I’ve broken two fish, one more than I’ve sold.
Stoneware fired to cone ten is pretty tough, but the thin delicate tails of two fish today still couldn’t retain their continuity against a butter finger drop of three feet to the concrete floor of the studio. There is no tragedy in their breaking. These things happen. It would be an awful waste of time to fret and regret. A somber curse of carelessness is a good blanket, but when it happens twice in one day, the Zen feels a little worn.
The good thing is that they are repairable for my untrained eye and I learned another valuable lesson about art. Fixed mistakes may be flawed, but the effort that persuaded form back into them is valuable beyond.
When I break a fish after it has bone dried in greenware, it doesn’t faze me much of a bit. Just the other day, I picked up a Koi by the tail and it was top heavy and broke. My only loss is a bit of time and the low price of the clay that made it. It didn’t blow up in bisque, potentially damaging other pieces and I hadn’t put the time or money to glaze and fire it yet. When a finished fish breaks, it is a total loss; money, time spent and the potential money it would have earned.
The odd thing is the way they broke, their tails. It wouldn’t be so odd, but the two fish I broke were set aside for people. The first I broke was designated for my boss, Norma. It was the first fish I made. The Second fish, I dropped after deciding and saying aloud that it was for a friend. Their significance had changed from monetary value to a gift, which made the loss different. Breaking first the first fish I made on my own? And on the tail? The tail is significant because my boss and I had made a giant Walleye a few months ago and the tail broke in bisque. Norma said she could “glaze it and glue it”. She did, and though you can see the crack, it is for me and it is wonderful. Mistakes are the art artists keep. But this fish for her, broke on the tail too. Both fish, breaking tails.
It’s easy to delve into the abyss of coincidence and the aura of significance that surrounds the details of life. I’ve always paid attention to the little things, but never mind them much. With the fish, making them on my own away from my mentor, alone with the clay, I feel pride and strength. Every bit of my progress I owe to her, and yet at the same time, I am abandoning her, leaving the tilemaking to her grown children who only do it for an extra car payment a month. They never pay attention to the little bubbles or cracks in the clay. They just treat the tiles like mass production. Like money. They don’t feel and care for the clay like me. Norma knows too, but she wants me to fly.
There remains a stoic and romantic account of damaging the first piece of art one makes. The feelings attributed to it and into it
escape, letting the voids spill into their own wake
I'm going to glue the tail of the first fish I made and give it to Norma, broken and repaired like she helped me do.