Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Beginnings easy. Endings hard.

I love starting projects. There’s the excitement. The anticipation. The clear, clean openness. The clay is new and fresh. The paper is crisp and untouched. It’s full of possibilities. I dive right in.

I’m at my best at the beginning. I thrive here. It’s even better when I have no expectations or very low expectations. I don’t plan a piece beyond the bare framework. I just get my hands moving across the page, on the wheel or sculpting with clay. I end up refreshed and calm with a deep sense of satisfaction of a good working day. I good throwing or painting or sculpting or writing day is rewarding in and of itself. I quit those days with a deep sigh of relief and awe and gratitude.

I try to keep it simple. Each day, I face each ball of clay one at a time. I reach for a bat, put it down and stay in the moment as I center, pull and shape. Magic happens in these moments on these days. As I clean up and take my pieces in to dry,

I am amazed that I did that.

But again, I stay focused on that day, those pots. One at a time.

Even when I’m painting with under glaze, pulling handles or sculpting leaves, I stay focused on that one piece, that one task. Like a horse with blinders on, I keep my head looking only straight ahead.

When I’m at the beginning or middle, in my mind’s eye, my studio shelves look empty.

So, it surprises me when I see my studio shelves are full. There is no more room to put any more cups, vases or bowls to dry. All the sculpted pieces are attached. All the under glazing is done. I am finished at the moment. Done.

You’d think I’d feel a sense of accomplishment. But I don’t.

That’s when the struggle begins. The questioning. The doubts. I see mistakes everywhere. Minute cracks, jagged sgraffito lines, bumps, slip marks and uneven throwing lines. But, you see, it’s too late. The pieces are now too dry to make any changes. This stage is finished and it’s my job to let go and move onto the next stage; bisque firing and glazing.

I’m not good at letting go.

Ask my family and friends, my dog and cat, they’ll agree. What’s weird is I’m much more comfortable throwing away paintings, stories, sculptures than I am at finishing them. Really. The big clay sculpture I trashed last month, made a wonderful crash when I threw it in the garbage.

Maybe it’s not letting go or finishing that bothers me so much. Maybe it’s control. Or maybe it’s acceptance.

Once the pieces are bisque, glazed and in the kiln, they are out of my hands. I am no longer in control of the process or the product. What comes out comes out. And it’s done. I can’t change it any more. It’s time to see the bowls, vases, cups, sculptures, masks with all their bumps, asymmetrical alignments, glaze flaws and drips as a finished creation. Now, I see all my expectations, ideas, and anticipations turned into final forms. Some amaze me. Some disappoint.

I have to accept it either way. The end. It’s always hard.

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