Friday, February 29, 2008

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.

2 weeks in Hawaii

Freshly picked Breakfast Lunch and Dinner

Fresh Flowers in Steve's Pots

Dining Room Flowers

More fresh flowers from the garden in the living room

Tomorrow marks 2 weeks in Hawaii for me.
I am working and I am learning.

I am making lots of bowls. A few large ones and lots of small ones. I am thinking bright colors and more. How can I get these home? Will people want any here? Can I get a grant to help pay the shipping?

There is something very soothing and comforting about making bowls. All of sudden I am excited about throwing. I would have predicted hand building but I think about it differently now. With just a few tips from Steve it is so easy to move the clay. The clay throws well and reminds my of my Cone 6 special white I am having Flint Hills mix for me. It is smooth, creamy and moves. I have also made a few organic pots based on the leaves. Yes, a few tornado shaped bowls as well. The themes are still emerging.

Jamie will be mostly finished with her big project Friday and we will celebrate. Then we will make bowls together and see what happens. I really hope I can talk Ian into letting me pass these throwing techniques on to him. Why didn't college show me this many years ago. Why are industrial techniques not shared with college info?

Steve is an incredible potter who shares information. He says he has limited business sense but I think he thinks that way naturally. He knows a lot about mass production and how to farm out the tedious parts. His visions are great. His themes are strong and he also councils his close friends and family. His mother was a potter and his father was a scientist. He learned a lot.

It is late. I am tired. I enclose a few more photos so you can see what this world is like.

I think a lot and I enjoy the quiet. I drink a lot of teas. I eat fresh avocados all the time and all our food is organic and homemade. This is how I used to live.

I met Randy Takai today. I like his work and you can view it under HI Arts magazine represented artists or Id space gallery in Hawaii. Just google it. His work reminds me of Leonard Baskin's work. Baskin is one of my favorite artists. I will visit his studio on Saturday morning.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Short and sweet

Jamie's Garden

Guess what is growing off my deck? Papayas

Art is long.
Life is short


Steve's daughter Monique said when she was little looking at a globe
"Are all the countries different colors when you look at them from outer space?"


The path around the park in Keaau

City Park in Keaau

Another work day. I helped Jamie with her big project and then I pinched 7 pots and the 5 smaller ones. They were organic looking and made to look rough on the outside and more beautiful on the inside as I think ahead about the glazing. Yes, kinda like people and their personalities.
The 5 smaller pots were attempts to step away a little further from the basic nut pots. I'm still not sure which surface I'll try. Cone 6 or Gas at Cone 10. It depends on space and the timing.

Next I tried the new throwing techniques. It will change my throwing style if I continue to throw this way. It is thinner and taller. You think about the placement of the axis of the pot and the inside hand does the throwing and pulling the outside supports and keeps it rising. You start off with a sharp angle at the base. I will teach this when I get back if I have a shop for long.

I try to not think about all the "moving of the shop" and I hope I am there long enough for Ian to learn more and become a confident shop owner. So should I be happy being in Hawaii and making pots as I please or should I wish I was home sorting through thousands of small objects? No brainer there. It all seems unreal from here.

The pressure is less since Jamie and I are just feeling our way about the show. She is still overwhelmed with work from her project so our work time together is a bit limited. So, I don't know if the "show" will happen. This time is valuable and I will make things to bring home to help pay for the trip. And, overall, they will be small because of the shipping expense.

Yes, I will publish picture of the work soon. I am tempted to do small leaf pots to bring home.

I walked for an hour today around the park in Kea'au and saw lots of soccer girls practicing and most of them were native Hawaiians. I did the mouse on the track today while Jamie and Steve played tennis.

Still eating lots of Avocados as they ripen quickly here on the property and there has been another request for more of my homemade French bread. Steve's daughter Bella has similar eating habits to Rachel's and she loves my homemade biscuits and french bread. She is quite the cook herself.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Sunday, A day of rest

Candy store#3
The river meeting the sea at Hilo
Another gorgious flower downtown

Candy store #2

Candy store #1
Interesting iron bird feeder
Cool Bike Rack in Hilo
Today I intended to work hard at clay but I started by making biscuits instead. Everyone loved them and then because I already had a floured mixing bowl, I made French Bread to be eaten later.
I helped Jamie make coils for her commission and did a little extra working on my pots a little and then we shared the leftover chicken soup and fresh avocados on toast.

We searched on line for beach cottages to rent for a spring break retreat but did not come up with anything affordable. There was a beautiful one for about $300 maybe $400 after all is said and done per night and I thought that was expensive until we saw average prices around 6-7 hundred and another for $5000. Some per night and some per week and all have to be rented for several days. That is the expensive side of the Island on the beach. We were looking for 3 bedrooms with a kitchen. Any suggestions anyone?

Sunday is a day Jamie and Steve go to Hilo for some pretty serious ping pong playing. These guys are serious and sweaty in the armory who gather to play this. It looks like a pretty good workout as opposed to the little girl ping pong I used to play.

I walked Hilo while they did their ponging. I confess I did not walk as long as yesterday because I got distracted in town. First I stopped in a kitchen store where I was very tempted by a ravioli cutter. And then a Natural Foods store where I tried on new crocks and checked out the flax seed oil for cholesteral, purchasing neither. And then heaven forbid a decadent little candy store with chocolate covered potato chip and chai malted milk balls. I confess, I bought a few little bites. Next I walked around and tried to "feel" the town. It did not feel like my town. I could not imagine living here, really. The real estate in the window showed two homes. Nothing special about those homes except the prices. One cost $359,00 and the other $549,000. And believe me, food is not cheap either. I noticed lots of kids, young hippie like college age kids hanging out. Somebody has some cash but they do try and look poorish. "Maybe I envy their lifestyle." said the lady with the chocolate covered potato chips.

After photographing the river and rubber necking a little more I walked back to the armory, met up with Jamie and we headed to the health food grocery store where we loaded up with baby bananans, teas, basic supplies for dinner and Kava kava my new favorite drink.
I cooked my delicious French Bread, Jamie made spaggeti ,and we finished off our supper with a Baklava flavored ice cream, just a couple of bites. So we cleaned the kitchen, I trimmed a few pots and the rest is history. It was a nice day but tomorrow I gotta get back to clay. Maybe today's pottery plans will happen tomorrow. It was a lovely day.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Old Dog, New Tricks

Today was a day for learning. I helped Jamie make coils for her project and messed with a few pots trimming but did not make any new pots.

I did learn some new techniques. Steve showed me more about the method of throwing his very large pots. I still don't have the name down of the technique. I think it is overhand method. You start with a severe right angle at the bottom of the pot, line up your lower arm over the axis of the pot and pull up with your inside or left hand doing the pulling with the outside hand being way above the inside hand. 2-3 pulls and you have a really tall pot. That is the industry trick. Tomorrow I will apply that info more. He was helpful and pulled with me so I could feel the pull. I have done that with students but no one has ever done that for me.
Next, I watched him form his pots and rip them apart and reassemble them with other dry pots he soaked in water and then attached them. After knowing him for a bit I was able to see his symbolism in his pots and understand his statements through his work.

I felt a little tired today so after watching I went for an hour and twenty five minute walk to wake up. I came back and trimmed more pots.

The walk was fun. I chose a hilly rural route. The road #8 passes by their house and it is a busy ribbon waving road. Cars bounce all over the road up and down just trying to drive down the road. One car was actually dragging on the road making a scraping sound because it is so ribbon like. So, it is nice to get off road 8 and on to an even smaller road,

The road I walked was one lane, like so many around here, and surrounded with lots of greenery about the color of my ever so famous green crock shoes that Kelly gave me. No snakes, lots of lava and unfinished bushwacked driveways. Not very many homes and more poor people than rich people. Rich rich people and poor poor people. But they all have to drive very slowly on the unpaved roads and everyone waves. A truck with 2-3 pit bulls in the back and a smaller barking dog passed. A comfortable slow moving native family drinking cold yellow beer also passed me. Dogs barked here and there and I walked up and down the roads.

I know it is politics but as I walked the land I just could not understand why the US thought it was ok to claim their land and make it one of our states. This happened so recently. I remember my elementary school project in Indiana and feeling so proud that we "owned" such a beautiful and exotic state. I know-Japan Pearl Harbor military statigy, defense and all that.
It still does not feel right as I walk these island back roads. It feels like the land naturally belongs to the heavy set, dark skinned people who waved to me while passing by. Yes, I saw the beer in that hand that was not on the steering wheel They were not drunk just comfortable in the big white car bouncing along on the dusty road.

Now that I have said how we should not own the land I will say out the other side of my mouth,
I saw a really neat looking fixer upper house without glass in the windows on that very same road. It sat high above the land and needed lots of TLC. I don't know if I could live comfortably in a house like that one. I bet it wobbles in earthquakes. I don't know if I could ever feel like it was my home.

Maybe we all own all the land in the world and we should not draw dotted or bold lines to divide them. Can't everyone just give and take a little in a peaceful way and we could all just live in peace? Aren't there enough avocados for everyone if we share?

By the way, we are forced to eat more avocados now because they are all getting ripe at the same time. What a shame. They taste so fine.

I miss my family and friends. It is so nice to talk to so many of you. I do really like being here and being out the normal routine. Ian is doing well at the shop and I hope he can hang around long enough for me to get resettled and not pick up again on those frantic way-to-long hours at the shop. I love my job but want more balance. Ambition is exhausting when out of control.

More photos tomorrow.

Friday bowls and dinner at an Italian Restaurant in Pahoa

Today was a day of spinning and bowl making. After making 25 small bowls and trying to portray emotion is utilitarian bowls and then four more medium sized bowls and attaching a figure to the bottom of another we quit and went to town to a cute little Italian Restaurant. It was good to get out and the restaurant was cute. See the photos. Later we came home and I went to the studio and finessed a few more pieces. I am still, playing with bowl ideas. Jamie and I did not get to work together today. There were too many things going on.

Steve got inspired to come and throw and it was great to work beside him and see his throwing. His Mother was a potter and he thought he knew how to throw but then he learned some extraordinary info from working with industrial potters. I think he called it the "hook" throwing if I remember correctly. You form a severe s in the wall of the clay as you work and that clay just moves right up. I asked him what industry does this now and he did not know if any place is doing it now. He will show me more about it tomorrow. This info needs to be passed on. It is good and makes throwing big things much easier.

Then we went to Pahoa and ate Italian. It was fun to go out but quite expensive for down home Italian cooking. We took a bottle of wine and they have a $5 uncorking fee.

Emotions and throwing. Can emotions be felt in small thrown bowls? Is the message too subtle? Imperfection, sharing (added spout), tightness, loseness, groundedness, heavy stuff?
I don't know yet if the subtleties are there and can be seen with now explanation. I have also been writing words on pots. Cheap trick or effective? I also put a couple of bowls on pedastels and wonder if that emotion is felt? Maybe I will know when I go down tomorrow and look.

Tomorrow is a new day.

Thinking Chair on porch and Pecking chicken alarm clock

Friday, February 22, 2008

Peace at last and the beginning

We all talked, Steve, Jamie and me. And, we figured it out. And we feel better. Maybe the same answers were there anyway but now with less stress.
We were all feeling like "What are we doing and how do we get done whatever it is we are doing? And we need to hurry up to this major goal.
So guess what? We all decided to get basic. Jamie and I want to be together, make bowls and learn from each other. We want to make a couple of forms together or independent of each other. We can both make a satisfying shape, form a press mold and repeat it several times. We want some bowls finished, some unfinished, some finished here after I leave and some finished in Tulsa. We want big bowls, little bowls, lots of bowls, special bowls, collaborated bowls.
The show, if we so decide will come after enjoying our work time together and after all of us have examined our path to get there. How did we work, how did we change each other and are some of the bowls art and gallery statements? I think this is a great opportunity for us all.

Beautiful and not so beautiful bowls can be useful everyday items, necessary to our culture and may or maynot be pleasing. They suggest many things-giving and taking, nurturing,ritual and elegance. Bowls of every size are needed for lots of things. Could this put pottery back in a valuable place society? Or, are we still like shepherds? Outdated?

Steve wants us to keep a journal of our experience and maybe we will write an article for the magazine about it.

I believe we will create meaningful pieces from this experience making a strong statement and meanwhile the stress is off and the production is on.

It is all about art, constraint, concepts awareness and time. I think we are on to something now.

I walked for an hour and a half today and it felt good.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Thinking of a unique Concept

Hmm. Something new. Something only Jamie and I could do because I am here. Something I have never tried or pushed toward before over the last 30 or so years. Something unique to this gallery that has no regular venue. Something people would want to come and see.
I have tried so many things in so many directions. I cannot rely on my comfort zone and I am thinking hard. Words come to my mind. I started with journey and I feel my natural environment full and clear but that is not it. That is comfortable. I think of ideas I have tried that I wanted to spend more time on and push harder but none have totally jelled yet.
I examine my traditions and inspirations. I think about form and forms.
My Frank Lloyd Wright pieces at Christmas were sort of in that line of thought. They certainly caused a lot of friction. "They aren't straight. They shouldn't be straight. Make them straight. Clay is not straight. Yes it is...They are really cool...throw them in the alley. I know something you don't know...blah blah blah"
I don't want to make things I don't like.
The nature of clay fascinates me. I like it for what it is in its own way. Just like people. I don't want to control very much. I like to stand back and watch it and see what it does. It is not tough love for me. I am not driven by anxiety. I relate to the clay. I want to feel the clay I like loose throwing and letting the clay have a life of its own. Spontaneous movements are welcome.

I accept people and clay as they are. I just like to spend more time with some than others.

I don't know people here. How do I get them interested? I know color trends and design trends but what else is to come? I don't want to be boring. I need to feel the experience. I think I will know tomorrow.
This is a good search. Can I please others and myself as well? I don't want to take a shortcut and make Native American , African pots, or Mexican pots. I can interest people those ways but that is history for me. Where am I searching while in Hawaii with Jamie in a new space?

More soon. The process.
Form, Design, Process and Concepts-all in one big successful experimental ball of clay

Another subject as well-Oklahoma Women's Prison Project

Do you know Oklahoma has the largest percentage of women is prison compared to any other state? So, John took his students down to get some insight from the women on why and how they got there. View this blog. I think you will find it interesting. I got to go down and visit on his preliminary trip, before he took the students. It is very interesting, hearing these life stories. Visit the student's blog and see what I mean,

Search for it on the blog site if you cannot find it. The students are giving us insight.

A Few Examples of what I am working on-

macadamia nut shells may prove for greater inspiration
nutshells to pinch pots, just the beginning of the shaping of the clay, more to come

arrival of the journey, the birds rest

the long flight, in the hands of the silver bird, the restful whir of the plane

the beginning of the flight, the reach

trying t o hang on to get ready

arrival, the birds rest

first half, person land person land
seven pieces of the journey
I started working on the 7 piece series, called "Journey" at this point. The first figure holding onto the block depicts the burdens involved while trying to get ready. The hands melt into the block of clay. The second figure flies forward beginning the path and the next figure rests on the journey guided by the bird and the last figure is there and puts its feet in the air. There are a few pinch pots inspired by the macadamia nuts I found and a couple of slab pots experimenting with the same surface as the land and water between the figures
More work tomorrow. Gotta start on the big pots. This is a white clay body that reminds me of my new special blend I'm selling at the shop.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

First day in Clay

I'm working now. Today I did a handbuilt sculptural piece "The journey" with seven pieces, people and landscapes showing the journey from Tulsa to here or a journey of life. I will post pictures of it tomorrow. I threw a couple of bowls and now Jamie and I need to come up with the real plan. The substance of our show.
Steve Freedman is a great guy to work with. He is bright, thoughtful and sensitive and honest. He is a real thinker and shares his thoughts and expresses himself well. We talked about my book idea, basically how to stay inspired and pottery as a lifestyle not just a way to make a living and he really likes it. I showed him the issue of Studio Potter I was in and he really liked the article and what I said. It was a bit embarrassing to show it to him but he indicated he liked the way I expressed my feelings about business and life and found it refreshing.
He is incredible technically and if you haven't seen his website, look it up.
Jamie is great to work with. She works hard and is very talented. After a long day in the studio we threw together tonight.
I may gain more insight to throwing when I work with Steve. He says the secret is less surface tension and faster speed and then stay centered in the axis of the pot. I have not seen him throw yet but it should happen soon. It is great to still be learning and what an opportunity to work with others.
It is special. I looked out the window this morning and wondered how I really got here.


Dear Adrienne:
I'm calling you up tonight
as I might call up a friend as I might call up a ghost
to ask what you intend to do
with the rest of your life. Sometimes you act
as if you have all the time there is.
I worry about you when I see this.
The prime of life, old age
aren't what they used to be;
making a good death isn't either,
now you can walk around the corner of a wall
and see a light
that already has blown your past away.
Somewhere in Boston beautiful literature
is being read around the clock
by writers to signify
their dislike of this.
I hope you've got something in mind
I hope you have some idea
about the rest of you life.
In sisterhood,