Getting Stuck And Unstuck In The Mud (All Puns Intended)

Stuck in some pre-clay

Stuck in some pre-clay

I've found myself unable to write these past two months not because I have no words, but because I have too many and there is too much emotion attached to them so they are getting gummed up and stuck before they can leave my brain.  Terrifying and unprecedented world politics are not helping my writing ability, but putting those aside, there's also been quite a bit of turmoil in the studio.  I'm asking a lot of difficult and uncomfortable questions of my work, of myself.  Developing your visual voice or unique style is complicated, to put it mildly, and taking a deep dive into what you want to make and why you want to make it can make you question the very purpose of your existence. I'm only being slightly hyperbolic, as most artists can testify.  Making matters worse is social media (and also better; don't get me wrong, I love the advantages it provides, but still...).  There is so much work out there to see, and in an effort to be social and support the wider community of potters, it can be easy to loose sight of one's own vision and get overwhelmed.   There is just the sheer number of possibilities, of choices you can make in your work.  I see many potters sight this as one of the reasons they love clay: they can make practically anything!  And it is exciting, but also, the stress of choice fatigue for me is real, because I don't just want to mindlessly put more things out into a world already drowning in things.  I want to make pieces that are thoughtful, considered, meditative, with the marks of being handmade wonderfully imperfect. 

I've been at this long enough to know that the turmoil is part of the process.  Growth doesn't happen without struggle.  But it's still massively uncomfortable and there always the feeling of will I make it through? Should I make it through?  Maybe I should quit and go live in the woods where I'm happy (the kids wouldn't be so thrilled with that I think...)  

I did come across an article recently in Pottery Making Illustrated by Brian R Jones where he talks about loving making forms but freezing up when it comes to glazing and I was instantly right there with him.  I rarely hear potters talk about how they've made their glaze choices; they just seem to know.  He shares the process by which he was able to change the way he thought about glazing and thereby have it be more naturally incorporated into his forms.  I can't link the article as it's subscription only, but afterward I found his bio on his web sight where he talks more about the struggle I'm currently experiencing and how it led him to his current success.  It's short but encouraging if you're in the same boat.  

For myself,  I have come up with a game plan, one that is wonderfully simple and used by potters everywhere: Make, Refine, Repeat.  I'm also sprinkling in a dose of reach out more to my peers and people I'd like to work with along with find some workshops to take.  I'm crossing my fingers that it leads somewhere interesting.