While I aim to write something here once a month, the calendar commitment has never been the reason I write. Having something to say is. Ideally I want a wry and esoteric “situation” to pick apart from many angles and then sew back up, satisfied. And then, by giving my best phrases to my thoughts, to offer enough value to that exploration that it’s worthy of sharing. And that’s exactly why I’m stepping away from my Studio Journal for an unknown period. Do read on…
Once upon a time a college senior walked into her campus art museum to see some Conceptual Art in the brash new forms of video installation, sound and interactivity. I’m not sure if she was wowed or not, because she couldn’t tell you now one itty bitty thing she saw. But, on her way out, she offhandedly picked up a small freebie art card by one of the artists and thought it would be fun to play along with what it suggested. This is the story of what happened after that.
Some time in the past thirty years I encountered a brilliant bit of metaphorical imagery which described the creative process as the “coyotes of doubt” yip-yip-yipping just beyond an artist’s emotional wagons which are circled protectively round the flickering campfire of creativity. It has bolstered me often: The doubts have always been out there yowling, yes, but, if I choose to recall, I am safe and focused on the spark within. It has been this scenario forever with always the flame, the circle, the persistent yipping. Yet, surprisingly, a month or so into this global pandemic arriving at my own door, the howls have gone utterly silent, the wagons are now casually arrayed, and the campfire grows ever brighter. I think I know why.
Well, we probably don’t spend a bit of time contemplating gauges and shrinkage, unless we have to, right? If you knit at all, you know that the size of your stitches matters. (Ask my Mom about my ginormous three-foot-long childhood Christmas stocking she handknit vs. my younger brother’s normal-sized one made from the same pattern after she attained the intended gauge.) And if you’ve fooled with clay some, you know you learn right away that its natural shrinkage as it dries and is fired both shocks (cracks! warpage!) and awes (it’s SO much smaller now!) Imagine dealing with both at the same time…and let me tell you about that.
In December I normally I do a darling little ceremonial studio celebration and write about it here. This year the very idea was revolting to me and, even though I desultorially assembled some items – flowers, candles, music – for the intended affair, I just kept working instead. Since last spring, when I learned about the wisdom of the vagus nerve, I have attempted to listen to it first and it wasn’t having no dang ceremony! It wanted the concrete, the material, the tactile and real…and it wanted it NOW! It also inkled at the continued writing of this whole Studio Journal thing, which I will understand better as I proceed to write about the very tactile and real kitchen twine, and I will attempt to explain what I learned-by-doing at the end.
This journal entry finds us continuing one of the threads from last post about having handy words to describe one’s Methods, as well as deciding how much of them to disclose and to whom. We’ll dive deeper into when it’s advisable and when it’s not and how to tell the difference. Even though I lean towards the Tell All Camp, to start things out I have a story which speaks to the extremer side of When Not to Share.
As you know, Dear Reader, in the past year I have been deep into the making of radically new ceramic work: figuring out the methods of design and construction, finding and developing the best practices for it, fiddling around with how far I could stretch, often failing and surprisingly not minding. After an intense year, this fledgling body of work was ready to show in several increasingly high-stakes debuts. Showing has its own demands, which in my case proved to be more verbal than anything. And you DO need to be able to talk easily and well because your art doesn’t speak for itself: YOU do. You also need to write about it and sometimes support it in articulate non-verbal ways as well. Yet, for the longest time, I foundered, uncharacteristically speechless, unable to find my Unmute button. Turns out it’s the Play button which does both for me.