Form and Fear
Form and Fear is rooted in my anxiety at making unfamiliar forms. Thinking about making a new kind of pot manifests itself as procrastination, indecision and a creative freeze. Being a maker is about conquering this fear. It’s about wading through failed attempts and the demoralizing feelings of not being good enough at something that I love and want to devote my life to pursuing. This journey of making is about soldiering through all those things and still finding joy in the work.
I’ve avoided the pitcher, the teapot and large platters. I shunned the pitcher because of the spout, the teapot because of its many parts, and the large platter because its size. I faced my fears by confronting my anxieties and focused on improving a vase shape that I was comfortable with. Through this exploration my work became looser, more gestural and more alive.
Repeating the vase shape was a struggle and the feeling of lightness and upward energy in the form eluded me. Frustration and defeat were constant companions in my creative process, but I kept making. I knew the form I wanted to create would emerge if I continued generating work. In researching forms that other ceramic artists created, I found Simon Levin’s work. His functional ware has buoyancy, ease and simple yet practiced details that unify his pieces. They were just the shape and spirit I was hoping to emulate.
Tom Jaszczak’s low fire soda work, with its layers of slip, red clay body peeking through and spots of bright color, inspired me to work with grogged red earthenware. Atmospheric soda firing gave a glittery sheen to the naked clay body. Saturated underglaze and terra sigillata palettes were painted in stamped details in the beginning stages, but the raw clay had such a glistening sheen that I chose to use the bright colors as small accents only, if at all. I also wanted the form of the ware to be the focal point rather than the surface. In the beginning I used a commercial clear glaze to line my pitchers. The color of the glaze pre-firing was a light, opaque aqua. I loved that color and how it contrasted with the orange terra cotta exterior, so I created a glaze that did just that.
As I continued creating and gaining more confidence in my throwing I decided to play. I began putting my teapots together very wet, right off the wheel like Linda Christenson does with her work making it have a relaxed and comfortable feel. This led to me manipulating forms on the wheel and adding heavily grogged and sawdust-laden slip to my chargers. Lines of my work became softer and my forms had more movement as I pushed out areas on my pitchers, teapots and especially large platters.
I never felt like a potter. I never thought that I would be able to create well-made pots that actually worked. Simple forms are not simple. Pots that function well and exhibit good craftsmanship are hard to create. It takes a lot of effort to look effortless. That effortlessness is obtained through repetition, research, production and facing fears. Continuing to move through, even with misgivings and worries into this maker’s journey increased my knowledge, confidence, skill and also my desire to be a good potter. I still see a lot of that hesitation in my finished pieces, but this process has been an adventure and I feel excited to make more pots.
-Julia Baugh October 2017