Disappointments in life are inevitable and very much so in the pottery making business.
I was resisting writing this post because I want to appear as if my life is going perfectly smoothly
But I know everyone out there has suffered some sort of disappointment.
When Iâ€™m teaching, I always give a little speech to my adult students on the first day of class about losing a piece theyâ€™ve worked on.Â Â I tell them children donâ€™t seem to mind if what they make falls apart. They value the process over the product. They are much better at staying in the moment, having funÂ Â and not worrying about â€œwasting their time.â€ I tell the adults, “Please remember that you had fun while you were making itâ€.
I joke that the only reason I sell pots is so I can have an excuse to make some more. I love the act of making.
As many of you know, I recently moved to Minnesota. I have been warmly and generously welcomed into the pottery community here and almost immediately found ways to fire my work Â -which was the chief problem I had to surmount because I do notÂ Â (yet) have my own gas kiln.
Once I knew I could fire, I began making work and mixing glaze and, over Â a recent past weekend, glazed, loaded and helped to fire all my work (85 pieces) in a cone 10 gas reduction fire. Everything Iâ€™d made to date went into that kiln. Talk about putting all your eggs in one basket!Â
I will admit I was utterly spoiled at Lill. They fire off a glaze kiln as often as once or even twice a week. My work went through as I made it and if there was a bad firing (umâ€¦ never?) I would have lost, at most, 15 pieces. Glaze tests could be run through whenever; this is the beauty of a really large group sharingÂ Â kilns.
So there I was with my Shaner Clear (which had been sort of tested in a soda kiln and in it, had formed crystals due, we thought, to the way the kiln cooled) and another (untested!!) clear; the recipe for which had been given to me by a new potter friend here.
I glazed about 2/3rds in the Shaner which was my old dependable from Lill and the rest in the new clear of which I had a smaller volume.
Fast forward to the Â morning after the firing when even a look through the peep set off alarm bells in my head. Sure enough, after we unbricked the door, it became clear that the Shanerâ€™s had formed crystals again, obliteratingÂ Â my carefully carved designs on about a third of the work.Â
I did not give vent to my feelings. I was with other potters and I was damned if Iâ€™d make them uncomfortable by indulging myself. The extent of my emotional reaction was some choice swearwords were muttered into the back of the kiln.
As I unloaded, I told myself the things that Iâ€™ve thought of to help with pottery disappointments. But I wasnâ€™t really paying attention to that mantra which goes something like this:
You had fun making these things. This is a learning experience. Â Thank goodness a third is in the other clear which looks great! Itâ€™s not a pot until itâ€™s safely out of the glaze kiln. Think how much you learned today.Â You had fun making these thingsâ€¦.
I felt heavy, I felt sad. I had so much hope for certain pieces. I had gotten a bit attached to several promising things. It was hard to see them ruined.Â
Once home I took the time to sort and assess exactly the extent of the damage. I felt a huge gratitude to this friend who had pushed the other recipe on me. Those pieces has come out absolutely pristine. Â I plan to use that glaze in the future. Goodbye Shanerâ€™s clear. Good riddance.
Comparison between the Shaners (below) and the new Clear (above)
Later, in my studio again and carving another piece, I was suddenly struck with tremendous joy.
I love carving. I amÂ Â usually in â€œflowâ€ * when I am carving or working in my studio. I donâ€™t feel tired when I am working with clay.
The whole â€œyou were happy when you were making these piecesâ€ part of my mantra suddenly became vividly real at that moment to me.
I am happy. I am so lucky to be able to do this.