“Show them you’re thinking”

There were so many great quotes from the NCECA pre-conference “Making through Living and Living through Making” that it was hard to focus on the demos.  Most of the best quotes came from Ron Meyers.  The best one, in my opinion was, “show them you’re thinking.” I really connected with this.  I had just finished a three-day workshop with Nick Joerling.  Of all the great things Nick showed us and discussed with us, the depth to which he thought out every bit of his artistic statement has really stuck with me.

When using a slab bottom on a pot, Nick replicates his fluid line from the pot, onto the slab so it shows up on the bottom of the pot (see photo below).  This captivated me.  I have always paid particular attention to how I finish my trimmed bottoms, but slabs have been more of a challenge for me.  This was such a beautiful, thoughtful touch.  It showed me that Nick was really thinking about this piece.  And of course, when I place my mug in the dishwasher, I get a nice surprise.

While at the pre-conference, I got the opportunity to add a Lorna Meaden mug to my collection and was delighted to see a similar thoughtful approach to her work.  Her mishima and glaze work pattern up on the bottom of her pot as well.  Obviously another step, and one most potters would not take because of time required or just not thinking about it.  But as a user of both of these vessels, I appreciate that the makers took the time and thought through this.  (Note, Lorna will be joining us next spring at the Art League for a weekend workshop and I personally can’t wait).

I have taken these lessons from Ron and Nick and Lorna with me into the studio over the last few months.   I had believed that I think through my pots.  But when I graduated from student to associate and got control over the entire making process, I had to raise my level of thinking.  I had many more choices to make.  But with the lessons of these masters, I find myself being even more methodical about the construction and particularly the finishing of my pots and the expression of my artistic statement.  My slab bottoms are gaining some interest, and now include that element of surprise I so enjoy when flipping Nick and Lorna’s mug over.

But pot bottoms aren’t the only place to exercise my grey matter.  I’ve also been thinking a lot about how to finish the rims of vessels – another constant struggle for me with all the alteration I do.  My next firing will provide feedback on those rims, many of them fat and rolled, some innerward, some outward. So far, I prefer these to a rim that just seems to stop.

Rolled rims on large serving bowls

So what are you thinking about most in your art?  How do you show the world that you are thinking?


About Claytastic

Health coach. Writer. Teacher. Artist. Living an amazing life with MS. Interested in bringing peace and beauty into people's lives.
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10 Responses to “Show them you’re thinking”

  1. Potter Beth says:

    This is a great post, Laurie! I really appreciate you sharing your experience with these thoughtful touches you’ve found. And I really appreciate the thoughts you have given me, as I look at pottery as expression and communication. Thank you! 😀

    • Beth, thanks. I know as potters, we are trained to look at the bottom of pots. And we are impressed when someone puts in the time to finish the bottom. But when they do so with thought and artistry I get pretty giddy.

  2. John Dorsey says:

    Laurie – I loved this post – we seem to be on parallel tracks. I, too, was at the Pre-Conf in Bluebell and learned so much. Ron was my fav presenter although truth be told, each was so good!

    As to your bowls, I like the one on the right – the rim is more subtle but still cared for. Maybe a rolled rim dent with the edge of a paddle?

    Spending more time with each piece seems to be key with me – finding the balance of consideration and “not overworking it”. Ron’s work is a great example – know when to touch and when NOT to touch…

    Best – John

  3. John Dorsey says:

    Holy cow, Laurie – just realized we met at the conference…

    I’m not very S.M.R.T…

    • LOL. It is such a small world. Glad you found my blog. And I have tried the paddling thing – sometimes it works, sometimes not.

      I think one of the things I love about pottery is that not only is a physical medium that engages your right brain, but it really engages your left brain. Great work BTW. Do you mind if a I highlight a piece in my wood-fired Wednesday series?

  4. John Dorsey says:

    Do i mind if you put one of my pieces on your blog? Absolutely – thank you!

  5. John Dorsey says:

    uh, I mean, double negative, yes, i don’t mind…

  6. carter says:

    Wish I had been able to attend the workshop! The parts I saw live streamed were pretty amazing, though. Funny coincidence, but I wrote down a number of the things Ron said as well. I thought the one you quoted was spot on and love your blog post on this topic. The other quotations I thought stood out were that he was “searching for variation”, that he was “everyday seeking something new, trying something different”. I also loved his observation that Picasso was “not making work, he was finding it” and his own attitude of “discovering through working” and “looking for something to change, to get out of”. It was kind of weird hearing all those thoughts expressed some 18 years after I was his student. I don’t think I had fully realized how much of an influence he has been for me.

    To answer the question you asked, I suppose I am very much a disciple of the ideas of Ron’s that I just listed. What I try to show the world is that I am engaged in an exploration with no fixed destination. I am always looking for the surprises, and maybe sometimes that means I will produce some really awful pots, but my attitude is that I would rather forget everything good I had made than be forced to repeat it ad nauseum. This doesn’t mean that every pot is a total reinvention, but that I am not too careful or demanding of how each lump of clay will turn out. I would rather go through every variation of a curve, of a proportion, of a mark on the pot, than feel I had to settle on one expression.

    I try to leave most of the judging til after the pot is done. I often joke to myself that then I need to forget about it so the next one will be a fresh exploration with as many surprises awaiting me. The good things that are internalized have more the character of personal preferences than strict rules. Themes have more to do with the intuitive response of my hands and the habits of technique that they embrace. Any consistency of results can be blamed on their intelligence rather than a conscious agenda. Looking at one pot by itself may not express this, but any two of a given form will describe this casual investigation of form and surface and how every surface is its own opportunity for something incredible unfolding.

    • Carter, exactly. I appreciate those that can perfect and then repeat a certain form. But I am not interested in that for my own work. Each one is an exploration of the idea, the technique and my mood that day.

      As time goes on, I do find myself editing a bit more than I used to. I tried several teapot versions tonight and tossed all of them in the recycle bucket. Fun to explore, but I wasn’t in to them like I had envisioned. That is always disappointing. But I know I will be on my game at some point and better able to think out what I’m doing. That’s what keeps us at this. That and we get to get dirty. 🙂

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