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rayaldridge

That Moment When You Realize You're Going In A New Direction

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I imagine we've all had that moment. 

 

At some point we look at our work and see, sometimes rather suddenly, that we have decided to go in a direction very different from the one we've been pursuing.  The moment came for me a few firings back, when I unloaded the kiln and realized I liked a lot of the pots better than I liked the stuff I had been doing before.

 

And then, I had to think about why I liked them better.

 

Those new pots existed, in all honesty, because I had an order for a bunch of bowls and I had to get them out quickly.  I decided to use some surface techniques that I had been experimenting with to some extent.  These techniques involved the use of sprayed slips and incising through layers, and then using a simple but active glaze that reacted strongly with the slips to create somewhat random surface effects.  This was a decidedly unfussy approach, and I have often become mired in fussiness in my work.

 

Except for the first few years of my career, when I was intentionally imitating the great Asian pottery traditions, I have relied heavily upon my ability to draw.  I was a painter before I was a potter.  I saw that potters who could draw were a minority, so I tried to exploit that skill, in a lot of different ways.  If you check my gallery of older work, the emphasis is pretty obvious.  But at the same time, my favorite contemporary potters are not people who can draw, or at least that skill is not something that they make heavy use of in their work.

 

These perceptions were strengthened a couple weeks back when I went to a Tom and Elaine Coleman workshop.  Tom is not a draftsman.  He was also a painter before he was a potter, but it seems obvious to me that he was likely an abstract expressionist, because his wonderful pots are decorated in an abstract and spontaneous manner, with marks made in a very free and unstudied manner.  Elaine's work is very different.  Not only does she draw extremely well, but she is also a brilliant pattern maker.

 

At any rate, I realized that I was not as interested in the drawing as I was in the pattern making, and this further impelled me along my new path.

 

So, what large changes in direction have you had, and what occasioned them?

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This post kinda sits with me right now. I have been pretty down on my health, just lingering flu/cold for a month. I haven't felt like doing much but here and there. I did some work when I had good days. Over that course of time I had a lot of time to look at my stuff that I am selling on etsy and the work that I have been making. I came to the conclusion it isn't what I want to make. I know the colors are there and I have had pretty good feedback on my pots. However I can't help but be who I am in my work. I have constantly been trying to change my happiness and make things that I think others would like, but the fact is, I just can't do it...

 

I have to make white rustic stoneware pottery. I can't help it, no matter what I try to do, I can't get away from the way that white looks on brown stoneware. It is just so creamy and rich and beautiful. So I have came to accept that I will be taking down most of my old work and hammering it. I will be going back to doing what I want and working with 3 white glazes and 2 "effect" glazes to create variety in my surfaces. I did some testing a week ago and I really loved some of the spots on the pots. I wrote down a lot of notes and did a lot of homework reading about glaze interactions and things and I started spraying some new pots yesterday. Today I opened the kiln and I have decided that sticking with what I love is going to be the easiest for me to sale because I can stand behind it. I love it. It is me, and what I want to be in my craft. I could make white/grey/brown pots for the rest of my life. I have battled with this since day one. 

 

I show people my pots, and they are like, yea but where are the blues, or greens, or reds. I always listened to them. Every time I would say, yea well, I am working on one, and eventually it would slip into my glaze bucket and get tested and applied, and then I would look at it in disgust but say it might sale. The fact is, I don't even like selling things with color. I love looking at beautiful color pots made by others, but I don't like making them myself. Is there a future for me in pottery selling white/grey/brown pots? Heck if I know, but I am sure going to try. Everyone always has their input, but the fact is I need to isolate myself from others when it comes to input, in one ear and out the other. Let the customers be the judge. I think what I like is beautiful, its simple and elegant. I have about 200 or more 100 gram test batches of glazes in my garage all over the place, it looks like tupperware city. I am finally going to be able to throw them all away! FINALLY FREEING MYSELF OF THAT DISASTER!

 

I AM GOING TO MAKE WHAT I LOVE! AND NO ONE IS CHANGING MY MIND AGAIN! 

 

So yes Ray. I know how you feel. Sometimes you just decide that what your pursuing isn't right. It isn't what you want to do anymore, and it isn't what your going to make. I am glad you had your clarity, let me join you in the joy!

 

I present, the future of my work from day 1!

 

 

 

*breaths a deep breath of frustration free air*

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I admire people who are able to make a consistent body of work. One of my impressions of art school (which I didn't go to) was an emphasis on creating a body of work with a similar enough style that the artist could call their own. My own work doesn't do this. My watercolor paintings use completely different ways of working and go from abstract to detailed realistic and many places between. And my pottery does the same thing. There are iron oxide paintings, thrown and modified ladies, carved vases, geometric bowls, Escher pieces... I love my older work and I cannot do it again. Sometimes I revisit old ideas in different ways but I doubt I will ever settle into one particular style.

 

Making work to sell is a dangerous road in my mind. Listening to people isn't bad but they hardly ever know what is beautiful until you can tell them why it is so.

 

An analogy to end with. Traveling is wonderful. You see new sights and meet new people and come into new ideas. Staying home is wonderful. You watch the trees slowly change and can see the depth of the people you know. A man who never settles down misses as much as a man who never travels.

 

Oh and the others put images so I will as well. There is a similar enough bowl in the kiln right now (and maybe one more of this style will be done)

Vase for Andy Goldsworthy

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Joseph F. - I'm with you all the way! Go for it! Do it! Whites and greys are beautiful. Subtle is great. Other colours have their place, and I personally love a particular blue (referred to by all who know me as 'Girts Blue'), but grey and white is so elegant and classic and restrained. It feeds the soul, in my opinion. But quietly. And really, that's the best reason for doing what we do - creating things and feeding the soul.

 

Girts

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I had the same feeling as I was unloading my second glaze  firing Monday for a new direction that I think I am going in.  I didn't get that feeling on the first firing so I thinks it's going to take a third before I know for sure.   It takes me a while before I shift directions but when I do I stick with it a while.  I did landscape pots for 8 years, portraiture sculpture for 10 years and tiles, tile mural and fountains for 15 years. Hopefully this new direction works out.   Denice

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My wife is a professional writer and I hear the echo of her words as I read these posts; "I have to find my own voice." Rather painting, sculpting, casting, throwing pots, or decorating them: it still echo's the voice of the artist. I have seen the galleries of those who have posted so far and the gift and talent are evident regardless of any new direction you might choose. Joseph, hopefully you will weigh my words: DO NOT DESTROY YOUR OLDER WORKS!! They are part of who you are and part of your history as an artist.

Nerd

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I have to agree with Nerd on this.  Don't hammer good pots, even if they're not what you want most to make.  If someone loves them, gift them or give them to Goodwill.  There aren't enough good handmade pots in the world, and those that do exist cost someone time and money and effort to create.

 

Joseph, there is nothing at all wrong with quiet pots.  As I alluded to in my initial post, my favorite potters are makers of quiet pots.  Currently my favorite contemporary potter is Richard Batterham.  Clearly he is an esthetic descendant of Bernard Leach,though he is a much better and stronger artist than Leach, in my opinion. 

 

One of the problems with ceramics as an art form is that clay is so protean.  It can be made to look like anything; there are almost no intrinsic limitations on what can be done in the field.  Limitations, in my opinion, are what make it possible for great artists to exceed the expectations inherent in an art form.  As an example, I had many years of flirtation with another art form that is almost defined by its stringent limitations... stained glass.  The windows I designed and built probably were better examples of actual art than anything I've done in clay, but as an iconoclastic designer, my windows were looked upon with varying degrees of horror by the art establishment.  The most ambitious of my windows were built around science fiction concepts (which was helpful to me when I became a sf writer) and were blatantly erotic in intent.  I had more than one gallery showing taken down right after hanging due to outrage among the locals.

 

So with clay, we have to make our own limitations, because intrinsic limitations really don't exist.  One of mine is functionality, and I have a much narrower definition of that than many other potters.  If it can't be used in the kitchen, or in some other aspect of daily life, I'm not interested.  So that self-imposed limitation pares away a huge segment of the ceramic oevre-- no purely sculptural forms for me.  No concept art, no art for the sake of art alone.

 

In a lot of ways, the process of becoming someone with a personal artistic vision is the process of establishing the limitations you want to accept.

 

For anyone who is interested, a window called "Purple Slavery."

 

 

 

 

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Who on earth did that window offend? Or maybe I should ask ... What year did that window offend someone?

 

Any how ... Today I unloaded a vase from my bisque that totally expressed where I am and where I've been and where I am going ...

 

Isn't that about the worst time to fall in love with a pot??

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Chris, I stopped designing windows about 25 years ago.  My theory on the outrage is that many people think of stained glass as something you mostly see in churches, and windows depicting naked alien ladies were just too weird.

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joseph, look at Mea's pots. grey and white. and beautiful. and quietly elegant. they don't need to shout.

Thank you!

 

 

I could make white/grey/brown pots for the rest of my life.

 

One of us! One of us!

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I think you had the wrong venue or town for that work and it was 25 years ago.  I think those stain glass murals would sell for big bucks just about anywhere now, especially someplace with a active downtown night life.   Denice

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I could make white/grey/brown pots for the rest of my life.

 

One of us! One of us!

 

Is there a club signup form somewhere?   :D

Nah, this club has no need for bureaucracy. When you are one of us, you know.

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Denice, I appreciate the kind words, but I think one of the problems with my stained glass work was the big bucks factor.  The piece I posted used faceted Swarovski crystals as well as translucent green jade cabochons that I cut and polished.

 

I get carried away sometimes.  I went through a phase in which I used semi-precious stones with my pottery too.  The following covered jar with jade cabochons is an example.

 

 

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