[Clayart] The point of critiques and bad pots

Deborah Thuman debthuman at zianet.com
Wed Oct 26 09:46:16 EDT 2016

There are advantages to being a multi-media artist. Frequently, what I learn in one medium can be translated to the rest of the media. This requires translation - it’s not a direct route. 

I started out as a writer, took a detour into visual arts, and then had a semester of adjustment getting back into being a verbal artist. Now, I can work with both visual and verbal. I think. 

I over fired the kiln on Sunday and I’ve got an open studio this coming weekend. For a whole lot of reasons, I’m dancing above center and frustration is frequently at the maximum level. Several pots nearly got launched into the desert when the kiln got unloaded Monday evening. 

Meanwhile, I had to turn in a chapter for my writing class yesterday. I know I’m a good writer and I’m finally getting past the desire to be told I’m a good writer. Tell me something I don’t know. I had a spiffy, gut wrenching, in your face chapter all nicely polished, and I considered handing in that chapter. What I handed in was a chapter that …. sucks. I’m having problems with the dialog. I’m having problems slowing down the action. I’m having problems figuring out what to explain and what to assume the reader understands. Teach the reader what’s not known but don’t write down to the reader. I put an explanation along with the chapter so the other students could orient themselves. The chapter is in the middle of the book (students were confused about who the characters were and why were they so poorly developed in the last mid-book chapter I handed in), I listed who the characters are, and said I know the dialog sucks but I need feedback to make it better. 

When I make a good mug, I know it. But this mug over here isn’t so good. Tell me where I went wrong. Nicely. I’m looking for feedback, not a firing squad. I’ve got a plate that could have been gorgeous but for the tiny fact that I used two glazes that absolutely do not play well together. I like the plate, so it’s mine. This is a good thing to learn. Yes, I should have used test tiles. Or tried that combination on a piece that didn’t make it through bisque. Show of hands - who here has never skipped a test tile because they were over confident and in a hurry? I learned from the plate. I’ve got a gorgeous plate that has the perfect color combination. Jim loved the plate and suggested we keep it. We have to. It’s got a surface crack. The plate is usable, but I will not sell a piece with a crack. That crack came from over firing the kiln. (Eventually, I’ll manage to get that kiln to fire the same way twice.)What I have, besides a plate that I can use but not sell, is a design that works, a color combination that works, and wondering what would happen if I took the underneath glaze and up it on top of the on top glaze. I should make more ornaments…. they make nice experiment tiles. 

For the most part, the ornaments were successful. Some I like better than others. Some disappoint me because they don’t look in real life as I saw them in my head. Three were experiments….. one turned out well but isn’t worth the effort, one is worth the effort, but I used too little underglaze, one is an experiment never to be repeated. Someone may like that ornament, but I don’t. A few teach me that I have too many brown glazes and need more colors. Gee, what a pity. I’ll have to buy more new-to-me glazes.  

Yes, the goal is to make good pots - better pots than I made the last time. The goal is also to learn something from the bad pots. The goal is also to learn to not detest a pot when the only fault is that it didn’t turn out like the picture in my head. So many times I was ready to toss a pot into reclaim only to decide it was good pot a day or two later. There was nothing wrong with the pot other than it didn’t look like the pot in my head. 

Now for the bad news. We have hernias. Or as Jim put it, we have his and hersnias. His gets fixed in December. Mine…. there’s an added bonus with mine and I have to wait a couple weeks to see another doctor before finding out what’s going to happen and when. I’ll be fine. I’m just not going to be fine as fast as I would like. So… no clay for a few months. Mostly because we can’t lug 25 pound bags of clay and we can’t wrestle with kiln shelves. That’s another good thing about being a multi-media artist. I can still play with fabric, fancy threads, fiber, beads and words. I just can’t lug dye buckets around. I don’t mind getting older; it’s a privilege not given to everyone. I mind falling apart. 

Deb Thuman
debthuman at zianet.com <mailto:debthuman at zianet.com>
https://debthumanblog.wordpress.com <https://debthumanblog.wordpress.com/>

You can’t have a light without a dark to stick it in. 
Arlo Guthrie

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