I don’t think I’m alone in seeing leather-hard clay as one of the most attractive surfaces in ceramics. It’s why I love satin matte glazes, and it probably has something to do with how I see form in the first place. Maybe, if you are one of the incredibly intelligent people who agrees with me on this subject, you might also agree that this is why it takes some of us so long to get past the form and think about surface earlier in the process. That leather-hard surface is so seductive, and it’s so difficult to let go of and put something else on top of it. I have this great new flower-brick form I’m working on (below), and I just know I’m going to have to make about 20 of them before I am able to think about a surface other than the one shown. At first, I will probably glaze it to try to keep some of this soft surface—check out my satin matte glaze on page 60 of the Ceramic Arts Yearbook (subscribers will have received it with this very issue—others can go online and check it out at (www.ceramicsmonthly.org). After I make several, I’m sure what I learn from them at the end of the process will come back and inform the beginning of the process.
I know I’m getting ahead of myself, quite possibly even setting myself up for some serious disappointment, since this hasn’t yet made it through the drying process, let alone the firing. But that’s what this stage in the making process is great for; optimism and hope for the future of this piece. It’s one of the most satisfying times in the making cycle for me, other than a really good kiln load of glazed ware. Still, if I could keep this surface, I think I would.
There is a lesson here beyond just making work (there always is), and it has to do with cycles. For instance, CM has internal production cycles, and external publication cycles that drive that production; museums and galleries have exhibitions cycles (even seasons); ceramic-art centers experience the ebb and flow of the workshop and residency programs; school follows the academic calendar. What they all have in common is the yearly calendar. Planning starts in the previous year; a schedule is built and the parts are defined and filled in with people, content, and new ventures; and excitement begins to build in anticipation. Think of it as the leather-hard stage of the business cycle. Our annual Ceramic Arts Yearbook is meant to facilitate this planning stage, and like firing results coming back and informing the next batch of pots, the Yearbook is meant not only to reflect on what happened this year in our field, but also to help in planning the one just around the corner.
Whether you’re already thinking about 2013 and are busy making plans, or you’re comfortable cruising along in 2012, content to deal with the next year when it gets here, my suggestion is that you take some time to assess and plan and refine what you want at this wonderful point where things are still malleable and full of possibilities. These cycles tend to fly by without notice if we are not attentive and careful to notice their various parts. I’m going to try to notice when life is leather hard and enjoy it!
Check out the rest of the November 2012 issue!