Saturday, March 21, 2009


I don't know if I have a style.

When I was college, I definitely had a style. Anyone could pick out my pots.
I have one surviving piece from that time. (Not the jar on the left, by the way) It was the first cup I ever threw. Nothing special, just a handle-less brown-glazed cup with incised marks around the body. Nice little trimmed foot. (I love trimming.)

But there was an enormous gap between then and the time I picked up clay once again-- a whole lifetime, nearly.

Since then, I have been bombarded with information and influences. Workshops, publications, museum displays, shows, other clay artists.

Everything goes into the hopper and gets stirred and sifted, rolled out and baked.

Sorta like when I was taking Fortran.

You took Fortran?
Yes. It was the first computer class I ever took.

What? What an awful way to start!
I know!

How did you do it?
I don't know. I made an A, though--my one college credit in computer science.

WHY did you do it?
Because when I was in college, I wanted to take computer classes and I was told that I needed to have all kinds of math first. (I hated math, although I did pass a required college algebra class pretty easily.)

The computer classes were in the Science Department and it was a very exclusive thing. They had a death lock on who could enter them. I was given a list of all the math classes I would need to take before I could even think of getting into the beginning class. So, I gave it a pass. Turns out I was a natural for programming. They should have looked at my language capabilities. But then, at that time, all things computer were within the purview of the engineering types.

Much later when I took Fortran, I would write code, poke it into the (then) clunky computer and wait........the computer would make all kinds of rather charming noises (I like to think of it as little mice feet running all over the 'pins'.)

The monitor would display the message: "Compiling" while it crunched away.

That's the way I feel when I'm in these in-between, sensory-overload periods......I feel like I should have "Compiling" running in a light-banner across my forehead.

It becomes a quiet mulling of ideas, a mental doodle, a continual, winding sojourn through your own mind-forest.

Sometimes I fear it because of the inactivity. I punch myself in the ribs and think, "I shouldn't be doing this, I should be out there in the studio working." But the worst thought is, "What if I can't create anymore. What if the well just runs dry and there's no more."

It's like being an opera tenor. Their voices are so fragile that at any time, any place, they could lose it all--the voice could go, never to be recaptured. All over.

Creativity for me is not a smooth track, a steadily flowing river. It is torrent and and stillness; raging flood and and draught.

Intellectually, I know the quiet is just as important as the intensity of working. But the quiet still worries me. I feel guilty within it-- like I'm playing hokey. Am I just being creatively lazy?

That's when I need to go out and clean the studio. Or read Ceramics Monthly. Or write about it in my blog.


Michael Kline said...

I like your metaphor of ideas being treated as bread! Maybe a sourdough? Rising? I think we all have those dark fears of the well running dry, but it's just the state of your mind, don't you think? I know that just stepping across the threshhold of the studio door is more than half the battle, maybe a little more. The key for me is to keep the decks cleared and the distractions to a minimum. And have plenty of clay ready.

Being an engineering student for three years, I remember the days of fortran, kobal(sp?), etc. I remember having to go across campus to get my 'printout'. Ha, those are just distant dreams now.


Anonymous said...

i think when i let on that my first college computer course was fortran, i'm showing my age. i took it and didn't touch another computer til 1986.

clayartist said...

Hey, Michael and Jim,

Nice to know there are fellow sufferers who found clay. heh

In a way, I enjoyed programming--it had the same appeal as the locked room puzzles like the Yellow Room, Vermilion Room, Myst and the next generation of Myst, which I can't remember the name of right now.