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QotW: You know you are not meant to be a potter if ......

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Chris posted Campbell posted  a question from a recent strand in the forums. . . 

You know you are not meant to be a potter if ......

As a teacher, I have heard this so many times quested in so many ways. Usually starting with some sort of excuse. Those excuses vary in so many different ways. There would be the students that couldn't stand to get their hands dirty,or the girls who would not risk a broken finger nail,or the student that complained they weren't strong enough to move the clay in one way or another. There were those that making something out of clay. . . such an old process.. . was beneath them, or it wasn't art, and they were artists. There were those that were to smart, wanted a more difficult problem to solve, or those that building something was to big of a problem to solve.

In the end, and all too often, once they allowed themselves to experience the clay, they would fall in love with it. Those that were to weak, got stronger. Those that didn't like getting dirty found their hands felt better after a class with wash up and hand cream(I always kept a bottle by the sink most years). Others cut their nails because it messed up their pots to have them.  Most were not meant to be potters, but they went on to appreciate pottery when at shows or other events where pottery was present. I would see them at craft fairs, and many times they were carrying a pot in a bag that they wanted me to see. 

 

You really aren't meant to be a potter when you allow your expectations to get in the way of good results. If you can't bring yourself to accept a form, glaze, or other attribute of a pot even though it is a good pot, then you should not be a potter. If making something has to be so perfect that it never makes it to the kiln, you should not be a potter. On the other end of the coin, if you cannot throw out a poorly made piece, at any stage of its creation, then you should not be a potter. Those are the aspects that I think makes  good potter. The ability to discern quality against expectation, and the determination to make the best you can within your skill levels.

 

best,

Pres

 
Marcia Selsor and Joseph F like this

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You are not meant to be a potter if you think the time and steps  it takes to make a piece of pottery is ridiculous.   Your also not meant to  be a potter if you get all your information  off a U tube video.  You think  buying a book or taking a class a complete waste of time and money.     Denice

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This is the one, Pres, that I don't understand: "If you can't bring yourself to accept a form, glaze, or other attribute of a pot even though it is a good pot, then you should not be a potter."

I have one glaze that I find never comes out an appealing color to me, regardless of the clay body I have used. 

I have another glaze that brings me no pleasure, because it is so hard to use. I have not given up on that one, but I have not yet "accepted" it.

Could you clarify what you mean by "can't bring yourself to accept..."

 

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In the world of glazes, there are a lot of variables that cause a glaze to fail, or at least not to meet your expectations. One of these that comes to mind is the pink range. These pink glazes often depend on a delicate balance between tin oxide and chromium oxide. All too often I have seen the glaze turn out white instead of pink. is the white a bad glaze. . . no, just not what is expected. If the pot does not require the pink, then should you reject the pot, because the glaze is not quite right? I don't think so, as long as the glaze is sufficient in other aspects such as surface, durability and enhancement of form.

Other glazes I have seen that have problems are those that are applied over too high a bisque, as in the one jar/vase I posted the other day. The pot had been fired to cone 6 accidentally. I had not expectations with the glazing of it, just needed to fill a spot in the kiln. As it turned out, I often return to look as it sits in the hallway. It is nice.

 

I hope this clarifies my statement.

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I think you are not meant to be a potter if you can't find a comfortable relationship with constant failure. 

The learning curve can be so very steep, not only with the material initially, but with all parts of the making process, and beyond into the professional development areas. The best lessons I've had from clay all involve resiliency, and getting up that one time more than I fell. 

Joseph F, oldlady, Gabby and 3 others like this

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... if you cannot tolerate unpredictability ... If you need an absolute answer ... If breaking a piece (or twenty) is devastating ... if you want instant gratification ... if ten years is too long to work on a glaze or with a clay body ... if a month is too long to wait for something to dry ... if throwing is harder than it looks and you don't want to put in the years ... yes Callie is right on , if you can't do failure, do something else because it is part and parcel of this craft no matter how long you do it. If you are not failing, you are not trying new things.

oldlady, Gabby, Roberta12 and 2 others like this

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I once met a glass artist at an art fair, who said he started out as a potter but could not tolerate opening the kiln to find glazes that looked nothing like what he expected. So he switched to glass, where the color you start with is the color you get. Not a potter. 

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Just now, Callie Beller Diesel said:

I think you are not meant to be a potter if you can't find a comfortable relationship with constant failure. 

Wish I could hit the like button on this comment ten more times.

the first two years I fired crystalline glaze; 98% hit the trash can! road fill! and on really frustrating days- UFO's.

i do not consider myself a potter, I do not have the skill level to  paint those pretty details, form a perfect handle, and can barely make a straight cylinder. I just do not have those skill sets; BUT I will learn over a period of time. I can make porcelain or stoneware bodies  react or act the way I want, or any color I so choose. I can also make cone 5 crystalline look like it was fired to cone ten. So I do have pottery related skill sets.  As John Baymore often reminded me; I do research primarily. I seem to enjoy that more than making  pottery.

i think Charles Dickens might have been a potter on a side: "Great Expectations."

Tom

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At one stage, my failure rate was about 75% and it was getting to me ... then I read about a Japanese potter whose failure rate was always about 98% ... so I decided mine was not so bad.  :-)

oh yeah ... one cure was controlled cooling ... it is now under 50% ... sometimes better.

as Mario Andretti once said ... if everything seems to be under control, you’re not going fast enough,

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13 hours ago, Chris Campbell said:

At one stage, my failure rate was about 75% and it was getting to me ... then I read about a Japanese potter whose failure rate was always about 98% ... so I decided mine was not so bad.  :-)

oh yeah ... one cure was controlled cooling ... it is now under 50% ... sometimes better.

as Mario Andretti once said ... if everything seems to be under control, you’re not going fast enough,

This makes me feel better.

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One of the other posts makes reference to the Archie Bray Foundation in Helena Montana.  Scattered around the acres of the property are the "failed" efforts of countless crafters.  And yet, as you walk around, you stop and look and find something of interest in nearly every item.  And there are thousands of them.  So I submit to you that, if it catches your attention, even for an instant, it is not a failure.   In another context, I am reminded of a backhanded compliment I receive from a very very close friend of mine.  He reminds me (often) that even a bad example serves an important purpose.

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  RE the Bray pieces scattered throughout the property. They are not all failures. Many were selected and assigned locations by committee. Many were made for specific locations.  Most potters I know or knew earlier in my career lived and breathed clay or fire. It takes commitment to go beyond all the failures , but gain knowledge. And that carries you on to the next experiment. Being a potter is a never ending challenge. Some things get easier with time, but still there are many variables to try and expand.

Marcia

 

 

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My tutor got in touch and told me some pots were ready to collect after being glazed and fired.   I replied saying there'd be a tax if they weren't amazing (in my head I was thinking of asking for a biscuit or piece of chocolate).

It was trying to be funny - and I regret it.   I didn't need to joke.  Of course I want them to be nice, but they don't need to be.  They are what they are.   My job is to understand that.

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On 2/15/2018 at 12:30 PM, Marcia Selsor said:

  RE the Bray pieces scattered throughout the property. They are not all failures. Many were selected and assigned locations by committee. Many were made for specific locations.  Most potters I know or knew earlier in my career lived and breathed clay or fire. It takes commitment to go beyond all the failures , but gain knowledge. And that carries you on to the next experiment. Being a potter is a never ending challenge. Some things get easier with time, but still there are many variables to try and expand.

Marcia

 

Sorry, I didn't mean to imply that the all the stuff was failed attempts.  What I meant was, as you walk about you can see the art, but they do not necessarily trash the failures.  Many are placed around the acreage such that you can see them.  And I am often drawn to a piece, broken and laying on its side and it still triggers that curiosity and appreciation for what it was supposed to be.  And you can't help but look at that"failure" and say "Hey, that's kind of neat."  My son has been inspired by several such pieces at the foundation and he has tried to create his own vision of a piece.  And, if it inspires, how can it be considered a failure.  For that matter, if it gives a field mouse a place to live it should also be thought of as a success. 

 

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