06 September, 2014

The Gap

I'm not sure what to call this object. When I bought it home, the consensus was that it would be the perfect vessel in which to serve a huge bunch of asparagus. I'm not sure that it needs a purpose.

I was thinking today about the process of trying something new, creatively. Over the years I have dabbled in various things, mostly drawing, painting, sewing, bookbinding and printmaking. All of those things have a considerable learning curve, some of which take quite a lot of practice to get good results. Ira Glass talks about this, in his talk on storytelling and creativity. He discusses "the gap", when you're first starting out, between what you know is good, and what what you actually produce. It's worth a listen, if you're ever feeling discouraged about your creative efforts.

I've always loved printmaking, especially etching. I love the quality of the line and the embossed image on the paper. But I find there's quite a big gap between what I know to be good and what I can actually achieve. I know it's a matter of practice and perseverance, and I'll get back to it one day, but it's going to be quite a process I think.

One thing I'm enjoying about ceramics is the lack of expectation that comes with being a beginner. I'm making plenty of mistakes, but man it's fun just playing around, learning what is possible with the medium. It's pretty cool to see what emerges from the kiln, and seeing how the different processes will transform the clay often in totally unexpected ways.

The other cool thing is that you can achieve some really satisfying results even as a beginner. What starts out as a lump of clay is transformed with different processes, starting with an idea, then sculpting, moulding and manipulating, using tools or your hands. Then you work with glazes to create the surface patterns. I think it brings different skills into play, and provides opportunities to use your own strengths. I'm enjoying my wonky results, rather than needing the results to be perfect. And as my teacher says, you can buy perfect.

My friend Heleen told me about a South African ceramics studio called Wonki Wares. Their work is beautiful, and not at all wonky. But don't you love the name? Embrace the wonky.