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I read on a discussion board about someone having a bad day at the pottery wheel. I was reminded that throwing clay on the wheel can be frustrating at different cycles in the learning curve when there are the inevitable days of failure.

I thought I’d learn to throw clay. I’ve learned so much more. I’ve learned humility, forgiveness, patience, and diligence. I’ve learned to focus, concentrate, relax, control my actions, accept that my work is never as good as I dreamed, and also accept that that work is almost always better than I feared. I’ve learned to accept failure as part of the journey, but to not be defined by that pain. I’ve learned that there is a wellspring of inner hope in me that keeps me striving to achieve my definition of success.

I thought I’d learn to throw clay. On my bad days, I feel discouraged and think, “Why do I keep doing this?â€
I once had a “-1†day. That's "negative one", worse than “everything floppedâ€. It was my first semester at college. Every pot I threw was bad. Before I left, I stopped to admire another, more advanced, student artist’s work. It was in my early days, so I didn’t know the pot was just green ware. When I picked up that pot by the handle, the pot fell off and shattered. I felt miserable and embarrassed and ashamed. It taught me to let my hubris go, and face up to my fears of not being “good enoughâ€. It taught me resilience.
(Luckily for me the student artist was kind, and said, “Don’t worry about it. Its just dirt.â€)

Yes, we all have/had bad days at the wheel. And probably always will from time to time to keep us humble.

But on the good days, oh my! The good days! Those days when every piece feels like perfection, when the mental focus is laser like, and the motions are a beautiful choreographed dance of beauty, on those days I feel as if I'm in perfect communion with the Creative Force of the Universe. And my heart sings in happiness.

Luckily for me, I am at that stage where I have more good days than down days. And if you keep striving, if you keep the hope and the determination to continue on through the soul humbling discouraging days, then you too will find your heart’s joy in the clay. Stick with it, keep at it, and you will achieve far more than just throwing clay on the wheel. Just keep at it. You’ll get there. And the beauty will be in more than just your pots.
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This piece is called, "Encouragement" by Cindy Douglass. If you like this, you may copy it, pass it around to those who need it, etc., but please include the author's name. Thank you!

 

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So beautifully articulated, and, personally, just what the Dr. ordered to lift my spirits today. Not "down" about throwing, but I was struggling with glazing...a radical shift for me from dip/pour hand made cone 10 clay and glazes (without "colors") and gas fired,  to cone 6 clay and brush-on commercial colored glazes and electric fire. Humbleness is a necessary protection and antidote against the arrogance of  depression and self-defeat. Thanks! 

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Thank you, LeeU, for the reminder that there are other learning curves in pottery making than just throwing.

You said, "Humbleness is a necessary protection and antidote against the arrogance of  depression and self-defeat."
What an awesome quote you've written! I really like that.
I'm sure you'll find your way in your glazing at ^6. Someone smart enough to think/write that quote, will do just fine. I have faith in your abilities. :)

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When I started throwing, every day was a trial to learn to center, then to pull, and to shape and finish. So I gave up, literally. I gave up on trying to make a pot. It was not going to happen. So I focused on just centering, and centered and centered and centered. I would deliberately knock if off center every time I got successful just to do it again. After a few days of being able to do it correctly, I started opening up frequently, and trying to pull without making a pot just to open and center. By the last week of allowable wet work in the class, I was throwing cylinders that I made into mugs and other pots-kept them all.

 

Now I have days where I don't make a thing, not very productive, but then it is about the experience and the remembering. I sit on the wheel and throw, set it aside, and throw some more. When I have a palette full of pieces, I check them out, make comparisons, mental notes, and then re wedge them to wrap i a bag for another session weeks away. For me it seems to be the process, not the product that is important. Maybe one of the reasons glazing is such a challenge. I can't repeat the process without seeing the fired result. That requires time and a lot of pots and firing!

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That happens to me too Marc. On those days I have to do one of two things: Either shut it all down and walk away, or put on some good music, pour myself a nice glass of wine, and put my mind in a whole different direction. "Mind-set" is everything in pottery. If your head and heart aren't in it, nothing will turn out right.

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Thank you for the thank you, Cindy. Having re-read the bit about depression and arrogance, I want to clarify that I am not making light of depression as an impairing condition. I was thinking more of the type of depression that is transitory and stops short of severe--the type that is "just" having the blues and indulging in a negative mood. The arrogance is to willfully sit on my pity-pot and act helpless---making it all about me, me, me. I was working the glazes on greenware and had the rude awakening that it is not remotely like "painting" (which was my expectation). So I did a whole number on myself. Yep---mind-set is everything, as Amy said. The reminder about humility (which is what I got from Cindy's post) was quite timely LOL. Firing early Sat. AM, will see what I end up with Sunday afternoon!   

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The best I can do, at the mo, for a good day, is to sit here at the computer and enjoy what everyone else is doing.  Oh, and walk out to the studio and kick the bag of clay, or run my left hand over some half-finished stuff.  The rest of life is so frustrating.  I can't sketch ideas, I can't pull weeds, I can't plant the 100 plants waiting in the greenhouse, I can't.........

 

I am, however, alive, and only have one broken bone and six huge black bruises.  No head injury, and my cycle helmet is still in one piece, so I'll stay positive and live the life of a virtual potter for a few months.  

 

Optimism has always seemed preferable to it's miserable counterpart.

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Chilly, I know how you feel. It's so frustrating to be injured but at least you appreciate that its not as serious as it could have been and maintain that positive outlook. I had a terrible inline skating accident 4 years ago and felt lucky that I only needed shoulder surgery and only ruptured two disks in my lower back. I wasn't doing pottery then but it kept me from playing tennis, teaching Pilates, personal training and skating again for a few months and I really missed all that. I had to start paying attention to my wife. Lol. Maybe you could read all those books, especially the pottery ones, that you've been meaning to read or when you feel a little better go for some nice walks, visit museums or find some other way of having fun. I truly hope you better soon and good luck with the recovery.

 

Paul

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I have found that having a bad day in the studio can have a bad affect on you.  If I start out with everything going wrong I stop and go work on something else, the next day work usually  flows perfectly.  I'm happy that a didn't waste a day or add fuel to that little frustration flame inside of me.  Chilly you need to have a planting party, get your best friend to make some lemonade and buy some cookies.  Invite anyone over that you think can dig a hole and get those plants in the ground. You can watch them grow while your healing.   Denice

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