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The Suck Factor


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#1 Sherman

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Posted 29 March 2010 - 02:37 PM

One of the best, most accessible methods for analysis of one's own work that I have ever heard of comes from Simon Levin, and it's called the Suck Factor (that's part of why it is recommended for self reflection only). His premise is that you can assess a piece all the way around—for 360 degrees—each of those degrees being one Suck Factor unit (SFU). So, every piece can be given a suck factor between 0 and 360. He used this method to track his own work over time, and I think it's at least an interesting exercise, and at most a useful tool for honest evaluation and intentional improvement of one's work. Check it out here. The idea, as seen in the sidebar image in that link, is that your suck factor should decrease over time.
I think it makes accepting less-than-great work a little easier, and it's always a good idea to stop once in a while and see how far you've come.
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#2 AnnieM

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Posted 31 March 2010 - 08:23 PM

I just read the article "The Suck Factor" and found myself drawn to the following paragraph: "In deciding what I wanted my pots to say, I chose words that I wanted my pots to embody; like soft, generous, full and kind. I found these words more approachable than ideas of revolutionary, anti-establishment, earth-shaking social commentary. Then, when I was making a decision about the weight or shape of a lip, I asked, “Is that a soft lip? Is it generous?” I let my intent guide my decisions, striving to become aware of choices I had made without knowing. I worked in series, varying forms and elements, and changing relationships between shapes and surfaces; all the while critically assessing the effect of each change and sum of the parts. The pots deemed most successful were the ones that best captured the essence of the words." This seems to me a positive way to evaluate your pots. Of course the descriptive words can change with each series. I like the broad idea of intent and the words chosen to convey it as a measure of my work. I'll use this method and see where it takes me.
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#3 venetiancat

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Posted 01 April 2010 - 07:16 AM

The title of the article made me laugh out loud. I felt while reading the article that the gist of it is that it is important to be critical in a constructive way without taking oneself too seriously.

Since I have a tendency to beat myself up, I am careful of the language that I use for self talk when critiquing my own work. And what may "suck" for me may be really beautiful to someone else. I think that the important thing is to FEEL GOOD about one own work rather than to pick it apart, and strive for excellence without beating yourself up for past mistakes. I find ways to think about my own work that feel good rather than hold onto thoughts that feel depressing, and I have noticed that my work is so much better (and I SELL more) when I am in a peaceful, happy state of mind. So rather than tell myself, "Ugh, that pit really sucks, it's so clumsy and heavy looking",(which feels really bad to me) I can say "Well, now that I've made the prototype and worked out the kinks, it will be so much easier next time because of this experience and the next pot's form will flow so much more." or something like that.

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#4 Sarah_Archer

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Posted 06 April 2010 - 07:46 PM

@venetiancat: It made me laugh too!

I think Simon's "Suck Factor" system is useful for a number of reasons, and I especially like the fact that it involves 360 "degrees" - "suck" is relative, in a sense.

One of the most useful things I learned in grad school was that "good design" = "appealing to me" (as a response to the concept that any particular era or movement has the monopoly on "good design" as an objective measure). The proof of this is that what is perceived as "good" changes decade by decade. Tastes evolve and swing back and forth; sometimes an artist or designer is right in tune with the zeitgeist, and sometimes they're making frilly, floral work in a minimalist decade.

Do you have a personal "suck factor"-type yardstick that you use to evaluate you're own work?

Does this personal critique system coexist with a community (classmates, teachers/professors, studio-mates) that offers you feedback on your work?

#5 Linnet

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Posted 10 April 2010 - 11:16 AM

I personally like the theory of "Sucker Factor" . I also think how photgenic your work is really matters.
It can be fun to create, feel great, have a great story, be visually pleasing but unless it photographs well, it may just end up looking like a mud pile to someone who hasn't seen it in person.
Ceramics is HOT!

#6 Jacqui

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Posted 28 April 2010 - 02:52 AM

I agree with all of you, I concentrate more on sculpture but have recently made some vases for a competition, to assess my work I include the 360 valuation constantly throughout the working process, I also find that moving a light around my work in the evening helps me to evaluate curves properly, the light allows me to see any irregularities as do the shadows. ( the light is actually stationary when I am rotating my work, but I do position the light in different places ) I am not sure if this will help others, it is just something I picked up working at night ( I have two children ;) )
I also agree with the photographing of work to determine aesthetics, although I must admit that in sculpture often the piece looks better in the flesh.

#7 Marilyn Stew

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Posted 26 June 2010 - 03:13 PM

I think this is a very good idea. For me its just the opposite though. I have to look objectively at everything I do because I'm like a little kid with crayons and paper. I like most everything I do whether it would be considered good by others or not. I use the critique of others to improve my work because I figure they are a little more objective than me. But 360 is a good idea. I made this ceramic clock one time. It was a very one sided piece! But I figured "what the heck", its a clock who on earth is going to look at the other side anyway. I have learned since that quality must be a 360 thing for a piece to be considered "good". I have the clock in my own home. It is a figure of a mother leaning over to give her child a hug. I call it, "The Face of Time". Perhaps art is like a dog, you shouldn't name it until you know for sure if its something you want to claim. You know how it is with dogs, naming is the first step of loving. Perhaps this is dangerous but I consider my art to be part of myself, not perfect by any means but very meaningful hopefully not just to myself but others as well. That is why I drive myself to gain in achieving quality as defined traditionally by the classic elements of design. Does it have ballance? Does it have rhythm? Does it have gestalt... As with sculpture it must be 360 unless it is a ba-relief form and even those must display quality on the flat side to achieve an overall asthetics quality.
"Life is a paradox of complex simplicity and knowledge is a drug that without wisdom creates a fool." - Seasons Maloney


#8 Kelly Savino

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Posted 06 July 2010 - 11:44 PM

I am not sure that suck factor should decline over time. The truth is, if I make too many good pots in a row, I realize I'm staying in a safe zone, not pushing myself or taking chances. I loved Simon's realization that his suck factor peaked when he was in grad school, trying a bunch of new ideas and considering other people's criteria. I try to keep that going beyond grad school, seeking out crits, pushing myself into areas where I am weak or uncomfortable, and generally challenging myself to push everything just an inch past what i am comfortable with.

#9 Marcia Selsor

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Posted 07 July 2010 - 06:59 AM

I am not sure that suck factor should decline over time. The truth is, if I make too many good pots in a row, I realize I'm staying in a safe zone, not pushing myself or taking chances. I loved Simon's realization that his suck factor peaked when he was in grad school, trying a bunch of new ideas and considering other people's criteria. I try to keep that going beyond grad school, seeking out crits, pushing myself into areas where I am weak or uncomfortable, and generally challenging myself to push everything just an inch past what i am comfortable with.


Good point. I have been experimenting and doing some non-clallenging pots. I have a climbing SF index. I decided to stop. Begin fresh and move into a new direction. In this slow economy, I have the time to experiment and no need to rush. Challenge is the key and as you say, Kelly, that is where the SF should be healthy. Go outside the comfort zone.

#10 hansen

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Posted 07 July 2010 - 03:24 PM

So then the learning curve is proportional to the amount of reclaim and wasters in the mosaic pile. That means I must be learning a lot! Another learning curve occurs due to modularity. I became aware of this at the first Orton Cone Box Show I attended at Baker University in Baldwin City, Kansas. A better way to explore many surfaces is create many works with a fast-turn around time. We like to say "repetition" but actually you learn more from 300 different works with appropriate surfaces developed for each work. So instead of 100 teabowls, all the same, 100 teabowls all different, with 100 surfaces, all different. Remember that in Kyoto Technical they have to do 10,000 tests!!!

There were moments when my reclaim clay & mosaic tile piles went down to little if nothing, but mostly it had to do with using the same clays and making the same forms repeatedly. I guess it is a confidence booster, but not always sure what is learned.

Anyway, for beginners, I recommend small works, small kilns.

h a n s e n



[.quote name='Marcia Selsor' date='07 July 2010 - 06:59 AM' timestamp='1278503955' post='1384']
[quote name='Kelly Savino' date='06 July 2010 - 10:44 PM' timestamp='1278477882' post='1377']
I am not sure that suck factor should decline over time. The truth is, if I make too many good pots in a row, I realize I'm staying in a safe zone, not pushing myself or taking chances. I loved Simon's realization that his suck factor peaked when he was in grad school, trying a bunch of new ideas and considering other people's criteria. I try to keep that going beyond grad school, seeking out crits, pushing myself into areas where I am weak or uncomfortable, and generally challenging myself to push everything just an inch past what i am comfortable with.
[/quote]

Good point. I have been experimenting and doing some non-clallenging pots. I have a climbing SF index. I decided to stop. Begin fresh and move into a new direction. In this slow economy, I have the time to experiment and no need to rush. Challenge is the key and as you say, Kelly, that is where the SF should be healthy. Go outside the comfort zone.
[/quote]



h a n s e n
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#11 Marcia Selsor

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Posted 08 July 2010 - 08:48 AM

[quote name='hansen' date='07 July 2010 - 02:24 PM' timestamp='1278534248' post='1399']
So then the learning curve is proportional to the amount of reclaim and wasters in the mosaic pile. That means I must be learning a lot! Another learning curve occurs due to modularity. I became aware of this at the first Orton Cone Box Show I attended at Baker University in Baldwin City, Kansas. A better way to explore many surfaces is create many works with a fast-turn around time. We like to say "repetition" but actually you learn more from 300 different works with appropriate surfaces developed for each work. So instead of 100 teabowls, all the same, 100 teabowls all different, with 100 surfaces, all different. Remember that in Kyoto Technical they have to do 10,000 tests!!!

There were moments when my reclaim clay & mosaic tile piles went down to little if nothing, but mostly it had to do with using the same clays and making the same forms repeatedly. I guess it is a confidence booster, but not always sure what is learned.

Anyway, for beginners, I recommend small works, small kilns.

h a n s e n



[.quote name='Marcia Selsor' date='07 July 2010 - 06:59 AM' timestamp='1278503955' post='1384']
[quote name='Kelly Savino' date='06 July 2010 - 10:44 PM' timestamp='1278477882' post='1377']
I am not sure that suck factor should decline over time. The truth is, if I make too many good pots in a row, I realize I'm staying in a safe zone, not pushing myself or taking chances. I loved Simon's realization that his suck factor peaked when he was in grad school, trying a bunch of new ideas and considering other people's criteria. I try to keep that going beyond grad school, seeking out crits, pushing myself into areas where I am weak or uncomfortable, and generally challenging myself to push everything just an inch past what i am comfortable with.
[/quote]

Good point. I have been experimenting and doing some non-clallenging pots. I have a climbing SF index. I decided to stop. Begin fresh and move into a new direction. In this slow economy, I have the time to experiment and no need to rush. Challenge is the key and as you say, Kelly, that is where the SF should be healthy. Go outside the comfort zone.
[/quote]



[/quote]
I think the bar of eligibility rises on the suck factor, the more critical we become of our own work. That is good. I try to minimize the really sucky pieces, but then I find it boring not to be challenged and trying new things. So a healthy suck factor could indicate a higher learning curve.

#12 Sarah_Archer

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Posted 12 July 2010 - 12:47 PM


I am not sure that suck factor should decline over time. The truth is, if I make too many good pots in a row, I realize I'm staying in a safe zone, not pushing myself or taking chances. I loved Simon's realization that his suck factor peaked when he was in grad school, trying a bunch of new ideas and considering other people's criteria. I try to keep that going beyond grad school, seeking out crits, pushing myself into areas where I am weak or uncomfortable, and generally challenging myself to push everything just an inch past what i am comfortable with.


Good point. I have been experimenting and doing some non-clallenging pots. I have a climbing SF index. I decided to stop. Begin fresh and move into a new direction. In this slow economy, I have the time to experiment and no need to rush. Challenge is the key and as you say, Kelly, that is where the SF should be healthy. Go outside the comfort zone.


I like the idea that a climbing SF can sometimes be the key to exploring a new idea - don't all artists need to experiment and fail in order to perfect new ideas?

#13 Colonel Potter

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Posted 02 August 2010 - 04:16 PM

I read about a conversation between teachers. One asked," how do your students win so many awards?" The other said,"being intimately involved enough to stop a student before they smush what they percieve as a failure." I have saved many a students work from the recycle bin. Some of my favorite "altered" pots were dropped, swatted, backed into. We are our worse critique much of the time. being able to truely evaluate a suck factor may be a good learning tool after you loosen up on yourself. Weird my suckyest pots are the ones that disappear first. (I should charge more.)

#14 Dennis in Uvalde

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Posted 21 August 2010 - 03:22 PM

I think the suck factor index is a fun and clever idea and a critical examination of any work is necessary for growth. I have worked in graphics, metal, and wood prior to ceramics; I feel that a 360° look at what I like about the work and what I want to explore in the next work is a more beneficial approach. I embrace "the happy accident" as an integral part in the life of a work. Rather than one piece sucking less than another, each piece is simply the precedent of the next.

#15 Seasoned Warrior

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Posted 22 August 2010 - 12:52 AM

Ever the icoonclast I believe that "suck factor" only exists in one's mind. I do not make items to satisfy my peers, I make items to make my customers happy and my measure of "suck factor" is how much someone values an item. I eschew juried shows and I don't compete because after all is said and done the 'suck factor" is just someone's opinion of another's work. If a person is happy to part with their hard-earned cash in exchange for my work then to me it has a negative "suck factor" or in other words it has acceptance: if my audience likes it I have achieved success and I am content. I don't care if my peers like it. I don't care if it is "judged" inferior: after all why is a judge the arbiter of what is acceptable in an art form? it has been my experince that those who can do, those who can't become critics! If an item does not sell and I am not particualry attached to it, it becomes grog!

#16 Marcia Selsor

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Posted 31 August 2010 - 07:38 AM

I hadn't given much thought as to others' opinions in the "Suck Factor". I just experienced a major "Suck Factor" learning curve of my own work. Had technical difficulties with a kiln breaking down. It was a burned out fuse but resulted in two loading and unloading cycles. Got kiln wash flakes on dinnerware. Refired a few pieces in a smaller kiln and had some problems there as the kiln was too small and two bowls stuck together, two casseroles stuck to shelves, a cone melted onto a would be racer. I think the Kiln Gods are trying to tell me something like get back to doing what I love doing and forget this production work. It has been years, if not decades, since I had such a struggle firing work.
It has been a real blow, put the brakes on my work. I have been doing a lot of thinking. I have some deadlines coming and need to get going. I think I am ready , but that Suck Factor can really knock the wind out of your sails.

#17 Username

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Posted 02 September 2010 - 12:27 PM

Looks good! I shall try it.



#18 bellonart

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Posted 10 September 2010 - 01:48 AM

This makes me giggle a little bit, but I think it's an interesting way to think about your own work. I never thought about evaluating my work in this way, and while I don't know if it's really useful to help improve, it's an interesting way to see IF you're improving.

I work in a more of a sculpture field, and I think I will try using this tool to assess my work before I fire it. Sometimes I neglect certain angles of my sculptures and it ultimately hurts the overall successful"ness" of the piece... interesting to ponder at least. :)

#19 Pres

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Posted 16 September 2010 - 01:46 PM

One of the best, most accessible methods for analysis of one's own work that I have ever heard of comes from Simon Levin, and it's called the Suck Factor (that's part of why it is recommended for self reflection only). His premise is that you can assess a piece all the way around—for 360 degrees—each of those degrees being one Suck Factor unit (SFU). So, every piece can be given a suck factor between 0 and 360. He used this method to track his own work over time, and I think it's at least an interesting exercise, and at most a useful tool for honest evaluation and intentional improvement of one's work. Check it out here. The idea, as seen in the sidebar image in that link, is that your suck factor should decrease over time.
I think it makes accepting less-than-great work a little easier, and it's always a good idea to stop once in a while and see how far you've come.


Depending on the size of the piece 360 degree round is pretty small view wise. At the same time when looking at functional work, the view should include the bottom. I have often seen nicely done work with such sucky bottoms that they would destroy a decent table top.

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#20 Username

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Posted 22 September 2010 - 10:06 AM

Why does it have to be a suck factor? Why can't it be a success factor? Then your SF can rise over time. I guess I'll concentrate on the positive, after all, BuckMinster Fuller said "Dare to be naïve."






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