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Qotw: Maybe We Identify Just One Predictable Crisis And Then Have The Forum Describe The Symptoms And How They Moved Forward?

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This weeks question from the bank comes from Paul Chenoweth, who asks:

 

Several years ago, Gail Sheehy wrote a book titled "Passages: Predictable Crises of Adult Life" (I just discovered another book by Gail, New Passages that is also available on Amazon).  I believe that the veterans here on the forum have likely witnessed Patterns: Predictable Crises of the Clay Artist and I wonder what identifiable stages we can identify in our own journeys into clay/pottery/ceramics?...and what are the indicators of where we are (individually) along those paths?

 

Maybe we identify just one predictable crisis and then have the forum describe the symptoms and how they moved forward?

 

I have not read either of these books, but could take a stab at some of the Predictable crises as pertains to myself. Of late, the visitation of arthritis is causing havoc. My father has complained of arthritis in his hands for years, but I have not had to deal with it until the last few years. I have found that the handles that I used to pull are not longer something I can do, as my right thumb has gotten stiff and large. Older handles had a series of ridges that were defined, and decorative. However newer handles are flat, with few distinct ridges. I am trying some work arounds on this such as left handed pulling, or some form of device to assist the rt hand-glove and silicone dot, but have not come to a solution yet. Hopefully.

 

 

best,

Pres 

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Paul:

Probably the most predictable, is a kiln under or over firing. When I got my first kiln, I just sorta automatically assumed it fired to the temperature programmed in the controller. After my first kiln load, where most of the pieces seemed a bit runny: I programmed a TC offset of 40 degrees. Now I checked my other kilns upon arrival, and cone every 10-12th. load to monitor changes.

 

Actually, it is the predictability of the human endeavor; that is more relevant to daily life in clay.

 

1. I predict you will get in a hurry and mess up a load or two, or 20 before your journey ends.

2. I predict you will forget a glaze ingredient, grab the wrong colorant, or forget glaze entirely before a glaze firing.

3. I predict you will lay in bed at night wondering what it was you forgot to somewhere in the process of pottery.

4. I predict you will sneeze while trimming, and nearly cut the piece in half.

5. I predict you will open the kiln and say: " what the hell was I thinking?"

6. I predict you will become enamored by a forming, glazing, or firing technique to the point of near obsession.

7. I predict you will become emotionally attached to some of your work,

8. I predict some of your family members will hurt your feelings with their lack of enthusiasm about your beloved pot.

9. I predict you will spend months and years finding " your voice."

10. I predict satisfaction and contentment with your work, if you do not allow frustration to dissuade you.

 

Nerd

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How about a non predictable crises?Like wrist surgery?

As to arthritis I have it in my hands now-it has come on in my 60's. I have overused my hands my whole life. 

My mother had it as well.I have no other family history on the male side.

As a potter most of my life I expected some issues later on.

I get tremendous hand finger /hand cramps where my fingers just do not work. Warm water makes them pass sooner.

Sometime in my youth I must have fallen and hyperextended my right wrist-This I was told must have swollen my wrist and in a few weeks gone away. That tore a ligament that holds my scaphoid bone in place. This is the story I was told this at age 58 when My wrist had tons of pain in it and did not function well.Turns out that arthritis that forms when the bones rubbed on each other eats up the surrounding bones as well. In my case they (surgeon ) did a PRC on my wrist (removed the 1st 3 bones in your wrist ). What is left is a joint that is not natural and works so so. There is no metal or artificial (like a hip replacement) material in wrist. The joint is just the new bones however they line up.Its works but artritis also moves in again and your arm ligaments are now longer.

So whats this do to to my functional ceramics . I cannot make pitcher spouts like I once could as the hand/fingers do not move as they once did.

I have lost hand strength in that hand so I baby my loads in carrying. It cannot take any jolts-no more hammers etc.It does not like long drives as holding a steering wheel is brutal. I tend to rest the hand on leg when driving.

Throwing has not changed but carrying bats and wedging has. The wrist does not like wedging-I bought a power wedger from Peter pugger and do very little wedging these days.

As to throwing there are no issues and throwing is not affected`.

My pitcher spouts are now all a bit crooked-I may be the only person who can see this.

I have learned to work around this.

Over time my wrist is hurting more-when I cannot stand the pain my only option is full fusion of wrist. I'm cutting back on clay tonage now and trying to work a bit less in clay-maybe only 8 tons this year .

I have lots of braces for the wrist for all uses but the overall deal is a slowing degrading wrist that really should not see much use.

I to use my left hand as much as I can this  days-it has over 120#s of grip and is in great shape-

I am slowing thinking about the fusion and how that will be.I hope its still many years away.

I have a hi pain threshold 

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That is what is helpful about this forum- reading what others have done in similar circumstances. I broke the same wrist two times when I was younger and I have arthritis in the same hand too. I also like to use hot water to make the hand feel better plus I try a heating pad at night. My arthritis is in the early stages so I am trying to see what I can do now to help the situation - a pre-crisis thing. 

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1. I predict that you will forget to wipe glaze off the bottom of a pot several times before you learn your lesson. 

2. I predict that you will fail to test a new glaze properly before use because you're sure it's going to work "just fine". 

3. I predict that you are going to go out into the studio ready for an evening out for just ONE MINUTE and come out with dusty or muddy handprints all over your nice clothes somehow even though you were really careful not to touch anything. 

4. I predict that you will try to attach a handle, trim, or carve a piece when it is too dry and experience cracking, and be annoyed as if it was unexpected. 

5. I predict that you will make people's eyes glaze over trying to share a spark of your fascination with the whole process. 

6. I predict you will be impatient, open the kiln too soon, and suffer the consequences with crazed ware.

7. I predict you will throw clay across the studio in frustration at least once when your throwing is off for some reason. 

8. I predict that you will have people dismiss your blood, sweat, and tears after years of focused effort as a "gift" or a "talent". 

terrim8, Roberta12, LeeU and 1 other like this

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I predict you'll change direction many times and be seduced by a technique or glaze many many times on your journey. 

 

Wrist problems are inevitable. I fractured the ulna and radius playing Tarzan at age 11. Fractured near the wrist.1960. I have had bi-lateral carpal tunnel surgery in 1980, ganglia cyst removed in 1979 along with bad experience with morphine during the recovery. And nw in this late stage of pottery a discovered old fracture in a wrist bone and another ganglia cyst. Pain does go away sometimes. Next month after the solar eclipse in Wyoming, I plan to soak in the state pools in Thermopolis. Nice to live in an area with hot springs all over the place.

 

Marcia

Chris Campbell, terrim8 and Min like this

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I was in an accident as a child and broke both bones in both wrists, was treated for carpal tunnel on both wrists in my 30s, found out I also fractured a vertebrae as a child that went untreated so my spine self fused and absorbed the blown out disc that went with the fracturing when I was in my 40s. So basically, as my doctor told me, I have bone where I'm not supposed to and no bone where I should have it.

 

I didn't discover my passion for pottery until my late 40s. In my early 50s now I have bad days, have had to do things differently than other potters seem to do some things and have invested in as much tech as I can to take some of the stress off my wonky body parts. I have set up my entire studio so that I can stand to work as I can't sit for very long without crippling me up. I use a slab roller rather than a rolling pin or tossing the clay to thin it, too much stress on the back and wrists for that. I love my wheel but can only use for short periods even now that I have raised it to work standing, the wrists still talk back after a few pots. I invested in a Pugmill, a huge investment, but it was that or throw out a ton of clay each year since wedging was a double whammy of pain. I don't make large pieces as handling large slabs of wet clay hurt and then carrying those large pieces to shows or galleries hurts as well. For transporting I pack everything in clay boxes, it limits how heavy any one box can get since clay boxes are fairly small. I wear a back brace and wrists braces usually only for loading and unloading for shows.

 

Pain can be lived with, a lot of people live with pain, so mines no different, it's the once in awhile day that I have no pain that gets my attention..... hmmm why do I feel weird? Oh wow I'm not hurting!

 

When it comes down to it... none of that matters.... if I can keep my hands in clay and create something, that's all that matters to me in the end.

 

T

Marcia Selsor and D.M.Ernst like this

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I have the same exact same issues of wrist problems as Marcia, mine started in college.  We all have wrist problems but we keep working with clay.  Multiple Sclerosis has changed the way I work with clay.  I went to my doctor when my right arm wouldn't cooperate when I was throwing and my arm had crazy electrical sensations and pain in my elbow.  He sent me to a neurologist because he thought I had nerve damage in my elbow, my neuro agreed but wanted to test me for MS since it is in my family.  Passed the nerve test, failed the MS test.  I knew I could never throw very well again so I thought about other methods of working with clay.  I was part of a research group in college that tried to replicate how the Anazai Indians made their black and white pottery.  Love the coil work and designs so I began  my new clay journey.  That was ten years ago and still coiling.  Denice

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- I predict you will hit creative walls ... dry spots ... and doubt your future in clay.

 

The advice is to ride it out ... do other creative things, visit museums, check out other mediums ... the cycle will turn. So, try to relax and go with it. Much more pleasant. But ... your studio should not close down and wait for inspiration ... go into the studio. If you can't work then clean it ... or read a pottery book in there ... or organize it.

 

- I predict you will follow ideas down some pretty useless rabbit holes as well as to some wonderful discoveries.

- If you do craft shows, I predict you will spend some hours wondering "what on earth am I doing here?"

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I predict that if you are a frequent reader here, you are lost, as you are already addicted to clay.

 

I predict that as you get older you will have learned how little you really know, and how little time you have to learn the rest.

 

I predict that as you get older you will also find that you are more efficient in your movement making up for much that you have lost in strength.

 

I predict that much of your youth was spent learning from others when not sure of yourself, and that in the future your confidence will allow you to learn and teach with humility.

 

 

 

best,

Pres

GiselleNo5 and Joy pots like this

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Forgot about the moving forward part.

Symptoms and resolve:

 

1968 wood ash glazes :one of my first "crises" glazed a whole kiln load with wood ash glazes not realizing the ash is fluffy and needed to be applied much heavier. My first whole load was wasted. Lesson apply ash much thicker than you would rationally think it needs to be.

 

1970 Art school closed do to an emergency like a minor fire. Our entire class had their dinner sets in progress. Broke in by asking a tall fellow Art student to pull down a fire escape ladder. Another friend and I got to th pottery studio and dampened everyone's set and recovered and slipped away undetected.

 

1972 Built a catenary kiln from salvaged fire bricks from a old boiler in the woods and new insulated fire brick. Made 2 forced air burners for propane. Melted the rubber hose during the firing and shut down 4 in tandem 100 gallon tanks faster than the speed of like. Reconfigured the burners with metal pipe so the hose was a safe distance from the fire box

 

1973 First firing of Crystalline glazes and did not bisque fore to ^10. Some pots shrank off their tailored soft bricks coated with kiln wash in the catch dishes. One fell over and ate a hole 4" wide in the base of the kiln. Caustic glazes. Bisque fired to ^10 after that. Applied glaze with a gum arabic solution to get it to stick, Patched the hole in the floor with castable. Had my MFA Thesis show with successful Crystalline glazes.

Set up a studio with former husband and built a cross draft catenary arch kiln fired with oil burners modified to control varying fuel oil output to control the climb.1974   Adapting Fuel Oil Burners to Ceramic Kilns. Studio Potter Magazine Summer pp. 44-45. (and Mannino)

 

These early-in-my -pottery- life experiences had more of an emotional impact than anything happening later. Detours in the Journey Began teaching full time in 1975. Built a Rammed earth studio in 1977. Flooded in 1978. Re-inforced the base of the wall 3ft.  with river rock. Saga of building the studio was an article published in Ceramics Monthly 1983   Rammed Earth Studio. Ceramics Monthly, May. Pp.56-58   

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I need to read Pres' original post more carefully! 

If I was going to choose just one predictable crisis it would be getting glazes right. I use commercial glaze so the mixing and testing challenge is not there. However using even a premixed glaze does not get guaranteed results, and when you mix it yourself there is a whole new field of potential mistakes to make. Of all the crises I've had with ceramics in the past three years or so, the closest I came to quitting altogether was last year when I started using a whole batch of new glazes, glazes I'd mixed myself, etc., and did not test them adequately because I got cocky and thought I knew what I was doing. Four kiln loads in a row were ruined or mostly ruined because of this. The worst was that after the first kiln load I made changes each time and the work was still coming out badly. It began to feel like I was never going to get it right. Finally I slowed myself down, took the time to do test tiles with different thicknesses of glaze, and invested in brushing medium for some of the glazes that I just could NOT get right with dipping. It's 18 months later and I'm finally ready to try again with dipping or pouring. This time, though, I'm going to TEST MY GLAZES. That small amount of extra time that it will take me will pay off hugely in work saved.

 

I see many other beginners making this same mistake, especially it seems when they are using commercial glazes. When you are making your own you know you have to test them and you get used to it. People don't realize, any glaze you're using you have to "learn". I know every one of my glazes inside out at this point. I know how many coats they want me to put on, I know where they like to be put in the kiln, I know what they'll look like with one, two, three, and four coats. And yet, guess what. Last month I ruined half a dozen pieces because ... shocker ... I used a glaze that I had tested on my white clay but not on my red and was not prepared for the strange results I got on the red. TEST TEST TEST. And then test some more. It's some of the least popular advice you can get or give (along with PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE) but it's extremely valuable nonetheless. 

Pugaboo likes this

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Predictable crisis: the inevitability of a smashed load of valued pieces. Symptoms? Moving forward?

 

When people ask me how I handle breakage I usually say ( with a smile ) that if a person cannot handle broken pots they should take up another hobby. I cannot come close to being able to count the number of times important pieces broke.

 

Three quickly come to mind . .

Someone accidentally backing their car over multiple ware-boards filled with almost finished work.

Having a triptich ready to go out the door to the Gallery for a show and someone knocking one piece to the floor. Yes, the middle piece so I could not hope to fake it. Re-made the whole thing in three days as matching would have been impossible.

Opening a needed kiln load to find all twenty pieces glazed firmly to the top shelf.

 

Moving forward ...

well, after a few moments of ?@!#Â¥*~@!!? .... and a deep breath ... you just clean up the mess and start over.

 

I truly believe the ability to adapt and move forward is the main determining factor for a long life in the arts ... the ability to pick yourself up and try again is much more important than talent. One of the more talented artists I have met was totally unable to recover from a set back and has not worked since ... such a waste as he truly had a magical gift.

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If I had a nickel for everyone of the pots I have tossed, broken, or smashed, I would never have to make pots again. . . . .NOT!

 

 

 

best,

pres

Joseph F likes this

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No one has listed my favorite predictable crisis yet so I will list it.

 

Your glazing and in a rush and you think, oh will just do this and this and glaze this with this glaze and layer that and see what happens.

 

You open the kiln and go oh man this is magical. Wait... did I take notes on this? %&!)* What did I put on this in what order and how. Then you spend a good year randomly putting stuff on test pots and writing it down hoping to one day open the magical pot... but you never do. 

 

How to move forward:

 

Take pictures and make notes of before and after!

Judith B, flowerdry and GiselleNo5 like this

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When something of mine gets broken I don't worry overly much doing breakable art means stuffs gonna get broke. It's why I have andiscount basket if something hangs around my Festival booth more than a year it goes in the basket better to go to a good home at a lower price than end up broken because I've carried it around too many times.

 

If a students piece fails before it ever reaches the kiln and they are devastated I say...

It's just dirt and can be reclaimed, made again and probably better made too the second time around.

 

If you think of it that way it's not so hard.

 

T

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"Maybe we identify just one predictable crisis and then have the forum describe the symptoms and how they moved forward?"

 

Let me identify crystalline glaze as the most unpredictable glaze, first of all. Now let me give you the predictable reactions to the crisis this glaze causes. Hair loss, loss of appetite, sleeplessness, irrationality, moodiness, fits of rage; followed my maniac episodes of depression. Every once in awhile, you get to celebrate a victory over the glaze dragon.

 

How to move forward: give up, sell your kiln, by premix, and blame it on chronic illness. OR. Line your kiln with rubber padding, so you have a softer place to bang your head. For me, after three years of therapy: the hand tremors have almost stopped, and my left eye twitches only on occasion. I order lithium carbonate in double batches: half for the glaze, the other half

 

Nerd

GiselleNo5 likes this

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I predict that sometimes we get hung up on the process so much that we don't produce anything other than personal knowledge. :o

 

Oh well,

best as always,

Pres

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Pres.

Catch 22: without the knowledge there is no production. I prefer the research over the product, always have found the science much more appealing. Although, I have been honing my throwing skills lately.

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