After my undergrad, I worked in production pottery for several years, which is where I met my husband, Chris. While not having studied ceramics in college, I made it my business to learn everything I could while cranking out goblets and beer steins for the Renaissance Fair circuit. What I didn’t learn myself, my honey knew, as he would throw several hundred pieces of pottery per day. We now have a pottery setup in our basement, where we produce small batches of functional ware and experiment with other applications here and there – slab built sinks, fairy houses, jewelry, etc.
One of the most interesting aspects of ceramics, for me, is that you are literally harnessing chemical forces of nature when firing a kiln. We send people into space in ceramic-tiled rockets, and it’s just about the oldest art form there is. The potential for applications is endless. For example, growing crystal formations in glazes bubbled to the surface after playing around with Epsom salt accretion and experimenting with other household chemicals that combine to coax mineral gardens out of evaporating liquids and time. Someday I would love to capture these inside a glass bubble for wear, but as yet they’ve proved too fragile to tolerate such abuse.
Sketches of ceramic jewelry incorporating crystalline glazes and Rosemalling.
While I don’t identify as a ceramicist, I do still like to incorporate it as one of the handful of materials I make the rounds through, mostly on account of my other half’s expertise. I’ll design, he’ll advise and together it works out. Were I to go it alone in this material, I’d come up short of the mark. Does being married to my studio assistant undermine my work in clay? I’m not sure, but I will tell you that it makes me worry about being good enough if I require help to see my ideas through from start to finish.
Old experiments in growing simple mineral gardens, grade school science.
But that thought seems silly as well, for who doesn’t ever need help at some part of their journey? Show me a perfect artist, perfect art, how did they get there? With help along the way, to be sure. As medicine for this quandary, I love the book Art and Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking, by David Bayles and Ted Orland. A pithy little nugget from A&F on perfectionism:
“To require perfection is to invite paralysis. The pattern is predictable: as you see error in what you have done, you steer your work toward what you imagine you can do perfectly. You cling ever more tightly to what you already know you can do – away from risk and exploration, and possibly further from the work of your heart. You find reasons to procrastinate, since to not work is to not make mistakes.”
In my practice, it’s all about ‘keeping the faith’ alive (thank you, Dan Noyes, wherever you are). This work is its own ontology for me, like a religion, an inescapable vocation that is more of a lifestyle than a career choice. I make things to channel extra energy outward, or it will endlessly churn inside of me with a destructive action, eroding away my civility in order to get out. It’s not a therapy, it’s a necessity. I try to do as animals do; whatever form calls, instinctively make it again and again. Like birds with their nests, snails with their shells – I live inside of what I make.
“What you need to know about the next piece is contained in the last piece. The place to learn about your materials is in the last use of your materials. The place to learn about your execution is in your execution Put simply, your work is your guide: a complete, comprehensive, limitless reference book on your work.” – Art & Fear