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Marcia Selsor

How Quickly Do You Get Rid Of Failures?

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I have been thinking about a similar post Marcia as I was wondering what people do with all the trial pieces they make - especially those hobbyists (like me) for whom everything, for a long time is just trying out or practising. I have 2 years worth of very small items (still can't throw very big!) - unrefined, heavy, awful glaze finishes, pulled handles, lidded bowls, various decorative techniques - wax resist, paper stencils, underglaze colours, clear glaze with oxides, clear glaze with stains, bought glazes, crazed, cracked, shivered glaze, mishima, carving, sprigs, textures, hump moulded, slump moulded, pinched............eye.etc. They line the windowsill in my studio (the reasonable pieces), are stacked on my bookshelves, high up in my ware shelves, a few nice pieces have been promoted to the house. Quite a few early disasters have gone in the bin, but I suspect many more should do the same. I'm not sure keeping them serves any real purpose, except as a measure of my progress perhaps? Or as a reminder of when something didn't work, so I don't try exactly the same thing again (having just turned 60, the memory isn't what it used to be!)

I thought that if I have all this after just 2 years dipping in and out of the studio through the week, serious potters out there must have a ton of stuff, so I suppose my question is the same - what do you do with it all? Can I be more brutal or will I live to regret wielding the hammer?

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The trick is keeping the bad stuff away from my family, especially my Mom. Embarrassing, I know. I cringe to see some of my old work on display at my moms house. She won't give it up, even with the offer of a trade, because she feels it is far more precious than I do and she knows I'll break it. I have never been sad about taking a hammer to anything, because with practice, your skill level always improves. If the original idea was good, you can execute it again, with a greater skill level.

That said, I have the first pot I ever made on the wheel, and a few pieces lying around that I think will develop into something bigger. I chuck them when I see the idea better realized in something I'm working on.

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The hopelessly ugly, the cracked, the crazed, the overfired, and generally anything I think unworthy get the hammer.  The merely too old, seen in too many shows, not my style any longer, but otherwise serviceable, get donated to a suitable charity.  I am far enough along in age that I do not worry about my work re-appearing and tarnishing my sterling reputation as a potter (it would be great if this could become a concern) as being less than the current body of work.  If there is a fail at the bisque stage, the hammer falls and the small bits get used inside my raku figures to make them more interesting with rattling sounds.

 

Many times I will cut open a piece on the wheel to see if I can tell why I am having trouble, or if my thickness perception is matching reality.  I will hold onto a piece that falls short of my vision, so I can use it as the basis for developing the vision further.  I had rather wedge it again than break up bisque.

 

Like Diesel, I have the first piece I made on the wheel (which is pretty nice), as well as the second piece, which showed me I wasn't a prodigy, but just lucky with the first.

 

John

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it is a constant struggle, is the piece i made "bad" because nobody but me likes the color?   well......................... 

 

because i made it too small for its purpose, too big, too heavy, too thin?  those get the hammer immediately.  

 

i have decided that the useful things, platters, bowls etc. will go to the homeless shelter so they can serve dinner in something other than the thrift shop china they currently use.  not necessarily better than what they have but different.

 

:wub: (maybe pink flowers will come back in style)

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I'm kind of in the same place Celia is... where does all the output go if you aren't selling it? I can't smash it *all*, but I've got stuff not good enough to give away, but still in serviceable shape.

 

I'm currently eating and drinking out of the "failures". The bowls that are too heavy in the bottom, the mugs that didn't quite work out. Alongside my favorites, they remind me what I did wrong, which helps get it right. And it emphasizes what I'm doing right... when I've been using a clunky bowl and later pick up one of the good ones, it's clear why the good one is better. That also helps me recognize that I really am improving.

 

There are a few bowls in the stack that will get pruned with the next firing cycle to make room for better bowls.

 

I still have my first hand-built piece from middle school, a square vase with 1/2" thick walls. It went on display at school and the school's para-educator offered to buy it for $5. A few years later, that para became my step-grandmother, and when her husband died and she downsized, she still had the vase and gave it back to me. I keep it handy to remind me how far I've come.

 

My second hand-built piece was from high school, and I call it The Ugly Pot. My mother has it, and Diesel's experience echos my own... once mom's got it, it's going to be on display for guests forever, and there's nothing you can do to stop it. My toddler son fell and hit his head on it once... gave him quite a goose egg, but it didn't hurt the pot. 1/4" coil-built walls, it's the size of a small bucket, and is mostly decorative. Someday, Mom will pass and I'll get it back, but I won't smash it... it's part of the family history now.

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I cannot repo a very ugly chip/dip dish from family ... They love it because it is SO heavy the kids cannot knock it off the table. I cringe every time they haul it out ... Ugly oatmeal glaze too! Ugh

 

I smash the worst and use the pieces for drainage, decorate my yard by building 'walls' made from others ... years later one will catch my eye and I will wonder why I tossed it ... mostly I vividly remember. Three pieces have been smashed to dust and buried they were so awful to remember.

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I've started to distribute some of my less desirable pieces around the many ponds in the New Forest, critters will no doubt find them useful which pleases me,  (and future archaeologists may be surprised to find whole pots in however many years time).

 

I also just leave some stuff perched on fenceposts, it's all disappeared so far, I don't overdo it, maybe a couple a month (there's a bit of a backlog)   :)  only one has been found smashed next to the post so far- it was horrible, a refire which got even worse.

 

I also have a pile in one part of the garden, I can't see it, it's under some bushes, some pieces get flung in there, few survive the journey.

 

I'm relieved to say that all of my rubbish (over 90% anyway)  dates from at least a couple of years ago, the pile is only growing because I've become more ruthless and realistic looking back through older stuff.

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The really horrible ones get binned quickly but the others hang around a while until I finally am willing to get rid of them, or decide on a refire or post-fire treatment......

 

Had a big clean out of a storage shed recently and found pieces from the last 12 years of my pottery making.....had smiles and cringes as I looked over my making history......many at bisque stage where I wasn't sure how to finish them, some glazed at Cone 10 reduction in soft muted colours- which in my current C6 electric phase almost don't look like my work anymore......and a whole bunch of newbie rejects I couldn't part with at the time....have binned some but letting the others sit around the studio for a while as they have sparked my renewed curiosity in their form or glaze. 

(also shocked and delighted I found 300g cobalt oxide! that I paid an arm and leg for and 'lost' during a house move)

 

With some work I photograph it to remember form or glaze before smashing incase I later regret not keeping it for some reason.

 

ayjay...you're on the right track, have a look at FB page  'Art Abandonment'   there is a US and a UK chapter of this group.....if I can erase my name off the bottom of my so-so pots I think I'll start one of these in Australia

 

Irene

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the kiln is almost at top temp right now.  in two days i will know how bad i messed up.

 

the empty bowl is on nov 7.  i need 20 bowls.  if i use the ones that are in the bottom of the kiln, i will be giving away something i think is going to be great and i think i want to keep.  so i made a bunch more on saturday eve, warmed them in the oven at 170 degrees a couple of times on sunday so i could trim them sunday afternoon.  glazed them today and put on top shelf of kiln.

 

the problem is that during glazing my neighbor came by when i had just finished putting white glaze on interiors and was ready to cover the exterior with a white matte glaze so the several colors of slip on the exteriors would show up through this translucent glaze.  it is one i have used for years and never fails to be pleasing.  i accepted the gift of bagels he dropped off and he left.  

 

finished the last of those bowls and started to change the glaze bottle to the blue for the last three bowls when i noticed that i had just sprayed the exterior with the interior glaze.  white is white but i wonder if any of the slip will show at all.  never used this combination.  i may have six  :( MORE dog bowls and the empty bowl supper will have some really nice bowls from the bottom shelf of the kiln.

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Many go right back into the pit to be buried, some are saved for Kintsugi.  Functional get used and abused by us in the house, the kids tend to be a little rough on dishes.  I do have several out on fence posts in the pasture I fire in.  Basically they are there for target practice for my kids.

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I've never actually had a pot not come out spot on but I suppose I might have to smash the first one that doesn't work out. ;)

So you are not learning a thing?????

Or easily pleased??

Or your tongue is so far stuck in your cheek you cannot talk??? :D  :D  :D

Pics please I think you need a serious  critique of your work. 

Everyone ready??

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I like the thought of putting them out on fence posts, but they all have my name stamped on them.  If they are too awful to sell, I don't want to be remembered by them!  How do I get the name off?

You could use a small angle grinder if it really bothers you, (wear eye and breathing protection).

 

I've changed my pot bottom sig anyway so anything left out has the old one. :)

 

 

ayjay...you're on the right track, have a look at FB page  'Art Abandonment'   there is a US and a UK chapter of this group.....if I can erase my name off the bottom of my so-so pots I think I'll start one of these in Australia

 

 

Irene

I'll take a look  Irene, thanks.

 

Nice find with the Cobalt.

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I'm pretty much a smasher, I let a few hang around for a while until I need the room.  I have found the ugly pots once they leave your control get a life of their own,  if I see them at an estate sale I will buy them.  I have stolen them from my mother in-laws  house while she was out,  I am currently on the hunt for a stoneware tray I gave my parents.  These pieces wouldn't be considered ugly but they are early pots and are less sophisticated than my current work.   Denice

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I smash, pitch, and toss.  If a family member is moving, I offer to help pack up the kitchen.  I can then sneak old pots into the trash.  However, I have convinced myself that I am going to do some mosaic work, so I have two boxes of broken pots in interesting colors that will someday become a new work of art.  Geez, I wish I had some fence posts!!

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Ah, the mosaic box!  I have one of those.  Roberta12 you just reminded me of it and an idea jumped into my head.  I have purchased a new (to me) home that I am currently renovating before moving there next Spring.  One of the reworks is replacing steel posts that were rusting from burial in the ground some 20 years back. In order to reduce the rusting problem I had new footings cast for replacement posts that are a few inches above grade and about 2 feet square on top.  Perfect place for my box of broken up rejects as a mosaic to cover the footing tops.  Now I don't have to move a useless, but kept, box of shards; there is a useful project for them I can tell my bride about!  I guess my failures now have a purpose.  Since there are nine of these footings, I will have a place to repurpose shards for some time.

 

John

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the kiln  is open and the pots are out.  surprise!  white is white and only a little more opaque and very much more shiny than i had planned.  acceptable for the empty bowl supper.

 

the ones at the bottom are so spectacular that i have been jumping with joy since i opened the kiln this am.  i will call the bottom ones "my sophisticated current work" and offer them to a gallery.

 

i am supposed to be learning how to post pictures here tonight.  if my instructor comes back.

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