Thursday, January 29, 2015

As The Wheel Turns: Imperfectly Perfect.

As an artist, perfection is not the goal.  Or is it?  

A work of art is, in fact, work.  Making art is a work process requiring concentration, dedication and physical labor.  The art work, whether it's a painting, mug, mask, script, novel, movie, musical performance or blog, is a tangible product.  And the product is subject to scrutiny and evaluation.  

Imperfections and all.

I've studied and worked and produced and shown and sold work for many, many years now. Yet, I still work to do the very best work.  Whether it's choosing the correct values in a painting, the right mug and handle proportions or a word that sings, I strive for that A plus.  And, I fail all the time.

A secret.

The harder I try to make it 'right', the faster it goes wrong.  I sat at my wheel today, throwing mugs which I really like to do and find relaxing.  Today, it was not.  The first piece refused to cooperate, it wobbled, wiggled and caved.  It brought back all my beginning frustrations and fears and failures.  I got mad and sad.  The clay got tossed.

What now?

That, I saw clearly, is the true question.  And, the answer.  I was back in time hearing all those helpful suggestions and calm comments about mug sizes and handle openings and, oh, color choices and pricing strategies.  I wasn't really sitting at my wheel, playing with porcelain, at all.  

Sit.  Now.

Take a wedge of clay.  Put it on the bat.  Turn on the wheel.  Feel the porcelain between my fingers.  Take a breath in and out and drop my shoulders.   Center, open and pull up.  Put my hands together, one in, one out, clay in, clay out, feel the rim, let go.  Voila, a mug.  

Four clay wedges later, there are four porcelain mugs.  They are not exactly the same size.  Two are a little taller and two are a little wider.  They will need and get slightly different sized pulled handles and leaves.  I see a pattern in my throwing.  I tend to throw mugs in pairs and I don't know why, it just seems to happen.  I've embraced it by putting the pairs together with the same color and treatment.   But others, I've been told, don't see it that way.  They want a perfectly matched set of four or six.

Perfectly imperfect.

I'm not perfect and I don't throw perfectly sized sets of mugs.  But, I've sold a lot of mugs, actually.  And here's what I've noticed, they go off in mismatched pairs, or one to one person and another to someone else.  I've even sold a set of four mugs to one person that were all a different color.   I, personally, think that's imperfectly perfect, don't you?

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