Thursday, October 13, 2011


 "Never let the pottery defeat you, but be quite defeatable in everything else in life."
            Shoji Hamada

I tried very hard to find this quote that I kept in my previous studio, but I think when I moved, I misplaced it. I went through my books on Hamada, and it did not jump out at me, so I tried to remember, and I think I got it almost exactly. I figured, so if it is a bit off, let us just say- it is in the translation!

When I think of an important lesson for you, sometimes It’s not the projects, the critiques, or the support, sometimes, it is more- it is the life lessons, things that come from a lifetime of living and working with clay.

Life has taken me through so many changes with this clay thing, too many to put down here. However, what is important to note is that life always is changing, in flux, and if you want to really do this clay thing, then it has to have a very high priority in your life.

Before I met my husband, clay was the most important thing in my life, other than my little nuclear family. I felt married to it. Actually, the commitment became similar to a marriage. I was 26 years old when I understood that it was a marriage, and I made the commitment. I remember the day.

For several years I moved around a bit, yet, I never missed a beat with my work. No matter where I lived, I always had a studio in my home, sometimes very scant, but workable. Hamada once had to work for two years in a closet.

Years later, at 58, I got cancer. It wasn’t a good time to get cancer, then, when is? Never, but I was really busy at the time. I was in the middle of a gallery exhibit, that I was co- curating, making artwork, developing the wall text for the show and putting together a slide presentation and talk on the subject, "Environmental Ceramics”. On the day of the opening, the reception was from 4:00 pm until 7:00 pm, and then I gave my talk from 7:30 until 9:00pm. The only kink in the day was that morning, at 7:00 am, I had an MRI biopsy, which was not fun, and I was tired from it. I just had to do it, so I did. By the time my talk was over, I thought I would collapse, so, my husband, Ron whisked me off into the car, took me home and I went to sleep. I did it all that day.

Those kinds of things happened throughout my adult life, of course, not as serious as cancer, but life always offers something difficult in your path, and the clay thing, looms in front of me all the time.

How does one handle this? Well, some things that have worked for me is to look ahead, and be organized.

Another example. This past month (October 2011) was extraordinarily difficult. It seemed everything was crashing down in front of me. On a Tuesday morning, we had a disturbing earthquake, not very large, but frightening. Then we heard that by Friday night we were to have a hurricane that was going to be BIG! I know that BIG for us here in Annapolis means, we will lose power. The following week, we were to go to Europe and we were not finished making travel arrangements. In addition, I was trying to be ready for kiln firings as soon as we came back from Europe as the weather is then cool enough to begin firing work for all my autumn and winter exhibits/sales. So I figured it out, to make it all work and to keep my clay schedule going, no matter what. I had three days to do the work I needed to do, before I would lose electricity. I first stacked a very large bisque kiln, and let it sit. Then I got online and finished all the google maps and tours needed for the Europe trip. I mixed up two glazes that were low, and finally went grocery shopping. We did lose power, for four days, but we have a generator to keep us going minimally, sump pump freezer and refrigerator as well as lights and a fan for the bedroom and anything that could be charged that might work. We made it work, went to Europe, came home to more rain and an ant infestation, and began bisque firing. I had just four days before I went to the clay conference, and had to get my presenting as well as coordinating materials together, and pack the car, which took a great deal of time. However, my glazes were out, ready to go. I glazed, packed, fired and restacked a kiln and went to Virginia. When I got home from the conference, the glaze kiln was ready to be fired.  The conference was so stimulating that I needed to somehow extract a few days to make new work. I was hot! However, my studio is all set up for glazing now. I do not usually make new work at this time; I glaze and fire all the work I made during the summer for the fall/winter season. But I was on a roll; I glazed all the work I had, moved the buckets aside, and began working. I spent two and a half days making new work, which was exhilarating. I did it, while continually firing. I will let these new pieces dry, do a couple of bisque firings and finish glazing. Whew!

Therefore, what I am saying is this. If I did not make clay my priority, then I would not have been able to accomplish all I did this month. I had to make choices, so much of my personal life needed attention. Nevertheless, knowing that the clay is a priority, I did what needed to be done. I looked ahead to see what I needed to do to get all this accomplished. It looked like I was dealing with my personal life all the time, yet I was going down into the studio for a bit each day. With all the diversions, I put together a major amount of work. This is a crucial time to work, as it is the best selling period of the year, so I had to do it.

Therefore, I have held you at bay all week, but this lesson is very important. Think about this, make your decision carefully, and you will always know what to do to make this clay thing work. Remember Hamada’s words-

"Never let the pottery defeat you, but be quite defeatable in everything else in life."

October, 11,  2011

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