"You can't fake it Jason." Richard explained his stance on artistic integrity to me as he demonstrated how he builds with coils. His technique for coil building large jars incorporates political messages, narrative imagery, structural integrity, and a deep relationship with the nature of the clay. Yes there are procedures that he follows, but his reasons are so complex and interconnected. He's not about the techniques, he's about reasons for the techniques.
Richard handed me this quote from the great American architect, Louis Sullivan:
So, I'm shaken to my core. To use a John Dewey term, I have arrived at an "indeterminate situation." I have a puzzle without the picture on the box. I've been a little stumped about what to make today. Is that because I don't have a clear system of expression? What is my system of thought and of feeling? And what in the world is my system of living?
Today I see clearly that the most important product of my extended time here at the St. John's Pottery won't be objects. "Your students will catch on, your friends and family will know it, if you fake it..." So, I'm on a quest to make my situation "determinate," that is, to make sense of the pieces...to ask why to my whys.
We were joined this morning by Peter and Jodie to celebrate their wedding anniversary. Their first date included a tour of the pottery studio 4 years ago. Today Peter and Jodie opened their 2nd wedding anniversary gift here at the pottery. It was a bowl that Peter had chosen when they were married and had packed away until today. The anticipation of what they would find inside layers and layers of bubble wrap added to a lovely reveal of a square bowl with painted wisteria and lattice design and a custom-built wood box made to fit. They shared an AMAZING cake with everyone at tea and enjoyed a tour of their bowl from Richard. Richard then carefully repacked the bowl in a clothe printed with the studio symbol and the matching wood box with woven ribbon.
Senior Apprentice, Brandon Russell, asked me about the ink painting I did in my sketchbook. I learned sumi-e ink painting from, Ikuko Poetter (Abe'), my grandmother. One thing led to another and soon I was giving him a tutorial. He's excited about someday using similar techniques on his pottery...
"Stay and Grow" I get fascinated by the assumptions that shape our thinking. Recently, the concept of growth mindset has stuck with me. Do you believe that people can change? The answer shapes politics, education, aging, religion, diplomacy, athletics... So can I learn to be an artist? Is it too late to learn a language? Am I good at math? What's my political affiliation? Am I a noun or a verb? Is identity something I am or something I am becoming? I tend to advocate for growth in my students. I want them to see that the benefits of learning outweigh the expenses of time and energy. Life looks different when it comes with potential. I dealt with these themes in this sculpture of 2 allegorical figures personifying fixed mindset and growth mindset. Ask yourself, "Should I stay or should I grow now?"
Lacking a clear direction, I decided to make a penguin. Brandon really likes penguins. In retrospect, I was able to apply Richard's coil lesson, make a relatively large piece quickly, experiment with iron slip, porcelain slip and backslip, and just make a fun sculpture. All good.