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Throw Back to "I Quit"

Below is a blog that I wrote nine years ago when I quit making pottery. The teapots shown in this post were never finished and I never made a pot again. The shark was never finished either, I'm not sure why, I wish I had because it looks good. This article still applies and I may be writing a similar post about making animals. I hope I'm a better writer.

My artistic path began at the potters wheel, the hypnotic rotation of the pot growing at my touch, the slathery clay in between my fingers. Not to mention the notion of a romantic life style of the quiet potter toiling away in his studio to create useful beauty. I was young when I considered pursuing art as a lifestyle. No longer does this mystique answer my creative drive.

The last time I made pottery was about a year ago. Since then I've been in a few invitational pottery exhibits and used pots that I had left over. The last invitation to exhibit a teapot was from a prestigious gallery that was attending SOFA(Sculpture Objects and Functional Art) in Chicago. I made it as far as the trimming and seating of the lid and, for the first time, I made press molds for the handle and spout (knowing this is the point at which I lose interest). However, I gave up when it was time to attach the spout and handle. I didn't have the patience to follow through to the end.

I am not quitting sculpture, however. Interestingly, the same additive and subtractive processes that I use for making a spout or handle I also employ for making a crab claw or the foot of a hare. In fact, the time consuming nature of the way I work increases with sculpture. I can stay with a hare for hours, days and months if necessary.

During my growing up years, there was no academic discipline in my home. Embarrassingly, I read my first book in the 11th or 12th grade, "The Old Man and the Sea". It was the first time that I experienced art in a way that transported me to another life and time. I can still conjure up mental images of the old man, a fisherman, Santiago, with cramped hands, his "dry spell" broken as he's pulled out to sea by the 18' Marlin, "What kind of hand is that," Santiago says, "Cramp then if you want. Make yourself into a claw. It will do you no good". Eventually the marlin dies of exhaustion, too large to bring on deck, the old man lashes it to the side of his skiff. He awaits night fall so the lights of Havana can guide him in his arduous return to shore. Then the the eventual degradation of his catch by predatory sharks. Hemingway created a character that "remained undefeated after losing his hard earned, most valuable possession", a fictional character whose mind I was able to enter and a person I knew better than most people in real life. I left my reality and found empathy in a simulated world.

When I make pottery I think formally: form, function, surface, craftmanship and beauty. All noble pursuits and things that I value in the work of other potters. With sculpture I think formally and, additionally, I think about narrative. I think of visual metaphor, story and layers of meaning.

The advantage of discovering story later in life (if there is one) is that I know what it's like not to have my head filled with ideas. Sure, there was wild, hardscrabble adventure with nature (there was no nature deficit) that I draw upon in my sculpture, but no books. Once I read my first story, there was no returning.

We've held a holiday sale each year for the past 10 years. By now, I'd be elbow deep in turning crockery for our gallery shelves. This year however, I'm not interested in making pottery just for money. The clay's sensuality on the wheel that drove me years ago, no longer seduces me. There's fear and a sense of loss associated with this admission. My customers have come to expect my sale. My hope is that my audience will grow with me and evolve as I evolve. Hopefully new opportunities will emerge that would not otherwise had I continued to straddle both worlds.


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