Thursday, February 28, 2008

Inspiration and what makes a good pot great

I wake up this morning thinking two questions. I will try and answer one today. These are thoughts for my book which is beginning to evolve.
1. How to keep inspired?
2. What makes a good pot great?

If you think you are making good pots, you will probably keep inspired. What a compliment to give yourself, commonly called confidence. But how do you know you are making good pots?

Let's look closer.

Inspiration. On the lightest side. You are a student. You have a project due or a paper. Sometimes, if you are lucky it is just as my husband says, "get your butt in the chair on a regular basis even if you just sit there, and do it." It can be time management problems, it may be the sense of feeling overwhelmed. Anne Lamont says "just take it bird by bird." Or maybe the student is unprepared with the tools to accomplish the task. Sometimes there are secondary problems, something as simple as feeling responsible to something else like dishes in the sink or responding to other peoples needs. Does your child need more attention or a trip to the dentist? Then, we are back to time management.

Before I had children which seems like never, now, I had the luxury of some days feeling uninspired. I would wring my hands and wonder if I should just do something else for the day. Luckily for several years I still had a shop and had to "keep my butt in the chair" so to speak. The simple answers for me were to either calm down and not panic about it, use it as a learning day and make projects I did not feel so connected to or go somewhere and see something (like a trip or a hike etc. and I would get rolling again.

Later, after kids, I would say "Oh, if I only had 10 minutes to think." Later I realized when I had 10 minutes or maybe 30 or maybe a whole hour, it took more than that. Then it felt like all those extra minutes before children were more precious than I had realized earlier.

I talked with a very successful artist and noticed that he felt stuck. The look, obvious in the body language. Looking at the sky with intensity, kicking the feet lightly in the gravel. Hands in the pockets, scrunching the face. The simplest question, "How you doing?" brings great anxiety.
It hits us all at some point or another and it hurts no less at any degree.

Sometimes it just is what it is. Or, is that a cop out? If you are reading this to find out what the answer really is, let me tell you there is no "real" answer. There are ways to deal with it and get going again. The real answer lies in each individuals heart. Why are you doing this and what do you care about? It can be as simple as wanting to make everyday utilitarian pottery.

There are differences in why you have to make art. If you understand why you have to then maybe you can understand why you are stuck. Are you trying to get a degree? Are you trying to learn a new skill in the arts? Are you trying to eek out a living or part of a living? OR, are you trying to get or stay famous? Are you trying to communicate messages to the rest of the world and you want to do it through clay?

If you are stuck and working on a degree maybe you are not communicating clearly or have an issue or two with your professors or you are taking too many hours and have trouble devoting yourself to the medium. Or, are you a party animal who just wants to numb yourself with drugs and alcohol. Know your limits.

If you are doing it for a new hobby or trying to increase your life skills or learning that you are a creative person and you are uninspired, are you expecting instant gratification and it is not coming fast enough? Do you need patience? You must "pay your dues to the materials and knowledge." There is no way around it. Clay in particular is a slow moving, time eating monster which must be fed on a regular basis. It is however patient, relatively inexpensive and forgiving. It takes time.
Or, maybe you need more influences. You don't have to reinvent the wheel, so to speak. There is little new info and there is an incredible amount of inspiring history. Look at books and study cultures and see what you relate to.

Other problems causing you to have an art block could be personally draining relationships,
your over or under stimulating environment, pesky non- quality time sucking so called friends (it is always fun to blame others). Balance. If you prefer to party a lot and make less art don't call it being uninspired. You just have other plans.

Sometimes you just need to have more skills. Go find them. Workshops, books, mentors, DVDs, the Internet. Use your creative skills to figure out where to find out what you don't know.

And now, the most difficult question of all. What if you have the skills, the time, the "show" and you still feel stuck and uninspired. The "What ifs" are an ugly tribe. Fear. Fear of no message. You feel complete from other experiences and it can be fear of success or no success. You could try some other obvious answers like change materials and challenge yourself. Can you remember any ideas you felt no time for or like you could push further.

Could you take a little part of another show that you secretly felt really worked or did not work and expand on it?

Do you think wallowing in your info makes it more important? Do you think you have to exhaust an idea or wring your hands before something becomes significant. Can you trust your instincts that are positive and let them flow out of your hands and brain?

So much of our art is anxious. Some of most expressive pieces I hate to admit came to me when I felt a bit of that torturous feel. Does that have to be? Balance. Ying Yang. Good Bad. Love Hate. I hope there can be beauty through peace of mind as well as mind games and torture. Both are powerful feelings. And I would expect art that comes from love and peace would not have to be a cliche or too pretty unless irony is involved.

I recently ordered several books with lots of contemporary clay figure making books. I found them mostly depressed and mutilated figures. Don't get me wrong I'm not all about sappy happy realistic figures but my word! If we are all this miserable just take us on to the promised land because this isn't working out great. Does this reflect our society now? Yes.
I don't want to dictate style but I can only hope it was a biased editors point of view.

Trust your own judgment gather your tools, pick your battles, follow you heart and your passion and there you will find your inspiration. In fact it is true in art as well, for every action there is a reaction. Just do it.

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