• russell wrankle

The Trough of Despair

Anyone who has ever created something, whether it’s a painting, poetry, a business, or a sculpture, understands that in the beginning of these endeavors, the possibility-fueled excitement energizes you. Once the process of creation begins, obstacles emerge and confusion sets in, then you begin to doubt yourself. The term for this is the “Trough of Despair”. How many of us have quit during this time of doubt? If the project isn’t working, there might be an opportunity cost because you can only do one thing at a time, and working on something else might be more fruitful. Knowing when and if to quit is difficult, and sometimes I quit because I haven’t developed enough insight or technical skills. I’ll abandon the ideas, and return months or years later with a deeper understanding of what I’m trying to say and then manage to pull it off. I’ve also abandoned many pieces too soon while experiencing this despair. Like art making, when I started Shape Theory Collective I had very high hopes. I was energized and electrified for most of the time leading up to going live and for several weeks after. From the beginning, we’ve been successful and we’ve been able to donate about 15% of sales to the Last Prisoner Project, as well as help bring the plight of the 40,000 cannabis prisoners into public consciousness. What surprises me is the emotional toll of starting and managing Shape Theory Collective. I’ve never created anything like this before, yet there are interesting similarities between creating Shape Theory Collective and Sculpture. We’ve been live now for almost two years, and like art making, I often want to quit. Either because we might have a slow month, and I feel like a disappointment to the artists, or it’s a lot of work that takes me away from my first love of being an artist. Or I just question my own motives. During these moments or days of despair, I remind myself that a business is a longer-term project than the process of sculpture making. The creative process is similar, but where one takes days, weeks or possibly months to determine success, an endeavor like shape theory collective is an infinite game. The arc of a career in art making is also infinite, but each piece is a finite process, and hopefully the current piece leads to a new and more insightful pieces that span a lifetime. Also, with sculpture, you can have a few pieces going at once, so that if one pieces is not working, you can move to another piece, and by so doing, continually have fresh eyes as you move from piece to piece. Shape Theory is a long-term project and requires a longer-term perspective, and within the framework that we’ve built, there’s ways to pivot to enhance aspects that are working, and move to more effective strategies. Always trying to see with fresh eyes. The thing that keeps me engaged with Shape Theory Collective during the trough of despair is the relationships. My experience within the ceramics community is one of generosity and kindness. We all have our petty gripes, but overall, I think that we represent a community who cares for each other and for folks that are less advantaged. I will be forever grateful that I found a place in this community. And now, as the founder of Shape Theory, I am in a position to experience this generosity and kindness first hand. The support and kind words from artists who I’ve admired from afar for years have given me hope that I’m on the right track. Developing these acquaintances into friendships is something that was unexpected, and very enriching of not humbling. These new and deepening relationships go beyond the ceramic community. I now have relationships with a few folks associated with the Last Prisoner Project and have become a fan and admirer of activists that have been in this space much longer than we have. I’ve been moved to tears by the stories of current and former cannabis prisoners, and I continue to be in awe of the resilience that these folks display in the face of such hypocrisy and cruelty that is the war on drugs. Thank you, patrons. We’ll keep building this community and we’ll continue to bring ceramic artists onto this platform that can bring beauty and joy into your lives. At the same time, your support directly benefits the Last Prisoner Project and the good work they do.


For more, check the fabulous art on www.shapetheorycollective.com

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