How did my work go from THAT to THIS?!
I've been reflecting lately on how my work has changed. If you've been around here for a while, you probably remember the porcelain pieces I used to make, like the mug pictured above. For almost a decade I perfected that technique. Thousands of mugs, bowls, and platters passed through my hands as I carefully incised and inlayed the hand drawn patterns.
That was incredibly tedious work.
After years of doing the same work day in and day out, I got burnt out. At some point, creating those pieces became nothing more than work and brought me very little joy. I needed to give myself the creative freedom to explore a new direction... and so I did!
It may have come as a drastic shift to those on the outside, but this change in my work was wholly necessary for me to continue working as a potter. I knew in my heart for quite a while that a change was coming.
Now here we are, a little over a year into my journey with this new body of work, and it feels full of energy to me. Some people have politely wondered aloud to me how my work could change so drastically in a short period of time. But to be honest, when I look at these two mugs, there are many clear and distinct lines that connect them... they most definitely were created by the same hand and the same mind. Lets take a moment to compare...
- First of all - the clay body - the porcelain I used to use was smooth and a crisp white, while the earthenware I'm working with now is also smooth but fires to a dark deep red/brown. Both of these clay bodies fall at an extreme end of the color spectrum within the world of ceramics.
- Now let's look at the forms I'm making - the mugs and bowls I'm making now are the same shape I made for years - it's simple muscle memory. The two mugs in the photo above have the exact same body shape. To be honest, I didn't even realize I was doing that. But it makes so much sense when I stop to think about it.
- What makes these two mugs different are the lines... but are they actually all that different? Let's talk about lines. I have always been drawn to modern geometric lines, and I can't stress enough how much I love pattern. But I also love when details are quiet and deceptively simple. My old work was all about those inlayed lines and the contrast of the black slip with the white clay body. My new work reflects this same design aesthetic, but rather than inlaying the lines within the walls of the mug I am now rolling out tiny coils of clay and attaching them to the outside of the wall of the mug to create a relief pattern of geometric lines. The design emphasis is still on clean geometric lines.
- The aesthetic of these mugs are both simple, quiet, clean, and a bit contemporary. They are both form forward and finished with simple glazes.
- Lastly, though one is clean and crisp, and the other is a bit more rustic, both of these are time consuming and tedious to design and decorate. Planning line placement, rolling coils, scoring and adhering the coils to create the line pattern is no less time consuming that incising and inlaying the black and white patterns of my old work. It's just different.
Now when I look at the two mugs at the top of this post, or these two bowls side by side, I can clearly see that they are cousins, born of the same family tree, with slight genetic differences.
The freedom to shift, experiment, stretch and grow is as necessary to life as breath. And how boring our world would be if people didn't seize the opportunity to change creatively.
Five months ago the stream did flow,
The lilies bloomed within the sedge,
And we were lingering to and fro,
Where none will track thee in this snow,
Along the stream, beside the hedge.
Ah, Sweet, be free to love and go!
For if I do not hear thy foot,
The frozen river is as mute,
The flowers have dried down to the root:
And why, since these be changed since May,
Shouldst thou change less than they.
-Elizabeth Barrett Browning