I suppose it shouldn’t matter and I should have taken it as a compliment when a clay artist said to me,
“Well, you just hit the ground running.”
After she said it, as she was packing up her porcelain gourd forms after a heavy Saturday at the Uptown Art Fair here in Minneapolis, I thought to myself,
I stumble a lot.”
The artist I’m talking about was just awarded the Jerome Grant for ceramics, which is a pretty prestigious gig and worth about six grand. She was also highlighted in Ceramics Monthly magazine last year as an emerging artist. The Uptown Art Fair where I saw her is no shwag, it is one of the most difficult shows to get into in the country. I won’t talk any flak about her on account that I know, and it doesn’t matter. I know she doesn’t respect me, but she paid me a compliment, which is halfway there.
I began to think about what I had done and where I was and such and I was about three beers and as many whiskey shots into a slow Uptown night and I felt a little sorry for feeling vain. I wouldn’t like to see myself in a mirror. If you get. Potters are like a wave, just like any subculture and in the scheme of things I knew she was hack flotsam.
So am I.
When I started making ceramic fish, I didn’t have a clue. I was raw and green as wet lichen growing on a rock, or maybe a head of lettuce. It felt awful being insecure in a motif, I cared, but I persevered I maintained a belief in myself that I heard on every talk show growing up that was stimulating a STAR.
”Work hard, believe in yourself and you can do anything.
I make ceramic fish.
It must be a bore to think about taking a dead fish and putting it in a plaster mixture made up. Then, letting the poor dead fish sit there and trying to protrude it's gutted belly so the plaster form takes shape just right. Or perhaps taking a toothpick and sticking it into the dead beast's mouth to keep it open.
How boring and smelly.
I don't care or give a damn.
What I care about is the fish. I adore fish. I covet the process it takes for me to create a ceramic fish form. The plaster and the fish and a few beers and that's all. Except my t-shirt pulled up over my nose.
When I get to the clay stage it's pretty uneventful. I roll out some clay and put it in the form. Then I carve my name and date in the back, make some fish or sum such and then tap it out and trim the edges.
Then I bisque it, and then I glaze.
Glazes are essentially a combination of chemical compounds you mix with water and apply to the clay body. There are many different varieties of colors and temperatures you can fire them to. The temperatures are called, "Cones". Cone Ten is the highest at about 2400 degrees F. Depending on where it is in the kiln provides an additional variable pertaining to the cooling process. Clay on the outer edges of the kiln cool faster and thus, the colors may have variations.
It depends too if you fire in an electric or gas kiln. I fire in both. I depend on everything.
When I glaze, I let the brushes do the work, sometimes I have to steady my hand for a pupil or a dot somewhere, but mostly, I just apply.
Apply, show up and you'll hit the ground running. Any day you put yourself toward a goal and keep at it you will eventually succeed. Mandate a self awareness that prescribes growing and you will grow and succeed.
I promise. I make fish.