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My big show is coming up this week, and I am so close to being ready I can almost taste it. Life has been one long series of deadlines for about two months - self imposed, but no easier because of it. Naturally, I overshot by quite a bit in trying to have the best possible set of pots to show for it, and as a consequence have nearly wiped myself out in the process. Ah, the tragic life of the struggling artist - what drama! Should be a good show, though. I'm looking forward to seeing them all in the white-walls setting, especially the ones just born yesterday.
We are a culture of innovators and adapters. I sit at the wheel and dream big; I force evolution on the shapes that emerge from my hands; my eyes and thoughts poke and prod the results to discern which attributes should remain and which to expire. It happens even subconsciously, and constantly.
Every lump of clay feels like pure possibility, even within the well-defined limits of wheel-thrown utilitarian pottery. If it took our distant ancestors 10,000 years to modify one form of stone ax into another, then they lacked either a desire or ability to envision change/improvement/adaptation. But we've become almost perfect at it: Innovation and invention as a life goal, married to the processes of creation, happening in places like my basement in smalltown America.
Most potters of even 100 years ago were far more like those ancestors - creating the same reliable forms over and over again with little thought of the alternatives - than like us, with our endless blue-sky experimentation. Modern ceramics is so varied and dynamic because nearly every educated practitioner of it (and for the first time in history, we're the majority) has internalized High Art concepts of originality and uniqueness. We're all moving towards the edges of the known, and away from one another, as efficiently as possible, like the molecules of a heated gas in an enclosed space (e.g. a kiln).
I'm excited to sit at the wheel and find out what happens next, but not to dwell on what I've made in the past or even to complete things started the day before. I'm mentally dressed in my best Lewis and Clark expeditionary gear, ready to further explore the boundary where my intentions and the clay intersect, and to jump clear across it if the opportunity happens to present itself. Sometimes I wind up in mighty strange country; sometimes I get lost. Often, I return to the known with souveniers from beyond my own frontier, small tokens that hint at a greater reality yet to be fully discovered. And it's interesting that this quest is generally such a private one, that an observer peering in through the window would see nothing but some wet clay and the spinning wheel.
"It's the question that drives us."
"We are the sum of our limits" - Bill McKibben
"Fast, Cheap and Out of Control" - doc film by Errol Morris
Last night I dreampt that I was helping our college president ID his mp3 collection. Now that's a weird one. Apparently, in the dream world he had a secret hideout in the student union building, where he kept his stash of downloaded, ultrahip tunes, and he knew what he liked, but not what it was. I remember thinking, with quite a bit of surprise, what freshly eclectic tastes he had -- and of course, these were all bands that I knew, so the self-reflective qualities of that should be obvious. Whatever happened to the cool dreams, like flying over El Cajon with angel-like grace?