Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Snow Days



The truth is, I am the only one who really truly cares about whether I make art or not. I don’t mean to imply that my husband, my children, my extended family and friends aren’t terrifically supportive and all. They are. Just last week, my 9 year old, Duncan told me that his classmates think it’s really cool that I make ceramics. And my youngest son, Calder insists that his favorite artist is me first, Alexander Calder second. But whether I get down into that hovel of a basement/studio and actually complete something really does not matter to them. Not the way it would matter if I didn’t pack a lunch, make dinner or do laundry. Not the way it matters to me.

For me, art-making is a lonesome and self-driven endeavor. Last Monday started as “one of those days” and quickly slipped through my fingers into “one of those weeks. I simply couldn’t get any traction. On Wednesday, when we woke up to the first Snow Day of the winter, I got caught up with the glee of my three boys and simply gave up trying to do anything terribly productive in the studio.

And so I found myself on the following Monday a whopping 7 pinch pots behind. Instead of intimidating me, I could hardly wait to get started. The night before, I dreamed of the kind of pots I would make. I wanted to try for taller more cylindrical pinch pots as opposed to perfectly round bowls. So instead of walking downstairs to an empty table, I had the start of an idea, a task to do.

This is always extremely helpful for me. I’ve heard writers say to never walk away from a story without a plan for what needs to be written next: A few notes jotted in the margins, maybe a quick line of dialogue or a setting. This holds true in ceramics, too. If I walk into the studio with a check list of what I need to do to get started, something as mundane as rolling out a slab of clay so it can stiffen up to the leather-hard consistency, or putting another layer of glaze on a piece, it helps. The first step inevitable leads to the next, and the next, and before you know it, my imagination is engaged and the day is filled.

So back to the pinch pots. I began with seven lumps of clay for seven cylinders. My son Duncan was home sick from school, so I had a few interruptions as I pinched out the basic forms. This actually helped me out a little, allowing the clay to stiffen up before I thinned out the walls or smoothed the rim. The pots were taller, but they turned out to be shaped like triangles, with pointed bottoms and wide tops. They looked so much like faces to me that I just had to add a nose to one, and a mouth, and, okay, a row of teeth. This was so much fun that I had to make another one with big lips, and hair. Before I knew it, I was entertaining a crowd. Seven strange faces staring me down. Maybe I’m imagining things, but this group seemed deeply interested in my art making, as if their lives depended on it. I think I’m on to something. Take a look. What do you think?

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