Like Pres, I have just returned from the ice storm challenged NC Potters Conference.
One benefit of the delays was there were a lot more opportunities for conversations about pots and a potters life with both the attendees and the presenters. Here are a few things I learned.
All the presenters agreed that while they enjoy making pottery, they do not consider it "FUN" ... it's work. The famous "Inspiration is for amateurs, pros go to work" line resounded with them as well as with many of the attendees.
They all experiment and consider learning what does not work as important as finding out what does. It all leads to intimate knowledge of materials. Michelle Erickson has probably spent most of her career experimenting and "failing" as she tries to duplicate the decorative surfaces of historical pots ... trying to discover how these potters made their marks means trying all the ways to make marks.
Even though John Gill's pots look very simple and easy to make ... he is an incredible hand builder. You have to have tried some of the things he was doing to appreciate how easy he made difficult things look. A novice would have thought they could just go home and do it. I enjoyed hearing him call stoneware a "dumb clay" that just lets you do stuff to it. Considering trading in my diva porcelain.
Another aspect of pottery they all shared was an awareness of the historic importance of pottery ... that shapes and surfaces tie a pot back to its origins and often define the people who used them.
I encourage everyone to attend or start a local clay conference ... discover the joys of spending time in the company of other potters. It is truly wonderful to be in a place where no one wonders why you chose a life in clay.