things just look easy ... Like throwing a pot.

99% of us stop in our tracks to watch a demo by a pro and marvel at how easy it they make it look.

So, you really can't fault people for thinking if they start today they can have dinnerware by Christmas.

 

Bet not many people walk out of a Cirque du Soleil performance thinking they could do that with a couple lessons!

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