Thursday, 20 November 2008

This Week's Ceramic Class and Feeling Inadequate

I've been struggling with my mood this week and therefore my confidence. I went to class on Monday and the tutor was fine, and I was chatting away to other students, but deep down I was feeling inadequate. Everyone else seemed to have such wonderful ideas and were all working on their various projects, but I wasn't feeling very inspired. Having said that, I had a few people admire my castle and ask me how I made my first mug, so maybe every student feels this way a little? I just feel that I don't have any original ideas of my own. There are lots of things I would like to try to make, but they are all things I have seen on other people's blogs. I suppose this is all part of the learning experience though - maybe by learning from others my own ideas will evolve?

I also feel like I have been holding myself back creatively - I was dissatisfied with the clay, the glazes, the time I have at each class, and I have been waiting for everything to be perfect before I put the effort in to make some nice pieces - but I have decided that it's counterproductive to wait. What's the point in waiting until I have everything just right and then make something that could go wrong? Better to improve my skills with the materials I have available to me, so that when I have increased my knowledge, experience, and confidence, I can then make informed decisions about which materials to buy to make my pieces just right. Right?

So with all that going on in my head on Monday, I just used the time to glaze a few pieces, finish smoothing off my first roasting dish, and then start on another (seeing as I've had to throw away three of them at home in the space of one week!) So nothing very exciting.

My castle had been fired for the second time with the iron oxide and green glaze on the vines, and this was the result:

For a tea light holder, I didn't really think the design through very well. There are hardly any windows at the front! And they're too high up!

The glaze on the vines has run quite a bit. I could do with some advice from some of you lovely potters on this - my tutor got me to mix the glaze into a thick paste for the vines, using some dried glaze from the side of the bucket, could this be why it ran? Or did it run because it wasn't thick enough?

Sigh. Yes, it's wonky too. It stands at just under 9 inches tall and just under 4 inches in diameter.


cynthia said...

First things first - some days are like that. We all have them.

2. There are no original ideas! Especially in pottery/ceramics. It all comes down to interpreting a form with our own personal stamp. Don't try to be perfect out of the box - play! Just yesterday, I was looking for a low fire glaze recipes and opened The Spirit of Clay and read the section on "play". Find it and read it - that's your homework today!

3. Glaze - usually when glaze runs, it's been over fired, there's not enough alumina in the recipe, or the eutectics has been lowered as a result of 2 different glazes reacting together.

4. I like your castle! As for the window issue, it's an excellent learning moment. You'll never make that oversight again ;) I have these all the time...

Cut yourself some slack, Linda - you're doing great!

Undaunted said...

I know you are absolutely right Cynthia - I read that chapter and I know I need to try to do that but I don't seem to be able to loosen up - I expect so much from myself and everything has to be "right". I will re-read it though and maybe try some of the play exercises. :)

If the glaze has been over fired or doesn't have enough alumina in it then there's not a lot I can do about that. Do you think the glaze could be reacting to the iron oxide?

Hahaha, you're right about the windows! I'm glad you like the castle anyway. Thank you for all your encouragement Cynthia :)

painter girl said...

Hey Un D,
I have days like this all the time. It really is part of being an artist that you require so much of yourself at all times when you are in the workspace. Especially when you are an adult and have another job, every second seems weighted with pressure. But Cynthia is right. The biggest thing is that you have to play! And must mimic others to find your own voice. We have all done it, we all continue to do it. It is not stealing but imitation. Picasso was a big imitator (all though he would never admit it and claimed the people he borrowed from were stealing from him) HAH! Feel free to use anything that you see out there. You will always make it different because it is your hand that makes it.

Sometimes the thickness of a glaze can make it run. where it would normally be stable if applied thinly, the extra thickness makes it runny. I would use that glaze thinly from now on. You can't at this point change the dynamics or chemical composition of the glazes you are using so just be aware of the way the studio glazes react and try to adjust to that.

I really think that you are coming along so well in clay. I love the castle. It is great. You should see the first thing I made in clay and you would feel so much better about your pieces. If I could convince my nephew to give up the piece I gave him so long ago, I would post it. Maybe I can get him to send me a picture...anyway your pieces are really pieces of art already where mine were experiments and that is a nice word. Have a great confidence if only in your own spirit. The rest will come!

Ps I didn't get your email Sorry for the confusion

cynthia said...

Yep - not much you can do about #1 & #2 in glaze answer. Yes - different oxides and glazes can affect certain things depending on the glaze used.

Yes - play, play, play. I have my best breakthroughs when I just mess around with no expectation of an outcome. You have to be prepared to recycle your play work if nothing comes of it. But, sometimes, you'll surprise yourself.

Undaunted said...

Thank you Leanne, that's a good point about imitating. I was just so worried about offending others if they saw that I was imitating them and thought I was trying to pass something off as my own idea.

We seem to forget how to play as we get older don't we? (Although even as a child I seemed to take plasticine very seriously!)

I wonder why the tutor got me to mix the glaze into a paste then? (No comment!)

Thank you so much for your encouraging words Leanne. I'm glad you like the castle! I would love to see some of your early work!

Cynthia, I will try to play!

Thank you both so much!

Anonymous said...

totally normal feelings.. I remember them well....

Don't beat yourself up. The end product (a pot) is not nearly as important as getting to know your materials well and how they react. Everything else will follow.

Even if you copy someone's work, its inevitably going to look different than theirs. And things have a knack of serendipitously evolving and taking on a life of their own.

Just have FUN. :)

Undaunted said...

Thank you Anne, I really appreciate the encouragement and advice, and knowing that others have been there before me!