Old Milwaukee

I'm sitting in the B&B at Pinecroft Centre for the Arts, waiting for my shift to stoke the wood kiln. - my fellow woodfirers are either on shift, wandering the property, or making lunch. So I thought I would take this much needed, FORCED down time to catch up on some blogging that has been neglected. (Sorry, again, for being such a brutal blogger).Last month was the 48th annual NCECA conference in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. For the third time, I flew down to the States to spend a week in a hub of clay related enthusiasm, education, celebration, and engagement. I finally got the chance to see Emily Schroeder Willis' work in person, purchase a few new pieces for my collection, and touch a LOT of pots. Some of the highlights for me included the National Juried Exhibition "Flow" that was installed at the Milwaukee Art Museum, the Gallery Expo (being able to touch pots is always a highlight) and the exhibition put on by the Archie Bray Foundation.

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The week is magical, but I always leave NCECA with a mixture of emotions: inspired, motivated, depressed, frustrated, euphoric... the list continues. Experiencing such a large amount of clay work in such a small period of time is WONDERFUL in so many ways. Through looking at work up close and personal I can try to understand how they were made - what techniques of process were used, what conceptual ideas were at play. The opportunities to learn and discover are endless, helped along by the fantastic panel discussions and speakers.

For me, there is also a sadness that comes along with the territory. There are feelings of incompetence and failure, herded along by loneliness, "nobody-ness", and confusion. I leave the week with questions running through my head like a hamster on a wheel. They are cyclical, never ending:

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What do I need to do to make work of this calibre? What skills do I need to learn? What level of education is most necessary? What am I doing wrong? Or right? and How can I feel comfortable with the work I make now, at this point in my life? How can I accept that growth is a process, and a long one at that?

When I come back from NCECA I feel a little empty, and at a loss for what I SHOULD make, and where I SHOULD be taking my career. I end up spending days cleaning the studio instead of making work. I organize my glazing area, I mop and soak the tables, I stack wood and water the plants, and pace. I stand in the middle of the room, with my hands over my mouth and pace, and stare.

The House is the Person

Well, it has been a long week. This is our first house and first move, and like anything else it has been an amazing learning opportunity. The Jerseyville General Store has thus far been a lesson in: patience, teamwork, organization, multi-tasking, and staying calm. It has also been a lesson in: tearing up floors, stripping wallpaper, drywalling, painting, plumbing, electrical, tearing down, re-building, cleaning, and heavy-lifting. Our renovations are non-stop from the moment we get up to the late hours of the night.

kitchenMost of our household items are now downstairs in the store, slowly making their way up into our house, but my studio is still in tear-down mode. I have a wood firing scheduled for the beginning of April though, so I am motivated to get my work space up and running as soon as possible.

Part of me loves the home-reno process. As an artist, there is nothing more exciting than a fresh slate, a blank canvas. This is the first time I have really been able to make every room my own (and Jesse's of course). I look for my home to reflect the same attributes that I hope to see in my pots:  calm, usefulness, delight, simplicity, quiet, and joy.

"The pot is the man: his virtues and his vices are shown therein—no  disguise is possible". - Bernard Leach

If Bernard Leach is right, then I guess I'm looking for those attributes in myself too.