Return from a Hiatus

Posted by on Sep 1, 2013 in Philosophy | 0 comments

One of my resolutions this year was to post a blog a week; sadly, I have not succeeded in keeping that resolution.  But it’s September! Which is another sort of New Year. Of course, this perspective is the result of years in school.  And, although I am not in school, September still resonates with promises of change and improvement. While I truly enjoy blogging, it is quite a bit of work for me.  One of the bigger challenges to blogging (right after carving out time to be quiet and think) is taking pictures; and, I want to include photos with my posts because I can’t write what a good photo can say.  So, in December, I purchased a new camera in order to improve the quality of the pictures.  But the camera is intimidating and much smarter than me.  So instead of learning to use it, I continued to use my point and shoot until the guilt overwhelmed me and I put a moratorium on using the point and shoot.  I thought this would help me buckle down and learn my new camera.  It didn’t…it just kept me from blogging.  You see, I used a hard thing (blogging) to motivate myself to do an even harder thing (learning how to use the new camera).  That was not a good formula for goal achievement. Well, I still haven’t figured out how to use the camera and I am taking a lot of really bad pictures but I am returning to my blog any way.  It is September and there is still time to work on my resolutions.  Thank you to any one who has continued to check in during my hiatus and I look forward to sharing my musings about pottery and...

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External Motivators

Posted by on Sep 12, 2012 in How-to, Inspiration, Philosophy | 0 comments

There are ways I can stimulate creativity – work, think, engage with inspiration, give myself a challenge, or solve a problem.  Although the first four actions are self induced; solving a problem is often due to something outside my control (like how to save a kiln-load of over-fired pots).  Either way, these are a few things I can do to be more creative; but what makes me continue to work even when I don’t feel like it? That my seem like an odd question since I love pottery and truly enjoy my studio time.  But I fight a fallen nature and I often battle the inclination to waste time on the net or piddle around the house rather than be productive in the studio. Just like being creative takes work, working takes work.  So sometimes I need a little help getting focused and moving.  I need an external motivator; something to give me remind me about what I really want even when I don’t feel like it.  Like a runner who needs a race to motivate her to push a little harder, crafts shows are that for me.  Craft shows create a need for particular pots by a specific time which helps me keep working. I know several potters for whom Christmas is the external motivator.  They have a list of gifts they want to make and give within a time frame.  And, I recently talked with a potter who told said her vacation motivated her to finish all of her work-in-progress.   She was surprised about how much she was able to get done before leaving. External motivators help us to do the things that we want to do but seem to neglect.  There are lots of other external motivators for many areas of our lives. You clean your house because your mom is coming for a visit You begin to exercise because you have a wedding to attend You organize your finances because you want to buy a house The key is to identify external motivators and use them in healthy and balanced ways.  Everyone has had to pull an all-night study session which may have been productive but it isn’t a sustainable lifestyle.  Define what is important to you and find what keeps you aware of those things.  Incorporate external motivators into your life so you can accomplish what is truly valuable to you rather than passively letting time get away from...

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Cultivating Creativity

Posted by on Sep 5, 2012 in About Me, Philosophy | 0 comments

Creativity is a concept that I have had to re-define.  Initially, I thought you were born creative; and there is a lot of propoganda out there  to support this mispreception.  At this point in life, I realize that being creative is a form of problem solving that combines using limited resources, acquiring skills, and working around deficiencies.  Often, a creative solution is the result of preparation and tenacious work. As a potter, I understand that there are a lot of things I need to DO in order to be creative. Primarily, I need to work.  Working means my hands are in clay.  I get lots of ideas when I am engaging with the clay and am able to try lots of things when I am working. If I am to cultivate creativity, I know I need time to think and consider.  One way I do this is to journal.  But it is hard to carve out quiet time to listen to the ideas floating around in my mind because something always seems to get in my way.  However, when I do, I gain clarity about what I want to do in the studio. I also need to be inspired if I am to be creative.   When I want to be inspired, I read, search for new glazes, reading, look at fabrics, attend workshops, or take a trip.   But this is a dangerous zone because I can spend a lot of time shopping for tools and reading inspirational material rather than acutally working – the result is a pile of tools and ‘pins’ that I don’t do anything with. Sometimes I need more motivation to be creative so I give myself a problem to solve or a challenge to overcome (make 10 different mug forms, the largest bowl I can make from 5 lbs, texturize a series of tumblers, etc.).  And sometimes, I am forced to cultivate creative resolutions to problems that I didn’t mean to have like how to use a glaze that I love but runs, how to save a kiln load of bisqueware that was fired to glaze temperatures, how to the make pots lighter because I am running out of clay, etc. Being creative takes work and it doesn’t happen for me unless I do the work.  It is like my fortune cookie said, “It is tough to be fascinating”. What is it you do to cultivate your...

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Inventory Maintenance

Posted by on Aug 22, 2012 in Craft Show, Maintenance, Philosophy | 0 comments

“I would rather be prolific than perferct.” – Abel James Since the Bele Chere show, Julie and I have been throwing together when our schedules allign and independently at other times.    This is our show season so we have pots to make.  This is also the time of year we look at our stores and begin rotating pots and increasing inventory in anticipation of the holidays.  (Holidays!?  It is still the sweltery summer – it has taken a few years but we realize that the holidays come so quickly that they might as well be next week). How does this work?  I look over the sales and evaluate what sold – largest number sold, highest grossing, average price point, etc.  Then we consider the customer comments and our inventory.  As a consummate list maker, I make a list of what we need.  Then we divy up the list.  Although we throw together and independently, we glaze together.   After a few years of doing shows and knowing what we like to make, we had a good idea of what we needed to work on this past winter.   At this point, in order to get ready for the next show, we make pots to replace the pots we sold at last show.  The fall is a very busy time for both of us (we average a show per month), so it is much easier if we can work this way. I talk to a lot of developing potters who often say to me that they don’t want sell because they don’t want to have to make particular items.  Actually, I hear this from a lot of hobbiest in various media.  And, I understand it.  If it doesn’t bring you joy, than don’t do it.  But for me, the shows drive me to make pots and the result is I make more pots of better quality.    For some potters, Christmas functions as a driving force for them to get into the studio and work.  I have seen Christmas lists that would overwhelm a crew of elves.  But, the list keeps the potters focused and throwing.  Shows do this for me and they give me the opportunity to make more pots than I could otherwise...

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I tumble for you, I tumble for you!

Posted by on Aug 18, 2012 in Philosophy, Tumbler | 2 comments

Confession – I love 80s music –  and what potter couldn’t love Boy George’s anthem to tumbler? I love making mugs (as I have stated many times).  But, sometimes I don’t get the handles on  before they dry and I am left with a tumbler.  Every time this happens, I promise to never let it happen again; but you know what they say about good intentions.  Some days life interferes and I just don’t make it back into the studio which is how mugs become tumblers. I have several of these ‘not-quite-mugs’ in my home and I use them daily.  At first, they ended up in my cupboard because tumblers are very difficult to sell or give away.  But now, we prefer to use them instead of the glassware; consequently, they spend more time in the dishwasher than they do in the cabinet.  In fact, I am planning to replace our glasses with tumblers (eventually, you know…shoemaker’s kids and all that). There seems to be a lot of confusion about ceramic tumblers.  People (Americans) don’t know what to do with a pottery tumbler.  Although ceramic tumblers (like Japanese tea bowls) are revered in other cultures, in the US, there is a discrimitory attitude toward them.  I am not sure why there is such a predjudice towards tumblers (aka ceramic handless mugs); but, apparently, there are rules for beverage consumption and ceramic tumblers are shunned.  For example: Cold drinks are drunk from tumblers made of glass, plastic, or paper. (Why such random discrimination towards pottery?  Ceramic tumblers are perfect for keeping refreshing beverages colder longer.)  Hot beverages are consumed from mugs with handles.  Exception #1:  Over-priced hot beverages can be drunk from paper tumblers with supplemental cardboard sleeves.  Exception #2:  Hot beverages prepared at home for consumption outside of the home may be drunk from plastic or stainless steel tumblers if they have a lid (If we can drink coffee out of disposable and lidded tumblers, why not from a ceramic tumbler?) Wine must be sipped from glass-stemware.  Exception: Wine can be drunk from a tumbler if it is called a stemless wine glass (Really?! A glass tumbler should not be more permissible than a ceramic tumbler.) I am attempting to help people overcome their pottery prejudices by forcibly serving our guests iced-tea in tumblers.  I want them to realize the benefits to drinking from a ceramic tumbler – pottery tumblers keep the beverage colder for longer time, handmade is more enjoyable, and pottery tumblers are more attractive than glasses from IKEA.  As a consequence of my crusade, a few guests have even become tumbler converts!  Tumblers are more than un-evolved mugs and if we set aside these arbitray rules, we can enjoy handmade pottery in a broader context.   (I wanted to have the song playing as you opened the post; but I read somewhere that viewers immediately leave a site that has automatic music.  So for all you Culture Club fans or potters who want to celebrate the tumbler with this timeless song, click here and...

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Stash Syndrome

Posted by on Jul 20, 2012 in Philosophy | 4 comments

I’ve dabbled with knitting and crocheting for several years.  Yarns have such beautiful colors and textures; and I find knitting patterns to be intriguing geometric formulas.  This year, I have amped up my efforts to learn to knit and in the process I have been introduced to a rich and passionate community with its own eccentricities. One common quirk that knitters seem to share is having a ‘stash’.  A stash is a collection of yarn accumulated for undefined projects.  I can certainly understand the compulsion to purchase serendipitous yarn, but the minimalist in me shutters at such a thing (this is a constant battle for me). In fact, just recently, a knitting book was recommended for its concise directions and creative patterns.  I quickly went to order the book but as I was considering the purchase, I remembered that I had a knitting book I haven’t even read.  This got me thinking about the line between buying for inspiration and allowing the purchasing to become the hobby. Every pursuit or interest has its own peculiar accoutrements and it is very easy for your true passion to be replaced with researching, hunting for, and obtaining all that wonderful paraphernalia.   It is fun to learn about all the intricacies of a hobby; it is necessary to get things in order to get started and become proficient; and, it is certainly inspirational to have wonderful, new materials or tools.  Somewhere in between is a place of creative productivity.   Stash syndrome is common in potters as well – but instead of fiber, potters seek out and collect tools.  There are so many compelling tools that promise to help us make better pots.  It is very easy to have lots of toys but never really play with any of them because we are too diverted by getting more gear.  But acquiring tools will not make better pots; however, practicing with them will.  If getting a new tool inspires you to try new things, go for it.  But if the new tools don’t have any clay on them, stop shopping and go throw.   *Confession:  I have stash syndrome with my Kindle.  I spend more time searching for books that I might want to read rather than reading the books I know I want to read.  I need to awaken my inner minimalist so I can focus on what brings me real pleasure....

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