I've been using one porcelain clay exclusively for the last few years. I chose it because I wanted to work in porcelain and needed a cone 6 porcelain clay. It's been a learning curve with many bumps and cracks and bloat and unexpected shrinkage.
I thought it was my problem. It turns out it was the clay's problem.
As a newbie to porcelain and functional work, I wanted to hide my struggles and problems. But by opening up and confessing my frustration to fellow clay artists, I got the help I needed. Over and over, I was told it was the clay and it was time to change.
The new clay made my day.
Throwing was a relaxing and delicious experience. This clay was soft and smooth as silk. Throwing felt light and easy. Pulling up the clay was so fast, I couldn't believe it. It definitely took a more delicate touch, maybe because it was softer and fresher. It just felt better. So did I.
New ideas sometimes come in the most unexpected ways.
I took myself on a field trip last week to the newly opened Craft Warehouse. I love this place. There's fabric, yarn, flowers and moss, decorative containers of every shape and size, paints, colored pencils, calligraphy pens, beads and more.
A grown-ups toy store.
I bought some little things. A stamp. A calligraphy pen. A few charms. Two cardboard forms. A ball of white cotton yarn. Nothing directly related to my artwork at all. Or so I thought.
But this week, some new things appeared on my studio shelves. A few new sculptures and vessels in new shapes with textures in the clay that I used to do but haven't done in years. I found some old fabrics that I'd forgotten I had and combined them with my new trinkets.
Play. It's the key to everything.
It's how we learn the basics as children. It's the most important element in innovation and creativity. So next time I feel stuck or bored or boxed in, in the studio, I'm going to take myself on a field trip to the grown up toy store. Then, play away the day and wait for the new ideas to pop up like a jack-in-the-box.