I am moved to speak! This blog has been dormant for a bit but it occurs to me that the EU referendum debate in the UK has made everybody petrified – turned to stone. Inflexible. Afraid. I have noticed how people are more cautious to commit even on a rational level to craft courses as D-Day approaches, fueled by fear.
The ceramic process is one of transformation. We take clay, which was once stone, then we work with it and turn it back into stone, to make our lives better and more memorable. Eventually of course it returns to clay, if, that is, an archaeologist doesn’t find it first, to teach us something new about ourselves.
Culture is what nations are judged on. It is the extant objects of an age – the culture that is left when people are gone – that fascinate us enough to travel and visit other countries and that, in fact, mark them out as noteworthy. Pottery does this so well because it lasts so long. It is one of the only true constants in the history of humanity – slightly bold statement you might say, but nevertheless, one visit to the British Museum or any vibrant town museum will show you that. It works on a human level, rather than one of nationhood. This is the contribution I think it has to the referendum debate.
This is not a pitch for bums on seats for my classes, although that would give me some breathing space as a living crafts person, but it feels like the small investment that people need to make in themselves is being eroded by fear from national and international politics. Could it be that the further politics is away from people’s daily lives the better it is for them? If politics is so emotionally confrontational that we are turned to stone, then we are in trouble!
It feels that this petrification is becoming more and more acute by the day. There needs to be one step further, a push. This is the push, if we are so detached from our emotional micro-climates that we cannot navigate the referendum debate without being turned to stone, we should realise that even stone will turn to clay soon enough and begin again!
Feel free to comment 🙂
I have been focused lately on rebalancing the business end of my practice; working through a reflective time on my latest creative output and on the season of relaxation through clay workshops.
It has brought up some very good questions and answers, mostly relating to the teaching of workshops and how I might develop them. I have been in a test phase with the workshops that I ran on a small scale over the summer and now I know how they work (and they do work!), I have started to branch out to other venues and to sort out some funding to take these further forward.
This also coincides with a change in part time work opportunities, which will feed my practice. This has put timetabling firmly under the spotlight. I have been working on a number of solutions that nurture relaxed happiness for me and for those who take part in my workshops and found this fascinating article on relaxed efficiency, a few years old now but still relevant I think.
Throwing session has brought some clarification for me in the last few weeks. Level ground. Made a photo shoot outside. This meant that my wheel needed to be made level for me to address it successfully. This simple act of preparation demonstrated itself to be key to the successful making of the pot. This is important because my new pieces have unconventional feet and, as always, I am looking for reasons for every aspect of what I do.
Industrialised urban environments take level ground as a given (throwing is the said to be the first industrial process although weaving is a strong contender). This has all sorts of metaphorical connotations, given my focus on human form and healing. We are no longer solely concerned with our immediate survival needs. This is very different when you are in a wheelchair of course!
It is also relevant because the making environment I made for myself was revealed when the gallery of the pot was reached. I had made a decision for a flatter, uniform gallery based on the felt disharmony from the previous pieces I had made, but this making has revealed an explanation for this disharmony that had not been at my finger tips. It’s lack of even ground is somehow amplified at the gallery, as if the point at which it meets the air is the point of most clarity.
Extemporisation: we are able only to speak evenly when our ground is evenly planted? When this is so we speak easily in the world. Our voice is free of struggle. So when the rim ‘meets the world’ it is even and calm and this is the sign of success. Perhaps.
I will write about the thrown pots in a different place.
Yet another milestone! Challenging packaging job for two of my bone china statement pieces.
These were a tricky job even for the experienced fine art transport technician who did the work onsite. Such a relief to have access to these awesome professionals! Off they go to Cardiff, England. Share the love!
Following on from my last post about the tussles of my own making practice, I am hugely impressed with the dynamic that was created when I hosted my meditationMAKE workshop on 17 May. There is enormous scope for this one day course and I am delighted that it was full up and ran exactly as I had intended.
Sharing the accessibility of the material – clay – and the potential it offers all those who lay their hands on it is truly satisfying. Very happy and an inspirational group.
“It’s no good saving a life and having good transport and good financial services if we don’t know what the meaning of life is…what artists do – on that depends a civilisation”
“One has to put oneself in the position to see something, but it won’t come. You have to think and work towards the creative thing that you want to achieve, but it won’t happen. It’s when you go away that it comes to you and it works. But it wouldn’t have come to you unless you had done the other thing first. So often you have to do something knowing that it’s going to be no good….without battering away at it, when you switch off, it won’t happen.” (Iain McGilchrist)
For me this quotation points at something very important. It can be put in lots of different ways but essentially it deals with the play between reason, emotion and intuition. The is particularly poignant following my recent visit to the opera. Cosi fan tutti at the ENO. It was a romp! Now, don’t get me wrong I have seen the reverential productions of cosi that produce a morose and ultimately desolate portrayal of the capriciousness of lovers in an age of reason. The ENO decided to present a colourful and boisterous version of relationship that sought actively to mature the childish ideals of the two couples. It definitely fell on the side of don alfonso but it was anything but cynical; if anything it was refreshing. The age of wisdom rather than reason won out.
So it is the same with the process of making. This has to be learned through embodied experience. Moreover it is the work of the heart that does this. You come and chip away at the work of creativity and fail. Then you walk away and the creativity comes to you, a solution comes to you. This is learned in the body, not through following algorithms in the mind. Often these things need to be accessed very quickly. Intuition. (This is the widest sense in which tacit knowledge can be discussed.)
Reason, emotion and intuition are intertwined.
From all of this you may have been able to tell that my making has been presenting me with considerable challenges which I have not been able to address until now. This partly accounted for my absence on the blog and
even though this convoluted post is far simpler than the reality of the tussle that has been going on with my Unguentarium project (pots with lids), it may still seem too multifaceted to make any sense of, from where you are sitting. Needless to say the fact that I draw on many sources for my work is reflected here and the art object that is the result is always a distillation of those influences. It finishes the journey, so to speak, hopefully with clarity!
To close on another quotation, which makes me (and others) feel better, “The intuitions of someone who had reasoned well all their life will be better than the intuitions of someone who hasn’t. But equally, the reasoning of someone who intuits well and is experienced, will be a lot better than the reasoning of someone who hasn’t got that to rely on.” (Iain McGilchrist)
Here is the trailer for ENO’s Cosi fan tutti http://www.eno.org/cosi
nef are a think tank that looks at economy, society and environment and looks to develop new ways of integrating economy, society and environment. The new-old word, ‘wellbeing’, has been the subject of one of their reports. The report has specifically looked at wellbeing in the workplace and is available at here but their focus is to make our working lives a fulfilling experience. Since we spend so much of our lives at work this is more important than ever! Their key points;
Improving well-being at work requires a more rounded approach that focusses on helping employees to:
- Strengthen their personal resources
- Flourish and take pride in their roles within the organisational system
- Function to the best of their abilities, both as individuals and in collaboration with their colleagues
- Have a positive overall experience of work
It’s and interesting study because attempts to measure wellbeing in a way that is relevant to us all. To what extent do you feel your your workplace encourages your own wellbeing? Let me know