An Exercise in Futility

January 10, 2019

 

 

 

I 've been focusing on improving my craft which is directly tied to patience. I'm impatient by nature. I want to see a piece done. Once I have it sorted out, I begin to lose interest. This creates much unfinished work and skills almost mastered. Jane of all trades, master of none. I know this about myself and work on improving this "opportunity." This was why I went to welding school after my B.F.A. I didn't want to be one of those metal artists with shitty welds. I worked hard on learning how to make a beautiful bead. Then I worked as a TIG welder until I was bored out of my mind with the monotony of crafting one tiny perfect seam of stainless steel after another. Now I'm taking a ceramics class with Leon Nichols who's been doing this for as long as I've been alive and I feel like everything I've learned about the wheel before is wrong. As in yoga, I'm approaching it with beginner's mind which forces my ego to pack it's bags.

 

Ceramics break. I know this is not news to anyone but it still frustrates the crap out of me. My metal pieces could be thrown across a room and be fine. My ex-husband invested in stainless steel cups, bowls, and wine glasses because he was so tired of me breaking dishes. He was wise in some ways. Yet, here I find myself working with ceramics that love to break any chance they get. The only worse medium I could choose would be glass. That thought brings me back to sanding one of Lynda Benglis' glass sculptures by hand and being impatient. The glass tech said he was sure it would be fine on the grinder if we were careful. Yea, it wasn't. The piece was like two bubbles joined together with that delicate wall between them. Delicate things break. Sigh, young and impatient, I learned my lesson. Patience is my theme for life.

 

Which brings me to today, sanding my mugs for their first run through the kiln. I was almost finished with one that I felt looked pretty darn good when, "crack." Greenware always fools me into thinking its stronger than it is. It's not...at all. As I sanded the other pieces I kept looking back at this poor broken dream of a cup, refusing to admit defeat. I thought of wabi sabi and the beauty of the cups mended with gold. Was this piece worth saving? I've already been adding holes to work to add crochet to after, I may as well do it before. 

 

Even as I carefully drilled holes into the fragile greenware, I began to question my sanity, especially as the pieces broke more. Patience, again, patience.

 

Threading the Nichrome wire through the holes seemed desperate. Why was I doing this? Insanity. The layers of meaning started to come through. Mending what can't be mended. Trying to hold on to something that crumbles with the touch. Would it even make it through the kiln after all this work or break even more. Wasn't that the point of the piece?

 

I try not to question the process too much but I started to remember influences, passing ones like Michelle Taylor's sewn ceramics to time spent with Irv Tepper absorbing his deconstructed ceramics long before I had ever touched a wheel. At the time I was concerned with keeping my young kids from breaking stuff at his place while we visited. Now I wish I had picked his brain more.

 

This exercise in futility may be a dead end or may lead me down a new path. I'm already wondering what the glaze would do to the pieces and wire. Thinking of dropping a few of the new vessels I made yesterday to experiment more. Do I wire it before or after glazing? Do I glaze at all? Do I crochet missing sections or add a wire edging? Do I worry about the neatness of the sewing or embrace the desperation of just holding the pieces together? The irony of mending the failures even while working on improving my craft is not lost on me. I'm going to make even better vessels to break. It's all really an exercise in non-attachment.

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