Thursday, July 11, 2013

Rationalizing Troubles

I've been mulling over how our investment in time and energy can make us reluctant to swing the hammer of judgment when work comes out wandering away from expectations and accepted personal norms.


Last week I opened the kiln on a load of what I confidently thought would be predicable work. I hadn't deviated from my plan, I was using a tested clay body, using tested glazes, and I knew what I wanted the work to look like. So with a plan in hand, I thoroughly got to enjoy lavishing attention on each piece as it traveled through the process.

I howled when the work started coming out of the kiln and I saw every single one had a case of the mumps. If you look at the horizon line, you can see lumps and bumps deep in the body. I'm sure I could have been seen pouting for days. The "sunk costs" are what usually keeps me from picking up the hammer and start swinging right away. On this occasion, it was thanks to a well placed word of encouragement that caused me to keep hearing Julia Childs voice chiming in like a over-sized conscious in the back of my head repeating over and over again... 
"Never Apologize, nobody is in the kitchen with you."


And you know what... she's right.  

Nobody but the chef knows the troubles that happen in the kitchen, it's the finished quality of the dish that matters.


I know that I prefer an object that is touched by troubles yet still shines. It's by far more interesting than a "perfect" object. Beauty that shines through it's trial helps it become the jewel it was meant to be.
Now that I've come to enjoy these pearled surfaces, I'm left wondering how I could purposely achieve the same result with intent rather than miraculous accident.

I should probably stop wondering and just enjoy what is in hand.

7 comments:

cookingwithgas said...

There are times that I think I have learned enough lessons about clay and then I realize that you never learn enough and if you did you need to move on.
Our kitchen is full of pots that I thought were seconds, not good enough. And, yet, they fill my life with their daily usefulness.
One day i thought about how they could have filled someone the lives of others and then I wondered if there were times I set the bar too high. There are other times when I think I set the bar too low.
It truly is up to the user.
What i find lately that bothers me more is that too many pots are being made to look at.
I think we bring them to life when used.

Linda Starr said...

I remember when I accidentally got what I called moon craters, then I tried to get them again and never could, such is clay.

Midori said...

I have special ears. I could hear your howling when I read it. : )

Troy Bungart said...

I really enjoy your work. Thank you for posting your trials and ecstasies!

angela walford said...

oh my... I concur with all of the above...onward zyg!!

carter gillies said...

I've been having this conversation with a friend recently that questions the role of expectations in happiness. This of course also has to do with predictability and therefor how much we can influence outcomes. Obviously for us potters its mot all random. we do like to aim at things, the things we like, but the question remains as to how expectations make us happier.

My feeling was that at a basic level expectations at best only give us satisfaction or relief. We got what we wanted and are satisfied. On the flip side, if we don't get what we want we are often devastated. The work done in 'Loss aversion' suggests that we are far more upset when things go wrong than we are pleased when they go right. Its disproportionate in the negative direction.

Further, if we are happy its not usually BECAUSE we expected whatever to happen. Rather, the thing itself is what makes us happy. But when things go wrong, its often precisely because we expected something different that we feel bad. So expecting is almost a no win situation!

Think about your life. Think of all the things that made you happy. Now ask yourself how many of them were exactly what you expected. Probably not more than a handful. Typically the things we learn to love are things that came out of the blue, things that had no warning, surprises and serendipity.

The lesson I take from that is that we have no choice but to aim ourselves, to attempt to put ourselves in good positions. To be smart about things, in other words. But the trick is to not expect particular outcomes. The trick is to discover the good that was not on purpose. The more we expect, the more we will be frustrated. The only real benefit of expectation is that we get what we wanted, and even that can be frustrating. "Be careful what you wish for" makes all too much sense all too often. I also take this to be why Einstein said that "Imagination is more important than knowledge". We are limited by knowledge. Imagination is the door to serendipity.....

Hope some of that made sense!

Good luck!

FetishGhost said...

Up until very recently, I made a point to creat a small bit of chaos in my life every day, a small bit that was just mine. Mine to balance against what was swirling around me. Mine to play with, a place to safely fail, a place find the "good" in the unexpected, a place to be happy with the surprises found when I'm busy hoping for something predictable.

I know I stretch myself and grow whenever I've once again somehow proven myself wrong and/or frustrated myself with my misplaced assumptions, but that doesn't mean I won't revel when I hit a bulls-eye. The shortfalls make the victories that much sweeter, and conversely, the victories make the failures that much more prominent... Smash!