Thursday, March 20, 2014

As The Wheel Turns: Fix it or Forget it.

Sometimes things blow up.  I did 4 new masks in the last month, put them into the kiln to bisque fire and only one came out completely whole.  Three came out with varying degrees of difficulities from small cracks to an entire section in little pieces.  

I was surprised but not devastated.  And curious.

I've been doing clay masks and sculpture for a long time, usually what goes into the kiln comes out intact.  Sometimes there are minor cracks or chips.  Even with my new wheel work, cracks happen, too.  But I have to say that in almost 20 years, I've never had anything completely blow up.  

Well, maybe it was my turn.  

This mask's nose completely blew off.  Shards were all over the kiln shelf and some in the bottom of the kiln.  There were way too many to even begin to piece it together.  One other mask had the nose crack around the edges.  Another had part of a leaf crack off.   The two with the most problems were made with different clay than I usually use.  My porcelain clay had the least damage. 

The question isn't why or how it happened or what I did wrong. The real question I ask myself is: Do I fix it or forget it?

I've fixed many a minor crack along the creative way.  Even in functional pieces, some cracks don't affect the integrity of the piece.  Sometimes, I've had cracks lead me to a new creative techique I can use on other pieces in new and different ways. I've even had teachers show me how to glaze glue pieces back on.  But, with all this support and help, fixing for me has always been about denial and hiding.  So I usually try very hard to camouflage and cover cracks and breaks, to hide what I see as my mistakes. 

I was ready to forget this mask.  Throw it away and make a new one.  But I didn't.

I remembered how others have built blown up pieces back up with modeling compounds like Bondo.  I've never tried it, never had to, but I've always been curious.  Would it work?  How hard will it be to use it?  What will the mask look like with a newly Bondo-ed nose?  I don't know, but I'll post pictures of the process in future blogs.

Maybe there's a new question and answer here: Is artistic perfection the goal? Maybe not.

I've had others point out the cross cultural concept of leaving mistakes or purposely making imperfections in an art piece.  One term for this is Wabi-sabi, a Japanese aesthetic term meaning imperfect, impermanent and incomplete.  Objects with cracks are filled with gold or silver to highlight and give value to the imperfection.  Sometimes cracks are even left unfilled in the edges of a piece valuing incompleteness.  

It's a wonderful and freeing concept but one I've had a hard time embracing.  I usually opt for hiding and camflouging what I see as mistakes.   But maybe now, the universe is forcing me to grow, come out of hiding, into acceptance and seeing value in my imperfections.  

I'll post more here about my imperfect journey, as I always do.  In the meantime, Bondo, here I come!


Vicki Miller said...

Thanks for dropping by. Love your sculptures on the web page. and your process here

Susan Gallacher-Turner and Mike Turner said...

Thanks, Vicki ! So glad you stopped by and I've added your blog to my reading list.