Monday, April 23, 2012

The solitary potterer

This post has been percolating in my brainpan for the last week or so. I was not even sure I would post it for fear that I would offend someone (how introvertedly sensitive of me, and I am not really sure who I would actually offend now that I think about it), but then I said, who cares anyway? Just post it for crying out loud. So here it is.

Recently I have been bumping into a topic of conversation in both the media and now in the blog world. It began one day while listening to the CBC. I caught an interview with Eric Klinenberg about his new book “Going Solo – The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone”. Then, again listening to CBC on Sunday afternoon, I was half listening to a radio program that normally deals with the “spiritual”, and as nobody could ever confuse me with being that…my brain was definitely not on full attention mode, so I did not catch the name of the guest, but the topic was on introverts. My ears perked a little at that and I discovered that we introverts are a little more sensitive to their environment and what is going on around them than extroverts. Moving forward, I was watching HBO a week or so ago and happened to catch Bill Maher and it turns out that one of his guests was Eric Klinenberg. Yesterday I was reading Carter Gillies’ blog on the “loneliness of the long distance potter” and was using Susan Cain and her blog and book “Quiet” as his inspiration for his discussion on introverts. Turns out Susan Cain was the one being interviewed on that half listened to CBC show.

Anyway, it is just strange how all of a sudden, I am hearing about why it is OK to live the way I live, and that it is OK to be the way I am. Not to say that I was looking for validation, I mean, I am not that weird (am I?).

To the point about being introverted, I want to clarify. I am not shy (contrary to my parent’s belief, but then they still think I am 12). I was always labeled as shy, and perhaps I was as a kid (more than likely just introverted), but I am now an adult, and seem to function pretty well in society. I graduated from Uni, I have a job, I teach pottery, I own my home, I lease my car, and I have friends with whom I enjoy hanging out with. I am just not good at small talk, and that can come across as either shy, or perhaps rude, but it’s not, I am just not good at filling up the void with mindless babble (this blog doesn’t count, ‘cause I am fairly sure that nobody is actually reading it). If I have something important or meaningful to say, I will say it, you can sure bet your bippy on that one (what is a bippy?). But I will make sure it is said in a way so as not to insult or hurt anyone’s feelings.

Having a contemplative nature and being comfortable with being alone (not lonely) are perfect attributes for working in a studio. I am in a bit of a different situation from many other potters in that the studio I work out of is not my own, it is where I teach. So, there are usually a few people there at any given time of the day. I have a key and can come and go 24 hours of the day, so if it was really a problem, I could throw pots at 2 in the morning if I wanted to (ya right, I also like to sleep, I even have an app for that). I have found that I no longer sleep in on the weekends though. I will get up at 7:30 some Sundays just so that I can get to the studio well before anyone else would ever be there (except for Ellen, she seems to always beat me). I enjoy putting the radio on, or my ipod in the dock and just focusing on the throwing, glazing, or whatever. I will usually get a call from my mum while I am up to my armpits in clay, and she will ask “where are you?” and although it makes perfect sense to me, I always feel a bit weird when I tell her that I am at the studio, because it is the only answer I usually have to that question. Non potters don’t get it, and non potter extroverts really don’t get it.

Now that I got that off my chest so to speak...
Time is ticking by rather quickly. There are only 12 days left until the spring sale on May 5th (YIKES) and I may very well be unloading hot pots the night before (nothing new there). I just finished glazing and loading yesterday, but I have at least 1 or two more firings to get through before everything that has been kicking around gets fired. I am still working with the shellac to create bas relief texture on a lot of my pots.I am worried about sacrificing them to the glazing process, but they are in the kiln cooling right now, so there ain't no going back now. There are very few glazes that I trust to yield acceptable results. Unfortunately, most of those are commercial glazes. I would really love to find that perfect glaze recipe that breaks really nicely, allows the texture to be seen and yet be interesting all on it’s own as well. We have a clear glaze at the studio that is nice, but tends towards yellow (I have nick named it cat pee clear). We also have a very nice celadon, but on certain bodies, it will craze like crazy (no pun intended), so I don’t want to risk that on these highly textured pots as the crazing will obscure the delicate patterns. I think for now I will stick to the “Amber Topaz” and “Rootbeer” glazes from Mayco. They seem to be the most translucent glazes of the bunch that I have access to. I will probably do a clear interior on the porcelain pots so as not to neutralize any translucency in the body.

Perhaps I should explain why I say “unfortunately” in the same sentence as “commercial”. I am mostly referring to the fact that unless I shell out for the powdered form, I will have to paint on 2-3 coats of glaze, and I hate that. I have a whole pile of glazes in pint form, but only because they were given to me, not because I bought them. The other, and really more important reason why I am not too fond of commercial glazes is that I don’t really know what is in the glaze (although I could make a pretty good educated guess). If they ever discontinue the colour, I would have to run through a ton of testing to find a version I could make myself. The same could be said for raw glaze materials disappearing too I guess. We have recently run into a situation where an ingredient (spodumene) was no longer available from the regular producer as they had stopped manufacturing/mining it. Another supplier was located, but it is coming from much further away (Australia vs. Manitoba). Obviously the transportation costs will greatly affect the price of this ingredient, so we are now forced to look for a new glaze that uses more local ingredients. The second most recent ingredient change was with Cornish or Cornwall stone. We have not had REAL Cornish stone for a very long time. It was substituted with a variant that worked pretty well as far as I can tell. However, recently the substitute was substituted with another replacement that not only looks very different in it’s raw state, but has totally changed the characteristics of the glaze that we use it in the most. The change in glaze characteristics actually was not a disaster, it looks and feels very nice (I actually like it more now), it just does not have the same properties when overlapped with other glazes that it used to.

As Scott Cooper over at says, if you make the clackity clack sound on the keyboard long enough....

My fingers are itching to unload that kiln, so pictures tomorrow(ish)....

No comments:

Post a Comment