Friday, October 2, 2009

On Thinking Up New Designs

It's probably the scariest moment when I'm working in the studio. Maybe I'm standing in Larry's studio admiring a set of new vases I've made with some kick-ass design. Or maybe I'm carving out that same flowery pattern on a planter for the 24th time. Or I'm sitting at the wheel, my jeans still relatively clean and I think, "what if that was my last good design?!" What if all of my pent up creativity was finally unleashed in one fantastic but short-lived set of pottery designs? Could that really happen? Does it happen?

In the summer after graduating high school, I took a workshop at Penland School of Crafts in the
Blue Ridge Mountains of western, NC. We had an awesome teacher, a master thrower who had
trained with the best of them, and was now successfully selling his work as graduation and
wedding gifts in a tourist town in Virginia. I remember him giving us a throwing demo of one of his "signature" mugs.
Our small group sat around him like preschoolers at story time. Wiping only some of the clay from his impressive beard, he told us how the location of the rim of his
mugs had moved up and down the pot over the year --as day-to-day potter, how this had made things "interesting."

Well isn't that depressing!?

So here I am in my studio, shelves nearly filled with the 20 or so pots I've made in this same design thinking -- damn it! I'm already sick of making these! Aren't I trying to wholesale my pottery? Just this week I wrote up an inventory of how many of each design I want to make by 2010. Really? I want to make 50 of these frickin vases?

I threw eight this week. And this week, the bellies were wider, the shoulders higher, the lips a bit more distorted, the walls a fraction of a centimeter thinner . And I'm excited as all hell about them! And I guess that's what's so exciting about forms in clay. You can push a tiny bit one way or another, and suddenly you have a whole new life before you.

If "we are the clay, and God is the potter," how is the world not boring after the four- or five-billionth iteration? Maybe small changes make for lots of fun...

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