Vancouver Canada designer creating whatever she wants.

Creative Drudgery.

Bottom blown out of teacup. Not mine!

The concept stage of the creative process is sexy. It is an adrenalin rush that is addictive & illusive in equal parts. The pulling together of ideas & solutions needed to make that flash of an image manifest is inspiring. I am a whirling dervish in my head & am surprised that I don’t walk into a pole more often than I do. Even the laying of hands onto the clay – working out the engineering challenges to cleave with the design aesthetic is exhilarating and absorbing.

But then comes the drudgery which generally starts after the first firing. The ironing of the kinks. Some projects are worse than others but all have to be tested & challenged, especially if it is meant to be functional. A vase that won’t hold water has to either be redefined or dumpstered. With sculptural pieces they can blow up in the bisque kiln or the glaze runs so bad that it is fused to the kiln shelf in the last firing. Or it can come out of the glaze firing just wrong and no amount of “just sit with it for a while” will change the wrongness. The only solution is the dumpster and start again, all the while resolutely refusing to dwell on all the time and money that it represented. To start again with new knowledge and no bitterness, well there in lies the challenge.

Some projects take time to test and I have been known to get bored and the idea gets stalled, sometimes forever, other times months. Take for example my bird feeder. I’ve done 2 tests. One will be relegated to being stuck in the dirt as a slug bar & the other is swinging from a stand ignored by all winged creatures and the wind chimes hang quiet even during gale force winds. So I stand & glare and ponder the reasons. Is the stand in the wrong place? Do I put an ad out letting the birds know where it is? They were all hanging around the week before I put it up, where are they now? Is it the colour? Is it too shiny? Exhausted, I do nothing. To the observer I did nothing to deserve to be exhausted. Little do they know. Sometimes birds need to get used to a new thing, right? Fucking birds, they were the ones that ordered this thing, if they had design requests they should have said something. Am I right?

The other current project that is challenging my patience is a large vessel that my wonderful muse E inspired. She had wanted a large piece to put on the mantle, similar to one I made ages ago. After quite some time (as in years!) I found a suitable mould. I did one & WOW was it amazing! E loved it too.. months later she is still pondering her glaze choice and I have made 4 more. The problem is that 1/2 are coming out of the bisque kiln with their bottoms blown out! Baffled, I am stuck, especially since they are rather large & represent a fair investment of clay & time. I will figure it out & continue but, again, it will take time. *yawn*

So I guess the point ( & I hadn’t realized I was making one till just now ) is that when you pick up a piece of pottery at a studio or sale & look at the price take a moment to think about all that might have gone into creating it. If it is a wheel-thrown bowl, it may have only taken minutes for an experienced potter to make it but it in fact took years of many hours of practice to reach that level of ability. Amortize the price over 5 years and it is looking ridiculously cheap! Just know that each piece a potter makes has a lot of sweat and soul built into it.

You open the kiln & instead of "TA DA" it is F**K!

Andrew Tarant opened his kiln to this! ARGHHHH Click on the image to read his take on it.

Any disasters you want to share? Leave a comment & we can commiserate together.

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One response

  1. I had a blow up in October too. Mistook damp pots for cool temperature pots since the studio is cold overnight. However I have slow fired quite damp pots quite successfully. One element on low for a long time 1.5-2 hours, peep holes open. Then a second element on low, also for a long time 1.5-2 hours. If you have a third tier, do the same. The steam comes pouring out of the kiln and it is rather alarming at first. Just leave it like that for a few hours–like maybe 4-5-6 total until there is no steam any more. Then close down the peeps and fire on your normal schedule with medium and high. The newer kilns can be programmed for slow firing, but this works pretty well for me. If I had done it for that firing with the two large bowls that blew up, there would have been no problem.

    November 9, 2011 at 1:52 pm

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