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QotW: How did you arrive at your present place in your pottery, by a focused approach, and experimental approach, or other direction?

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Hi folks, I have unloaded a bisque of new plates for the communion sets this year, and find myself pleased and yet dismayed. All of the plates are beautiful, but all are different. Some do share a texture format, and some brown slips, but they are all different, thus requiring chalices to be made to match each plate/paten. This and some other posts from individuals makes me wonder about the shotgun effect I am having on my work of late. When I was doing festivals, my work was centered around thrown forms with organic images mixed with lace remnants from glazes atomized on the surface in natural greens, blues and browns with occasional flashes of tin/chromium. Lately I have moved into much more actual texture making the pieces more tactile even though I spray on the blues, greens and browns from different angles to enhance the textures. Make me wonder what folks are doing, shotgun or more narrowed rifle shot at what they are trying to make do.  I also realize that the shotgun effect will not get you anywhere when applying to craft shows.

So QotW: How did you arrive at your present place in your pottery, by a focused approach, and experimental approach, or other direction? Please include examples, or even pictures to illustrate your journey.




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I started out very focused, learned the basics quite well--got a good comprehensive ceramics education (and a BFA in crafts). Then I  became engaged with experimental techniques/more sculptural work, while still in VCU art school. (I was going to out-Voulkus Voulkus, don'tcha know).  It became a moot point when I took a detour into a 25 Y career in the addiction treatment field. I thought it would be short lived, because voc rehab was willing to bankroll my Master's if I committed to working in public service for a few years. I turned out to be very good at specialized program design & getting federal grant funding, so ceramics went into the attic to gather dust. After I retired (State Planner in Behavioral Health for NH DHHS) I constructed my little studio in my trailer (bedroom & back porch). However, I have lost so much ability (physical/cognitive) that I can't get back to where I once was. So, my present place is some  "other direction".  At the moment, I'm  just looking to satisfy myself and make enough (local smalls of the home decor variety)  to break even, which I am finally doing. Probably the most consistent thread from then to now is I am continuing my Hidden Mask series, which I started back in '81. 

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I feel like any diagram or 2D representation of my career path should involve crayons, lol!

To say it was indirect for a good long time is an understatement.I did start off being pretty focused, and got a whole BFA in ceramics, but when I graduated, I had what I know now to be the crash that every gifted kid with case of undiagnosed ADHD seems to wind up with. So I worked a bunch of wildly unrelated retail or reception jobs for the next 14 years, and made pots on the side while Life Happened and Was Not-pretty (TM).

After having a couple of kids and coming to the conclusions that 1)I make a terrible employee but an awesome boss, 2) since I can predictably earn a couple hundred bucks every time I resupplied the one gallery I was in, maybe I just needed to consistently get my work in front of people to earn some adult money. 

Once I had relaxed and begun to see opportunities and possibilities again, my work did some pretty rapid growth and development. I built a TON of new forms, I went from cone 10 reduction to cone 6 ox, and went from using a white porcelaneous stoneware to a red stoneware with white slip deco. I challenged myself to keep the qualities of the cone 10 work that I really enjoyed while incorporating some of the easy turnover and colourful elements that cone 6 offers.  

I don’t think I know of an artist that has had direct, linear path. We all seem to incorporate bits of our lives and our loves and our experiences into the work we make.

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LeeU statement of "I have lost so much ability (physical/cognitive) that I can't get back to where I once was. So, my present place is some  "other direction".  At the moment, I'm  just looking to satisfy myself" really hits home with me. I have little background in ceramics, however a career in metal working. When i first started my metal work, it was all about exact spec..like down to .001" tolerances. I then began repairing vintage art pieces as well as making pieces for Columbus Museum of Art. My wife as an artist, is very free flowing. Her circles, in my book were more like  ellipses (we always call it "designer math").  When life dealt its cards that put me into the same category that LeeU spoke of, i found new freedoms in "just not caring" if something was no longer in  spec. Yes, i still want to be able to control my mediums, but at the same time, artistic variation is what makes unique hand crafted versus stamped out reproduction. I re-aligned my customer base to those that appreciated one of a kind uniqueness.  My world of medium and creation has greatly expanded. I particularly love "voodoo" art..ie only general science behind it. I love flame coloring of cooper, metal spinning and the look forward to  the intrigue of mystical glaze remnant mixes, burial firing.

I believe you have to have the honest conversation with yourself as to which style energizes your own creativity and interest. From there, make sure the customer understands and is interested in the same end result. These days I make what i want, if someone likes it, they buy it. Otherwise i gift it to my daughter..lol   

I do believe you have to look at it like any art...be it music, literature etc. Do you want to be a Grisham who cranks out very good but predictable recipe novels or a David Bowie who constantly pushed his artistic envelope and growth and surprised his fans with something new. Neither is wrong as long as its honest and you give it your heart and soul.

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