I'm back in the studio this morning and the clay is awaiting my touch, but I've decided to start this morning with research and reflection. I've found the long break from working with clay to be disruptive and stalling - I have become lethargic and unmotivated after three weeks of clean hands. Though I am anxious to produce work, I am unsure of what work to make and how to get started. Today my dilemma is "what is a cake stand, anyway?" - What purpose does it serve? Where will it exist in the world? Who will see it, who will touch it, who will wash it and view the underside before putting it away?
I'm sitting here listening to The Tallest Man on Earth's album Shallow Grave and mulling all these questions over in my little head. My first reaction to these questions is a yellow house, with sunflowers blooming in the front garden on a sunny June afternoon. The house wife of choice has just pulled a homemade cherry pie out of the oven, with fresh cherries from the tree in their backyard. She sets the cherry pie on a tall stand, rustic and elegant. The stand is equally intriguing and supportive. A piece of art and beauty in itself, it is the skeleton that focuses the consumer's attention to the dessert it bears. The stand is comfortable in the hands, easy to pick up and place down - it provides a pleasurable experience for the person who will turn it over and over when the pie is consumed. When the water and soap bubbles run over it, the surface will absorb the holder's attention entirely. Their fingers will run over the ridges and crevices, reading each rise and fall, the lines and patterns speaking of direction and atmosphere.
With any new project I find myself beginning with research and planning. I start each week with a general schedule to follow - goals for each day, and a firing schedule. I sketch ideas for new forms, spend hours on the Internet and listen to a lot of music while quietly laying on the couch and writing lists. The forms I plan almost never make it into my body of work, but I sketch and make lists as a tool to get my thoughts rolling. I am a neurotic and theoretical person - lists and research are my launchpads for creativity. My excitement to make something from these lists and research will take hold of me, and from excitement, motivation follows.
Getting my hands into clay will come next. But first, more research.
Here are a couple of the maps I found on Pinterest this weekend.
Here's to a productive Monday morning - I hope yours is swell.
Over the years I have found that days of celebration are often more exhausting than you would originally think. There have been countless numbers of holidays, birthdays and special events that though promoting joy and cheer, have only left me exhausted; celebrations have a consistent way of pulling you into a deep sleep when they are finished. For my family, the act of celebrating is an involved 4-step process. Our celebrations include: (first) cleaning, preparing, planning, cooking (second) eating, drinking, chatting, laughing (third) more chatting, more laughing, more drinking, more eating, and (fourth) "the crash period" (where everybody just wants to sleep).
They sometimes include: stress (when events don't go as planned), annoyance(when someone leaves early), unnecessary anger (when you're not allowed to do the dishes) and joyful frustration (when our 80 lb golden retriever won't stop stealing napkins).
They always, however include joy, connection, acceptance, love and hugs. Lots and lots of hugs.
Yesterday was my birthday (it was also, by no coincidence, my twin sister's birthday as well). This day was no exception to the rule of celebration=exhaustion/gratefulness. Along with an 8-hour day at my part-time job, I managed to fit in a gallery opening, family dinner, a trip to the book store, dessert and drinks with a friend and an episode of Family Feud with my partner's dad. It was a great day, and I was blessed to have been able to share it with so many people I love. I had a good night sleep last night.
Unfortunately I wasn't able to get into the studio on my birthday which, really, was the one thing I really wanted to do. Instead, my clay experience for the day involved loading customers' cars at The Pottery Supply House, calculating glaze recipes and organizing pottery tools. On the bright side, my coworkers at PSH are awesome and I arrived at 9am to a lemon filled cake and a Happy Birthday note.
It has been three days since I put my hands in clay, so I am anxious to get back into the studio, where I have two rings of test tiles and a tray of cupcake stands awaiting my arrival. This week's feat will be to make some sense of the cupcake stand forms I made last week by cutting them apart and editing (I also foresee myself reclaiming the majority of them).
I will also start developing a new style of imagery for my work. Keeping with the "map" theme I've been using this semester, I will be looking to a variety of new sources for travel, distance and location inspiration. Before the holiday break I was mostly using urban road maps for imagery development. My text of choice was a book of road maps from the Greater Toronto Area. My favourite lines to draw were freeways, rivers and waterfronts.
During the holidays when we were forced to take a vacation (they literally locked us out of our studios for three weeks), I spent a lot of time doodling, drawing and looking through atlases and photography books. One of my current favourite sources is The Atlas of Middle Earth by Karen Wynn Fonstad. I won't be using her exact maps in my new work, but I am enthralled with the line quality in her images. I am particularly fond of her mountain ranges and forested areas, the way that she uses line to create dense and atmospheric maps. Here are two puffy test tiles I made last week, inspired by a map of Rohan, with its first three layers of imagery. I'll be adding more layers to these tiles this week.
On an end note, I've added more links to my "About Me" menu. You can now follow my Instagram and Pinterest accounts, as well as Emma Smith Ceramics on Facebook.
I'm off to buy new tools with my birthday money and enjoy the beautiful day that's forming outside. Cheers,