It seems like I’ve been glazing for two weeks. It’s only been two hours. It’s been so long since I’ve glazed any ware—and such a long time since I made and bisque fired the pieces I’m glazing—that it feels like starting from scratch. This time lapse introduces a considerable disconnect into my making process, and it forces me to pretty much rediscover my thinking about how I’m going to glaze these pieces. I can recall having ideas about glazing and the finished surfaces when I was making the work, but I don’t necessarily recall those plans or ideas two or three months later.
Now, in some ways this might be a good thing, since it forces me out of any routine I may have developed without realizing it, but it also means I may miss the opportunity to really integrate the surface and form. What I mean is that I “knew” the forms better when I was making them, and that knowledge is not always concrete or linear, making it more difficult to pull it back from memory (intellectual memory at least). The more distance there is between forming and glazing, the more awkward the glazing process can be. So I’ve started to make extras that are intended to be used as “warm ups” when I start to glaze. Now, after two hours of glazing duds, I feel like I have a sense of where I was going with these forms, and maybe just a little better understanding of how best to glaze them. And I’m also tired, so I think I’ll go have a nice refreshing beverage and think about what I’ve done so far, what I might keep for the next pieces, and which pieces I need to wipe off and try glazing again.
I can’t decide if having a plan and pushing through several pieces assembly line style is better, or coming at each one anew is the better way to go. Having ten mugs come out of the kiln successfully but all the same is satisfying in a way that is completely different from the excitement of six of them not really working out, two of them being pretty good, one being very successful, and one just knocking my socks off. If I don’t think about the return on investment (primarily of time), but rather the creative risk versus reward, the latter is always preferable—but it can be exhausting. Hopefully I can find a good middle balance, because, while it’s nice to know I can fire a whole kiln load of pots with predictable success, it gets old faster than I thought it would, and no one wants to be bored unloading a kiln. I suppose part of this phenomenon has to do with the question we often forget to ask ourselves when we are working on perfecting technique: “What would you make if you could make whatever you wanted to?” I tend to add to this, “with only a few hours a week in the studio,” and then I add, “in a 20-year-old kiln with tired elements,” and then I get over myself a little bit and realize that I am lucky to have the time and equipment I have. What would I make? Exactly what I’m making. I’ve made my choices, and the work I make is the result of those choices. I think this is true for all of us, whether we’re in full-time production or making one-offs on a very part-time schedule.– Sherman Hall, editor
Check out the rest of the April 2013 issue!