Monday, October 17, 2011

October's Half Done Already.... Where did the first half go??

When I started writing this I had a sudden flash of wisdom...and started again...!  It may have been that the task of pushing plastic keys and forming words and sentences that summed up the week past, actually triggered a bit of mental activity, a spark, in a rarely used quarter of my brain!  

New bisque fired mugs and pots... more in the kiln!
My life mostly revolves around making pots.  I have quite a narrow focus out of necessity.  With potting there is always a lot to do.  I often think that pots that are in the process of being made are like zoo animals that have to be fed morning and night, mucked out and carefully watched in case anything unexpected develops!  Even the weather is a big factor in the early life of a pot.  In the winter, the infant pots sulk on the shelves and refuse to dry, so a fire has to be made to keep them warm and happy.  In the summer time, the pots dry too fast.  They are like elephants without water, or a hippopotamus family without a muddy place to wallow!  A potter takes on the role of parent, guardian, and zoo keeper whenever the hands reach for a fresh clod of clay. It is quite a thought.  Although it is not the actual thought that had me re-writing the beginning of this post.  

Before..... Two pots and one bowl being made by coil and throw method.
Last week I achieved quite a lot in the studio.  I fired two bisque firings of new work in the electric kiln, and made some new pots.  Towards the end of the week making two very large (for me) pots of 20 - 22 inches in height by the throwing and coiling method.  

After.... The tallest pot is just a shade over 22 inches (56 cm).
I am quite excited about those really, pots that size do start to have a physical presence that their smaller relations rarely have.  I would like to go bigger still, but will need to find a way of firing them.  As it is, pots this size will have to be fired one at a time in the electric kiln that I have for a crystalline glaze firing, which does make everything a big commitment of time and resources.

Big pots have a physical presence that I like.
The thought that caused me to re-write the beginning of this post was related to work and the "boom-bust" work pattern that I so easily fall into.  Longer and longer hours, work seven days in a week, then the health takes another tumble.  The thing is that I often get up in the morning feeling like I have to spend the day catching up on all the less productive days where things have not worked out so well.  There are always deadlines to meet, floors to mop, pots to glaze, pots to make, kilns to fire, paperwork to do, and so on, and I feel so far behind.  

My flash of wisdom was that I was unconsciously placing little value on the down times, the "non-productive" times of my life.  I was seeing them as a waste of time, barren periods that had to be compensated for by working twice as hard on the "good" days.  In cold hard money terms, this comes close to being true, but in more personal ways, it is nonsense!  The times of illness and low productivity are a part of my life and of who I am, just as much as the highly productive days. Yes, this can be  frustrating and it makes earning enough money to live very difficult, but had my life gone differently, I would be a very different person too.  Not necessarily better or worse, but different!  We are, after all, the sum of all of our days, not just the ones that we ordain to be "worthy" of us!  So, the difficult times need to be "lived" and given value just as much as the good times.  They are life, after all, and life is to be treasured.  If I manage to keep this in mind, I think that I will find things less stressful and I will enjoy the moment more.

One very good thing that happened in my "unproductive" chunk of February was that I rediscovered the joys of reading!  I was rather concerned to find that it was quite difficult to read the first book, because my silly head had got into the habit of just skimming short paragraphs and pulling out "relevant" information.  This bad habit was something that I had learned unconsciously from reading so much online.  An actual physical book requires some different skills, and an ability to "tune out" of the everyday world, and to build up another world in the imagination.  This is a very good thing for both mind and body, and is worth nurturing.

One strange, but wonderful, book that I am currently reading is "Telescope" by Jonathan Buckley.  Jonathan Buckley has most original powers of description.  For example, and do read this slowly...

"An operatic dawn to welcome me: pale peach sun behind miles-wide rungs of amber cloud; fields and trees daubed with diluted honey; in the background, low undulations of indigo hills; jubilant blackbirds.  At 5.30 a.m. a garage door slides open as smoothly as an eyelid, releasing a vast black BMW, the first commuter out of the blocks."

I can see those "miles-wide rungs of amber cloud", and the garage door opening "as smoothly as an eyelid".  I think that I will now always look at a garage door in a new way!

Ginger insisted on having his photo taken!
Laura was commissioned to paint something a little unusual, a 21st birthday key.  This she did on a grand scale, and it was nice to see her looking inspired and enthusiastic in the painting department.  

The key was full of interesting details, here a fish plays a saxophone!
Commissions can be very, very hard to do, but they can pull one through into new territory and open up fresh ideas which bring a spring to the step!  

Well...,  I'd better post this now.  Sorry not to be visiting so many blogs as I usually do, I haven't forgotten you!


Linda Starr said...

That's a great key Laura has made. I know what you mean about putting one pot in a kiln seeming excessive, but if the results are good then it's worth it and even if they aren't sometimes the knowledge gained makes it worth it.
The down time I have come to accept for some of the same reasons as you.

Anonymous said...

I know exactly those unproductive days. We should be kinder to ourselves I know but it is so hard. I am so annoyed at myself for yesterdays nothingness and it's bothering me this morning which will bother me fior the rest of the morning and stiop me being much use today. damn

Armelle said...

Hi Peter,
You are becoming a real Zen Master with such thoughts. Every moment is great when what we are doing is living with consciousness. I took yesterday my fourth Yoga course and it's really very good for the health to learn how to breathe and move and stay relax. It was my birthday too and we enjoyed to have some friends at home and to eat outdoor.
Your pots are great, you make me want to try now to do big pots, hum a big challenge !!!

Angie said...

So glad you are back ...and with such an interesting post.I loved the way you thought of your pots, and your role in their lives ...not just as a creator but as a parent too.
What an amazing key Laura created ...I do wonder what her brief was must have been detailed and I LOVE that saxophone playing fish ...though I wonder about the antlers. lol
I dont really read much but I do understand what you are talking about re scanning. I do it on the net..but started when I did some studying and helped my son find information when he was studying.Great thing to be able to do ...bad thing when you really need to read everything.
Glad you appear to be fit and well again ...take care xx

Judy Shreve said...

I think there is so much wisdom in this post. Learning the rhythm of our bodies is so important - and something we all should honor. It's unfortunate that we have to force ourselves to push to do things for our incomes.

I relate to your thoughts on sitting with a book - I found I wasn't reading as much and I agree we are all too used to quick bytes of information. It's rather alarming - when sitting with a book is such a pleasurable thing to do! I don't want to lose that skill either!

Love all your bisqued-ware lined up -- and those big pots are gorgeous. Can't wait to see them glazed. Hopefully you'll generate enough money from the sale of those to compensate the kiln costs for firing.

I love Laura's key. Her color choices are always so vibrant and happy. Love her art work!

smartcat said...

Don't be too hard on yourself about so-called 'down time.' It can be a valuable tool for progressing and processing work.

I find I read downloads for information. Pleasure reading is almost always in dead tree form. There's something about holding a book while reading it; it's all part of the romance of a story.

Laura's key is terrific! Love the fish!

John said...

Your eye for beauty, and your creative ability to communicate and share it with others, is in itself a source of great delight. It helps us to see things differently too and enlarges our horizons.
re the 'down' times, maybe you should re-read Ecclesiasticus chapter 3 again!
There's nothing like reading a well-written book aloud to others. Empathising with the characters feeds the creative juices too and adds its own relish.
P(e)ace yourself Peter... xx

Laura's sax-playing fish is great!
More please!

Peter said...

Dear All,

Thank you so much from Laura and myself for your kind comments which have been very much appreciated. The key was quite an challenge for Laura, as the person that it was for had interests that included playing the saxophone, fishing, shooting, computers... all sorts of things. This helps explain the saxophone playing fish with antlers! (I suppose in these days of genetically modified crops and animals, there may already be saxophone playing fish with antlers, but that is another story!!).

Must dash now, P