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Hi folks, 

This weeks Question of the Week comes from Diesel Clay up in Calgary, Canada. She asks: I have questions about resiliency, and getting back to work after various events that have either failed, or gone extremely well. How do you deal wth artistic setbacks, or get back to work after the high of an achievement? Please describe an instance of either. 

 

This is an interesting question, and was hard to put into a title, so I took a little creative license to come up with one that I think fits. For me, there have been several ups and downs with my work, but just one solution to get through it. . . keep on working. Part of working meant getting more aware of what I really liked in pottery I admired, choosing what I believed was relevant to my work, and integrating it into what I was doing.

 

What were some of my set backs? In the 90's I had pots that were white with in-glaze decoration that used a lot of lace, and plant leaves with atomizer shading finished with brush strokes. I was using a white glaze that was eggshell. Some way or other I just completely lost the feeling for it, and couldn't decorate that way anymore. These pots were large jars, and not really functional ware, but decorative, and I sold a lot of them. My smaller ware-mugs, casseroles, bowls etc were using the same decoration and glazes. I found that they were not as durable as I had thought. At the time the larger pots were "canvases" for paintings and glossy surfaces made it harder to see the decoration. Should have used different glazes. So I left the whole idea behind going for other types of decoration. Worked for a long time on developing glazes that were durable and that I liked. Changing my approach completely. 

 

I you haven't posted a question in the pool, please, please do. It makes this job easier!

 

best,

Pres

Min and Callie Beller Diesel like this

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I get what I call wonder lust, I have been making coil pots with Mimbres designs now for a little over a year but I can feel that old wonder lust coming over me.  I have stuck to some areas  for a long period of time.  I did life size and small portraiture sculpture for ten years and tile, murals and fountains for ten years.  I was hoping I could stick with this for ten years, I love coiling, ancient art and Indian design.  I caught myself the other day wondering about a new direction in clay that sounded interesting.  Heading a new direction in my works for me.   Denice

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timely subject.   last week was a very cold, windy and rainy glazing week.  wouldn't matter for most of you but i spray glaze outside.  when it was finally over, if found myself reluctant to go out and open the kiln.  when i did i saw that my very difficult week had very little reward.  the wind took lots of the glaze spray away leaving mostly the larger pieces with so little color that i immediately sprayed more while they were still warm from the kiln.

 

looking at what was left for the sale this coming weekend showed there was less than $500 worth of work to pack up. fortunately, lots left from last year.  i need to take my tent and shelving and pots on friday for the sale running from the friday evening through sunday afternoon.

 

the weather forecast shows a windy, rainy weekend.  i am scheduled to work the day on sunday.  only 40% chance of showers that day. 

 

i keep thinking i am 76, when do i get to retire?

terrim8, Joseph F, Roberta12 and 1 other like this

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IN my business one can feel as you are only as good as your last show. Thats usually not my case as the shows have been going so smooth over the decade past. My last show was my best show ever-that was after doing 24 years at that venue and retiring from it. I gave my customers 1.5 years notice on my leaving. I was north of 22k at that show and I know I will NEVER have another show with those numbers-ever again. I have for months now been thinking about having peaked and am on the downside in terms of that show number. Since my wrist surgery 5 years ago I need to work with less clay . My option is when I cannot stand the pain anymore as my wrist gets worse I will have to have it fuzed. I have had a plan in place to slow down and its really been a mental issue as I'm having a bit more time that I do not need to be in the studio since I cut it down to 6 shows this year and my usual consignment/wholesale outlets.This slowing down is so new for me-Last year I slowed down I thought and had my best ever sales year-this year will be less money and less clay thru may hands.

My 1st show of the year is coming up at UC Davis this weekend and I'm cleaning out my van-something I seem never to have the time for.

It will be an adjustment slowing down as its not my nature. I told myself when I was 64 I would not be heading to Arizona arts shows and I have quit them just as I said I would.I have set a high bar for myself and now that production is trending down its an adjustment that weighs on the mind.

Today I'm working on some new forms for my line -in the next few weeks I;ll work on some new glazes now that I have some time.

D.M.Ernst likes this

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I was in an extreme ceramic down last year. I was hating my decisions in ceramics. Made a lot of bad choices on testing and just didn't have any successes, mostly due to the way I tested and what I was hoping for. This led to a 7 month break(plus winter was cold). Brutal. I can't recoup that time, which I wish I had now. However I am now in a pottery euphoria. 

 

I have to say, I love ceramics, but man it is one long process. Cutting out my bisque firing has drastically made everything better. I wish I would have done that 2 years ago.

GiselleNo5 likes this

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Ups and down, whew!!

Can't go there even 50 years later.Much later though I have worked my way out of architectural work due to age. But still exploring surface marks with alternative processes.

 

Old lady,

I retired from teaching ceramics at the University level when I was 50 after 25 years. Shingles,Fibromyalsia, then pain interrupting sleep 23 x per minute, told me it was the to get out. Pain went away as I blissfully worked in a studio co-op setting, then my beautiful studio in a very hot (temperature-wise) place. And I explored residencies to stay in touch beginning in Iceland,then the Bray, the Clay Studio in Philadelphia, La Meridiana, Vallauris, Rome, Indiana. I have been very happy since then. My work has developed to my satisfaction and keeps me exploring.

 

Marcia

terrim8 and Pres like this

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I've only gotten back to my craft roughly the last 2 years, after a 30 year hiatus (I'm 70). The worst of this short time has been coming to accept that what I used to do and know well (i.e. the science of clay, glazes, throwing, firing) no longer resides in my memory and is now extremely hard to relearn/retain/recall, due to a type of brain damage acquired decades ago. The frustration resulting from the impingements to re-igniting my inner artist was approaching brutal at times, but resiliency has been my saving grace. I am grateful to have been blessed with a sufficient dose of it to keep on truckin'.

 

Getting myself a programmable electric kiln, using commercial products, and doing simple handbulding, has enabled me to truly enjoy my self-defined artistic achievements. I have also come to appreciate that, for me, it is not about scale or longevity, going to and/or being in big events, or even daily production efforts. For me it is all about the deep core satisfaction that has emerged from engaging in a creative endeavor. The bit of a buzz I get when someone else likes something I made is just iceing on my cake. And when they actuall pay for the pleasure...WOW!!  So I guess the psychological ups & downs with clay, for me, have pretty well diluted themselves to merge with my intention to avoid the roller-coaster and just take life-on-life's terms.

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I have a truck load of tenacity and endurance: I can and have gone for years with little to no successes. I know it takes times, and very long hours to figure out how the chemistry works in specific terms. If I wanted to know in general terms, I would just buy some books. However, my personality requires me to know in exact terms.  After nearly a decade, I know.

 

Nerd

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I have a very thick skin, it came from working with very demanding clients that think design comes pouring out of a milk container. I found the best way to deal with the typical "if I wanted it tomorrow I would ask for it tomorrow" person was to charge them a whole lot more. It didn't lessen the stress but at least it put a smile on my face when the check arrived. As a side note, it wasn't surprising that more that a few didn't need it today when they had to pay more.

 

But still there where times that a thick skin wasn't enough. Those times I retreated to something that I have control over, playing my guitar, woodturning, a walk in the woods or if the season was right, gardening. The idea was to do something different even if it was for a short time.

 

Now that I'm retired I found I needed a new outlet for dealing with all those extra hours in a day. My wife knows I get engrossed with new ideas so she suggested throwing clay. So right now clay is my release from a career that I worked at for 30+ years.

LeeU and terrim8 like this

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I was just talking this over with someone so it's funny that it has come up here as well. 

 

I have definitely had my ups and downs, fits and starts. Originally I was making clay stamps to sell online since I first was introduced to clay when my son was very small and it was not an option for me to pursue ceramics more fully. Originally I intended to transition to functional pottery while still making stamps but I have found that I have little to no desire to continue making and selling stamps when I have all these pots in my head begging to be made. 

 

The past 2.5 years since I started teaching myself to throw have been a roller coaster. The first six months I couldn't even center because I was so stressed out about not being able to center. Eventually I told myself that no matter how long it took, I was determined to learn and in the meantime I was going to have F U N. Within a week I was centering my pots and making finished items for the first time. 

Once I could reliably make mostly what I wanted, I tended to spend 6-12 weeks making, then two glazing, then not touch clay for a month or two because my glaze results were not what I had hoped for.

January of last year I changed over half the glazes I was using due to an issue with the QC and customer service of the manufacturer, but I was too impatient to test, which resulted in four kiln loads in a row with 50% or more failure rate. One kiln load had 23 out of 27 pieces unable to be sold because of a single mistake I made. From January to July I became so frustrated and depressed that I seriously considered giving up ceramics for good and going back to the simpler, easier, safer stamps. From July to October everything clicked with the glazes and for the first time since I took up ceramics I started to have flawless kiln loads. After my huge two weekend studio show in October I decided to take a couple weeks off and promptly became sick, then having three back to back colds and bronchitis it was January before I went back in the studio. 

For the first time since I started learning to throw I find that I am in a rhythm of work that is starting to feel like it's sustainable, I really can keep doing this, I really am making something people want to buy! 

 

Some things I have learned, and I remind myself of them over and over to get me out of my funk:

 

1. When I have a high failure rate it is ALWAYS because I am taking risks and moving outside of my comfort zone. This includes flopping pots as I learn a new shape or weight of clay, trying out a new glaze technique, or seeing if I can eliminate a step from my process. Sometimes it fails and sometimes it succeeds but I learn the most from the failures. 

 

2. Just because I don't like it, doesn't mean somebody else might not love it. I have stopped pointing out flaws real or imagined, and just thanking people for the compliments. 

 

3. If I am feeling upset or overwhelmed or depressed, I always feel better if I put some clay in my hands. The answer is not to give up and close my studio, but to let myself go out there MORE than I already do. :)

Joseph F and LeeU like this

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Prez

Woke up this morning with a qotw in my head

 

What movie best describes your adventures in clay: and why?

 

Nerd

Posted this in the question pool for you. . . Copy paste, but could not put it in under your name/ I can only post under mine.

 

best,

Pres

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For me, it is that I live in an area that is quite saturated with potters. There is a really good art school nearby that pumps out professional potters.

I took ceramics in college 8-10 years ago - and didn't keep up with it because of life. I am just now re-teaching myself a lot of what I learned back then about kilns/firing, glazes, etc. Being surrounded by gallery-artist potter types makes me feel a little bit intimidated. I have my own community studio, I am a handbuilder... I run children's clay classes... it is for the love of pottery, and the sharing of creative space - not for the galleries or glory. But sometimes I do wish I could be a part of the galleries and glory! (and sometimes this gets in the way of my desire to create... that I'm not a high-caliber pot-throwing machine)

GiselleNo5 likes this

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