You Cannot Fly Into Flying: Beginning Anything in Real Spacetime


You cannot tightrope walk by watching this YouTube clip. (But the person who created it is learning!)

You cannot watch and watch and watch,  read and read and read, talk and talk and talk, think and think and think about tightrope walking and say you are actually doing it.

The doing of the thing is the thing and that happens in Spacetime. And as that link you just read past will tell you, “Spacetimes are the arenas where all physical events take place.” Where you and your physical body are located right here, right now.  HERE = the 3 to 24 (it’s debatable) spatial dimensions.  NOW = the 1 temporal dimension (apparent agreement.)

OK, the watching, reading, talking and thinking will help line yourself up right for the doing, especially if you try to be fully present as you watch closely, read the right sources, talk to the right crowds, think about it in an associative and retentive  manner, and maybe – or even especially – run through the related physical motions. They will most certainly lead you to better observations, reading material,  conversations and cognitions galore.

Rehearsals, all!

And if they lead you to the doing part,  you might be so well-rehearsed in mind, body and spirit, you surprise yourself with how simple and honest it feels. Honey, that’s good rehearsing! As Olympic Gold Medal figure skater Scott Hamilton has reportedly said, it’s also “skating stupid.”  The doing falls out of you because you have successfully absorbed the Preparatory. The watching, reading, talking, thinking, even the pantomiming, have transitioned you to the Repertory.

Preparatory. That’s  still where I’m at with designing my Beginning Ceramic Handbuilding class.  The actions I’m involved with right now are definitely not the real teaching. All this gathering, editing, organizing and questioning are totally necessary to manage a good run when the time comes. If you want more of what’s going into that, my recent two posts here and here do some pretty elegant expository hand-wringing about “my process,” such as it is.

There is, however, a larger motivation for aligning myself with the vital differences between preparatory/repertory – or theory/practice – and that’s because the students who will come to study with me will experience their own version of it. How can I guide them as they transit the continuum from hearing, reading, watching, etc. to doing?

We both know that all the talking and reading and showing and sharing we do are but the foundational intro or interlude to touching the clay and moving it around with intention. Hell, we all can practice the valuable Coeleen Kiebert exercise of physically assuming the positions of our pots and sculptures, but it’s ONLY when we mold, pound, coil, pinch, carve, smooth, sponge, brush that we deeply know what this clay stuff is for ourselves.

Some of these beginners will undoubtedly run gladly off in many directions, full of joyful assumptions.  Wanting to do it all at once perfectly,  attempting to swallow the clay universe in one gulp.  Acting as if Spacetime didn’t include the sequential time part. That’s where I think the heart of my guide role is: pacing the doing. Intertwining the cognitive with the active in our tiny corner of the Wide World of Clay. Supplying a studied but ultimately idiosyncratic version of a sequential scaffold for them to climb around on, lift by lift.

Friedrich Nietzsche (that’s him painted by Edvard Munch in 1906 in the top illustration) said it brilliantly, “He who would learn to fly one day must first learn to stand and walk and run and climb and dance; you cannot fly into flying.”

Clay work taught me patience and presence. Well, not so much taught as forced them upon me, as I was definitely of the Fly Into Flying bent as a newbie. My endless groundings and crashes lasted years more than perhaps needed. Could  I have spent more time on effective Preparation? Could I have had better scaffolding? Maybe. Then again, maybe not. Because of my experiences, I don’t expect to save any artist from their personal process. But I do believe the least I can do as their flight instructor is to shed a bright and true spotlight onto the highwire act and the ladder up to it in our spacetime arena and encourage them to give it a real try.

Class Nuts and Bolts: 6 Thursdays, 2-5pm, Session I: Feb 23 to March 29, Session II (with different techniques and projects): April 12 – May 17. Held at the Santa Cruz Mountains Art Center, 9341 Mill Street, Ben Lomond, CA,  831-3364ART.

If you’re so inclined, you can call or register online at Class is $180 for Members/$200 Non-Members.

Next time: Those visual aids! (Yes, I know I promised them last post and the post before. Clay takes an uncertain amount of time and they’re just not done yet! Think I would know by now, do ya?)



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Thursday’s Tile: Altered Hearing and Inner Ears

This post is the beginning of the end for the Thursday’s Tile blog posts. I plan five photo essays for each of the senses on the Five Senses Bench and then a summation post, with everything ending in late March, after six months of Thursdays.

Many of the tiles on the Five Senses Bench are there because they express the opposite of what might be expected for that particular Sense. They might be another take on it, an anti-view or an out-of-the-bench tangential, thoughtful observation. Gosh darn those Artists!

Even though some of these tiles physically wound up applied on other areas because they could pass for two or even three senses, this grouping includes those that call to us to take the indirect route to even the things we could never hear.

Up above is a rendition of the main figure from The Scream by Edvard Munch, an image which strikes to the core of modern angst even though it was painted a hundred years ago. Munch painted several versions over almost 20 years, starting in 1892. Sometimes he titled it The Cry of Nature. Our Inner Ears hear this shrieking skeletal spectre and we come away wanting to cover our own ears and scream as well.


Next up we have words for sounds and two critters. If we could not read, would we even hear these animals? Does it matter that bunnies are some of the most silent creatures out there, only screaming in pain or ecstasy? And why oh why would a bunny be saying D’oh!? And, if we had never heard D’oh! spoken would we even understand what that speech bubble meant? Anyhow, the bunny says D’oh! because it was a placement opportunity sight gag that just came up and we took it.

The dog in the last photo reminded me that we only hear within a certain range and other creatures hear things beyond, or, in the case of bats, do things differently with sound. Bats, the only mammals that truly fly, navigate by echolocation, playing a sophisticated form of Marco Polo every night.

And what about communicating soundlessly, as this mime does? This tile is a good example of one that was suitable for both Hearing and Sight and wound up on the latter.

Below is a series of tiles that has to do with ear applications: ear plugs, ear protection – or is it old school headphones? – and a hearing aid. This is a grouping that represents things we do with and for and near our ears to enhance, deny, amplify or mitigate sound.



Do you know the old joke about the man with carrots in his ears, who, when told about it said, “I can’t hear you, I have carrots in my ears!” Well, you know it now. Dumb, yes, but a perfect example of things we can choose to do, since we do not have ‘earlids.’

So, that’s a tour of the Hearing area that involves silence, sound imagination by our inner ears, extra-human sensations, as well as hearing modifications.

Once again, here are that area’s title tiles, suggested and made by the ever-involved DP. And here’s another sight gag based on the word ring.

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