Rest in Pieces

As aspiring artists, it’s a natural to emotionally invest in one’s artwork. We want to produce pieces that we are proud of, that rise above the rest, that reflect our own experiences, preferences, and perceptions of the world. Still, it’s important to understand that no matter what the artist’s skill level, the creating process can be very unpredictable and things don’t always go according to plan, especially in ceramics, where so many variables affect the end product. Clay is often not easy to manipulate to begin with, glazes produce colors that are light years different than anticipated, and pieces even blow up in kilns if the proper care is not taken… And often, there isn’t a thing you can do about it (after the fact, at least).

And sure enough…

On the first day of classes back at Marywood, I was so eager to get back to my studio to do some cleaning and start off the semester with a tidy work space, as well as catch up on glazing that didn’t get done last semester. I waltzed into the studio trying (unsuccessfully) to wipe the silly grin off my face, turned the corner into my area, and instantly that grin was gone and my heart was in my shoes. I found this:

20150824_151333 20150824_151341So, upon first impression, yes, I was sorely disappointed. I thought maybe there would be a way to mend it, but thinking on it further after the dust settled, it would be pretty impossible to restore the piece to the state of its original integrity. Bummer.

But, this is also the perfect opportunity for exploration. All too often, for example, the glazes I mentioned before, that don’t turn out like we anticipate, turn out better than our anticipations were to begin with. In ceramics, a lot of the successful portions of a piece happen unintentionally; the unpredictability is part of the beauty.

So I decided to glaze it anyway! The notably uneven portions of the surface might make for some really interesting contrasts in value, and I am anxious to see the results of the new glaze combination. Who knows? The glaze might make the piece look more finished regardless of its imperfection.

Last semester, we did discuss the pros and cons of rougher, more fractured elements in these sculptures juxtaposed to the finished and purposeful elements (like in my Portfolio Review post). What do you think? Do you prefer the piece refined on the whole – glazed, unbroken, and collected – or does it add visual interest when the piece remains unglazed and sustains substantial cracks and breakages?

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