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Failure Is Fine

... and maybe even fun

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#1 Chris Campbell

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Posted 05 August 2013 - 11:37 AM

One of the things I notice in a nearby art center, in my workshops and here on this forum is a definite desire to "Do it Right".  Potters would love a clay that suits all needs, a glaze that fits this clay and techniques that work every time. ( Unfortunately that is a dream world )

The one thing no one wants to do is FAIL. Failure has become such a toxic notion that people want to avoid it at all costs.

 

BUT ... I would bet that every experienced potter in the world has learned more from failure than they ever have from success. Open that kiln and see a load of ugly and after you pick yourself up, you can learn a lot about glazes. Get a drying rack full of s-cracks and you learn about throwing the bottom of a pot as well as the sides and top. Have a glaze run all over your shelf and you learn to put experiments on spill plates or bowls. Listen to a load ping all day and you learn about glaze fit. Fire the glaze recipe that looked so good elsewhere and find it looks nothing like that from your kiln and you learn about firing schedules.

 

Might I propose the notion that failure is fine; it's a learning tool that is not to be avoided. Failure is a lifelong occupational hazard for any potter. If you are not failing, you are not trying anything new.  I've been working in clay for a lot of years and as anyone who reads my blog can verify, I failed last week. I will likely fail at something this week and next week.

 

Care to share a failure that resulted in a learning leap? :unsure:

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TRY ...   FAIL ...  LEARN ...  REPEAT


#2 Benzine

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Posted 05 August 2013 - 12:05 PM

My first classroom firing, once I started teaching, I had several pinch bowls, that exploded.  From that, I learned to be patient with my drying and firing schedule. 


"Anything worth believing, is worth questioning"

#3 Wyndham

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Posted 05 August 2013 - 12:55 PM

Failure, let me see, ah putting the wrong cone in the kiln sitter, lesson learned "How to glaze high bisque pots, no fun but it works, sorta"

 Next, putting the wrong ingredient in a glaze recipe, lesson learned, "How to chip & Clean glaze from a shelf"

 

Next failure,limiting myself to other peoples beliefs, lesson learned  ":there is more myth than fact about how to make & glaze pottery, prove and verify everything to yourself, it's your life, health and well being"

 

Failure is the best teacher, and success is hard work with no easy answers with plenty of failures along the way

Now did I light that kiln or just turn on the gas, :huh:

Wyndham.



#4 OffCenter

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Posted 05 August 2013 - 01:15 PM


Care to share a failure that resulted in a learning leap? :unsure:

 

Don't use an outhouse until you look under the seat.

 

Jim


E pur si muove.

"But it does move," said Galileo under his breath.

#5 Diane Puckett

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Posted 05 August 2013 - 02:09 PM

Not listen to that little voice that tells me not to do something. Sometimes it is common sense, sometimes intuition, but the little voice is always right. Every time I don't listen, another otherwise fine pot dies.
Diane Puckett
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#6 trina

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Posted 05 August 2013 - 03:17 PM

Care to share a failure that resulted in a learning leap? :unsure:

 
Don't use an outhouse until you look under the seat.
 
Jim

Don't use an outhouse if you wear suspenders, and don't fry bacon with your shirt off. T

#7 trina

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Posted 05 August 2013 - 03:18 PM

Take notes so you can be sure the mistakes you make are always new ones. T

#8 oldlady

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Posted 05 August 2013 - 05:25 PM

don't try to explain color with words.  it must be seen.


"putting you down does not raise me up."

#9 Marcia Selsor

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Posted 05 August 2013 - 06:00 PM

My first solo kiln firing in college was all ash glazes ..on too thin. Ash glaze needs to be applied thicker. Learned that.
Notes are great. I made a nice glaze with a mistake in my math but I had written it down. Good one there!There are 40 more years of those mistakes to help going forward. Thanks, Chris, for the reminder about how we learn much more from mistakes.

Marcia

#10 Claypple

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Posted 05 August 2013 - 09:36 PM

I was just recently thinking how lucky I am WITH the mistakes! 

1) Pulled the cylinder too fast once: got a beautiful curve! Looks great!

2) Another cylinder collapsed: I tucked it in and got a double bowl. Cannot repeat it again.

3) Pulled the corners of the slab too much. Wanted to smash it back to the ball, but wait ... doesn't it look like a color of the coat?  (This is how the series of my "coat vases" started.)

4) Had some clay scraps, was about to toss it, but noticed it looked like a whale on the wave. Kept it.

 

There is actually a test done by psychiatrists, called "Rorschach test". They show you inkblots that actually have no meaning and ask you what you see in them. They then analyze your interpretation. So what I see in crooked bowels or a bended plates of mine reminds me that test. The problem is, I am more successful when I make the mistakes! 

 

So, my question is: Do the professional artists still practice accidental art, or it is just a beginner's thing?

Is your the most successful work was a result of your imagination (Jim, I mean WITHOUT taking  hydrocodone/vicodin!) or it happened by accident?  



#11 Chris Campbell

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Posted 05 August 2013 - 10:03 PM

I usually know where I am going with a design, but try to flow with the clay and follow happy accidents. Also called short attention span.

Chris Campbell
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TRY ...   FAIL ...  LEARN ...  REPEAT


#12 Benzine

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Posted 06 August 2013 - 07:56 AM

Bob Ross said, "There are no mistakes, only happy accidents."

 

Fun fact, Bob Ross was in the Air Force, and held positions, that required him to "Scream" at his subordinates.

Imagine, if he would have kept the same persona for his TV show.....It could have involved him demanding that viewers do push ups, for messing up the placement of their "Happy(Disciplined) Little Tree".


"Anything worth believing, is worth questioning"

#13 Bob Coyle

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Posted 06 August 2013 - 10:45 AM

 

Might I propose the notion that failure is fine; it's a learning tool that is not to be avoided. Failure is a lifelong occupational hazard for any potter. If you are not failing, you are not trying anything new.  I've been working in clay for a lot of years and as anyone who reads my blog can verify, I failed last week. I will likely fail at something this week and next week.

The trick is to progress enough so that the failures become much fewer than the successes. Of course if you are in the experiment mode then a few failures is generally always the prelude to any success. I worked as a cosmetic chemist and had to formulate a crystal clear, high sudsing glycerine soap. 85 formulations later I got an acceptable product.



#14 Evelyne Schoenmann

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Posted 06 August 2013 - 10:45 AM

Sometimes failures hurt because you have spent so much time to create an object and then.....

 

Before firing, but in bisque state Attached File  P1050952.JPG   101.42KB   7 downloads

 

After cone6 firing Attached File  P1060298.JPG   75.37KB   4 downloads

 

The round upper part was apparently too heavy for the delicate foot >sigh< and part of the foot melted down, crushed by the heavy weight from above.

 

Lesson learned!

 

Evelyne

 

 


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#15 JLowes

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Posted 07 August 2013 - 10:22 AM

Latest learning experiences, get to know your new kiln controller.  I purchased a Skutt KM-1 stand alone kiln controller.  The first three bisque firings had at least one pot explode.  One was spectacular, as it took out four others in one way or another, and I could only find a few small parts of the offender that were still recognizable.  I had candled them for 8 hours at 180 F, checked them visually at the end of the candle and still had a steam explosion.  My walls/bottoms are generally thin and even enough to not have this problem, at least not when I was manually advancing the temperature, but apparently the engineers at Skutt chose a ramp speed that didn't work well with some of my pots.  Apparently somewhere on a pot each time had some trapped water that took longer than 8 hours to get out.

 

Now I am extra careful at floor/wall transitions, joins, etc. to be sure there are no areas where trapping could occur, and I leave the peeps out and crack the lid (was using Orton Vent running before.) The last bisque firing had no casualties.  My fingers are still crossed however.

 

The glaze firings have been less problematic, but trying to slow down near top temperature caused the kiln sitter to trip once so no nice crystallization from a slow cool.

 

John



#16 oldlady

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Posted 07 August 2013 - 10:43 AM

have you asked skutt for their parameters?  they would want to know about any problems.


"putting you down does not raise me up."

#17 Benzine

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Posted 07 August 2013 - 11:40 AM

Latest learning experiences, get to know your new kiln controller.  I purchased a Skutt KM-1 stand alone kiln controller.  The first three bisque firings had at least one pot explode.  One was spectacular, as it took out four others in one way or another, and I could only find a few small parts of the offender that were still recognizable.  I had candled them for 8 hours at 180 F, checked them visually at the end of the candle and still had a steam explosion.  My walls/bottoms are generally thin and even enough to not have this problem, at least not when I was manually advancing the temperature, but apparently the engineers at Skutt chose a ramp speed that didn't work well with some of my pots.  Apparently somewhere on a pot each time had some trapped water that took longer than 8 hours to get out.

 

Now I am extra careful at floor/wall transitions, joins, etc. to be sure there are no areas where trapping could occur, and I leave the peeps out and crack the lid (was using Orton Vent running before.) The last bisque firing had no casualties.  My fingers are still crossed however.

 

The glaze firings have been less problematic, but trying to slow down near top temperature caused the kiln sitter to trip once so no nice crystallization from a slow cool.

 

John

Eight hours at 180, and you still had explosions?!  I generally go for four hours at 200 F, and seldomly have problems.  Keep in mind, this is with student projects, which greatly vary, both in thickness, and the care, in which they were built.


"Anything worth believing, is worth questioning"

#18 Chris Campbell

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Posted 08 August 2013 - 04:30 PM

"Might I propose the notion that failure is fine; it's a learning tool that is not to be avoided. Failure is a lifelong occupational hazard for any potter. If you are not failing, you are not trying anything new.  I've been working in clay for a lot of years and as anyone who reads my blog can verify, I failed last week. I will likely fail at something this week and next week."

 

Yes, I am totally on schedule!


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https://www.facebook...88317932?ref=hl

TRY ...   FAIL ...  LEARN ...  REPEAT


#19 Judd

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Posted 29 August 2013 - 09:59 AM

My students and I filled our school kiln, and opened a world of mess.  Horrible glazes.  Horrible pinch pots. Horrible horrible horrible.

But, that's what I told my students to expect.  I explained that we might see great stuff, but we might see a mess, and that this was part of the learning experience.  Every time we make art, we get better.  So, we're pinching pots, throwing pots, and preparing glaze.



#20 Bob Coyle

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Posted 29 August 2013 - 01:22 PM

Why horrible glazes? You should at least have control over that, unless your are testing new formulations on the horrible pinch pots. Don't you do test tiles first?






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