When I first started making pottery, I made short fat bowls. Made from three pounds of clay, they were about two inches tall and probably an inch thick. At first I kept them and glazed them and marveled at my work. Then I started really looking at bowls and cylinders and realized how bad mine actually were.
Then I started realizing how much clay I was wasting and it became cost prohibitive to make that many useless bowls and glaze them. So I started making bowl after bowl, cylinder after cylinder, I brought a bucket with me to the studio and after I made all I could before my back ached, I dumped all of the clay into the bucket and recycled it. I stopped firing and glazing until I could get a bowl and a cylinder that I deemed worthy. I started reading books and magazines to learn what I was doing wrong, to learn what created visual interest in a piece of pottery, to understand my materials. I took workshops from potters whose work I admired. I learned for ten years. I am still learning. Some days I still can't wedge my clay properly!
When I started teaching pottery classes, it was the hardest thing in the world to get my students to give up a piece on the wheel that had gone way beyond it's life, too much water, too much grog coming to the surface, way too off centered, beyond any hope at all. Clay is so seductive when you are a beginner, especially on the wheel. You just can't stop touching it. But the best lesson I taught myself was knowing when to give it up and start fresh.
And so it is now with weaving. After about the 5th warp thread broke on me last week, and my edges started looking like a curvy mountain road. I finally gave it up and cut off the weavings. These yarns are not precious to me. I sat down with all the sections I cut up to see what they could teach me. And then, I took them all apart and recycled the yarns. Last night I got out the books and started reading to see what I was doing wrong, to understand the process. To learn. Unlike with my clay learning, I am patient. I don't mind ripping up these pieces, it was very easy for me to take the scissors to them. Wesley watched me in disbelief, but I think she saw that it is ok to give up work that isn't all that great and learn from it. Clay is still teaching me, even with another medium.
I did get a couple of small pieces that I like. But there are many mistakes. I didn't allow enough space between samples so the fringe could not be tied. The patterns are messy because of all the broken and missing warp yarns. These are my short fat inch thick bowls, all over again. Instead of understanding different clay bodies and different glazes and firings, I am exploring different yarns, different patterns, different colors. But one day, I think these yarns will be nice little mats to rest a teapot or a handmade bowl on.
one day......... today the heat is on in my studio, the dual doplar 5 million radar says that it will be 60 degrees today, so today, I am making bowls..... wooo hooo!
Tracey this post filled me with hope and with satisfaction. Strange words to use maybe but that's how I feel from what you've described. We never stop learning, we can learn from our past and we can learn from what we are doing in the moment. Stopping, starting again...so much more satisfying and fulfilling than plodding on and in the end saying "I can't stand this" and never wanting to look at "it" again. Thanks for this!
I sort of agree with Sherry -there is frustration in your post, but no despair, no surrender. Because of your previous experience with another medium, you know that some space is needed, some time needed, to clear your head, and approach your weaving "from another angle" so to speak.
You know how one day you can't do something on the wheel, (let's say collaring in) no matter what you try?
You stop. Then one day you get back to it, and it JUST HAPPENS! You can do it! Why? How? I think all your previous attempts have informed you, and it just needs to 'gel.' The same thing will happen with your weaving.
If we loyal readers know anything, you are a fighter, so you will make it happen pretty damn soon!
By the way, one of my favorite weavers:
Weave (and pot) on!
Until you make your last pot, all the others are just practice. Novice throwers over at the community art center marvel at the pots I cut up on the wheel. I keep thinking that if I achieve perfection too soon I'll get bored with it so I keep putting it off.
beginner's mind is such an open headspace to be in... when the possibilities are endless. enjoy! xo
I have been making something new on my sewing machine with no pattern. I am using scraps and it feels good to just ripe them up since they are not right yet!
I walk away and think--- I am convinced that I know what I did wrong. That for me is the first step. I know what is right, now tell me what I am doing wrong.
So true, I love the learning the most:)
Hi Kevin, well said, yes frustration but not in a sad way and definitely not despair. Just a settling in for the long journey ahead whatever it is. Today I am re learning how I used to make bowls.....
Dennis, I remember the first time my first pottery teacher cut open a pot she had just thrown, we all had a collective gasp as a class, so silly, like she couldn't make another one? It seems like everything I do is practicing for something.....
Hey Laura, yeah I love that beginners mind, everything is a "lets see what will happen if I do this" kind of day....
Exactly, show me what Im doing wrong!! I can fix it if I know what it is:)
Generally I am NOT a patient person.
Potting and weaving have changed that. And I will say of all the things in life I have tried to learn those are the only biggies that I have stuck with. I enjoy the whole process. (On the other hand I have a fiddle and a mandolin that are evidence of my lack of patience in that department!)
SO glad you are enjoying yourself Tracey! Tension can be a real booger.
Hey Anna, my mom used to say that I never stuck with anything. I read on Drucillas blog one day that she was calling herself a scanner, just trying lots of things. That's what I am, a scanner! But like you, I think the weaving and clay will stick, just something about both of them I don't mind getting irritated with...
What a great post...make the mistakes and learn from them!!!
Hi Caroline, thanks! Wish there was an easier way, ha!
I am a great lover of wabi sabi and embrace the beauty of imperfection. I haven't seen any of your work...fiber or pottery...that I wouldn't be honored to have grace my home. Beauty is ....as they say...in the eye of the beholder. Just look at the following of Jude Hills Spirit Cloth.....I'm working my way through her Contemporary Boro 2 class now. Fiber and mud.....an earthy connection to Spirit and nature that you wear well. I think a lot would be lost in the push for perfection.
Thanks Jody, you are very sweet! no worries here about perfection, I like things a little wonky!
gosh, what you said resonated with me. Hard to learn at first though not to save everything. Now I only save the best- usually what is sell-able, regardless of whether I will sell it or not. Your words remind me how much time it really takes to learn pottery--- a lifetime. Thanks for this.
Amy, it really does take forever and a day, sure wish I had started at a much younger age!
It seems we can always learn more in our craft, letting go is a great way to hang on. Thanks for the valuable lesson reminder.
Lori, your comment of letting go made me think of all the things we have to let go of in our lives, children, parents, family, houses, pets, things we make and then sell, so many letting go's, it's good to learn how.......
I also wish I had started younger--like maybe under sixty!
Oh boy, there's a lot of truths in there Tracey! Obviously i can relate to it all too well. Oh boy!
You're really moving this weaving along at a pace though! It all looks good to me no matter what you think of it!
I think the media cross-pollination has been such a teaching/learning thing--the watercolor has always taught me to be a better painter in acrylics. Now the clay is teaching me about paint, too. Wide open and wide awake--it's the best we can do.
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