Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Making Space for Serendipity

starting with basic cylinders

You probably already know this, but when I'm not writing (or, let's be honest, wasting time on the internet. . . ) I spend time at a wonderful local ceramics school and studio space both handbuilding and wheel-throwing clay into primarily functional objects.

It's become somewhat more than a hobby, though I don't see myself becoming a production potter. One of the things I've learned over the years is that it's important to have a plan for the clay. While it's fun just to play with a piece, if I don't have a sense of what that clay will be at the end, then what I'm left with is a mud pie.

When I'm not throwing on the wheel, I work with textured slabs of clay and create somewhat freeform tripod cups and mugs that I call 'dragonbellies.' In the photo above, you can see several small cylinders, along with one small shotglass sized cup in process. To the left is a large cylinder that I had intended to turn into a water pitcher.

Since the large cylinder was slower to dry than the small ones, I wasn't able to make what I wanted that day, so I wrapped up the clay in plastic, intending to return the next morning. Except that I got busy and days turned into a week, interspersed with a trip out of town.

When I got back to the studio, the cylinder was nearly leather hard - somewhat past the stage of being able to shape. So I decided to try to reclaim it by soaking the newspaper it was wrapped around and wrapping it up again. Several days later, the water had make the clay softer. Success!

I started working on forming the pitcher.

When I got to the spout, I realized the clay really wasn't soft enough after I had already cracked it. Which meant either a radical re-think, or time to recycle the clay.

Adding a 'button' to the repaired/remodeled spout

So I used some scrap clay to buttress the spout. But I didn't like the way the whole thing looked and was going to scrap it. Until one of my fellow clay artists suggested I round the edges of the new spout and add 'buttons' on the sides so the water wouldn't slosh over it. Again, playing with scrap clay, I rolled a thin rope into a spiral and put it next to the spout to see what I thought. And voila! I created an owl!

oh, hello there!

I'm not sure I would have liked the piece as much had my first idea worked. Certainly, I don't think I could have created this funky face had I set out to make a sculptural piece.


A happy accident.

This is something I try to leave space for in my writing as well. This is why as much as I like to organize and plan a story, I need to give it enough wiggle room to expand my initial (usually limited) ideas.

Creativity is a strange beast. Probably a lot stranger than my owl pitcher. But just as unexpected. And definitely as much fun.



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  1. Replies
    1. Thanks! It still has to survive 2 kiln firings. Keeping my fingers crossed. The last large pitcher I made cracked in its first firing. Sigh.