Patience-Indeed Still a Virtue

March 15, 2010
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Coupled with education and reading is one skill, one attribute, one omnipresent quality that merits revisiting-patience.



Ceramics has a steep learning curve, and no matter how many years one’s involvement may be, the learning continues. Coupled with education and reading (and the many other ways of becoming more proficient in this field) is one skill, one attribute, one omnipresent quality that merits revisiting-patience.

While many constants within ceramics are obvious, how many times do we find ourselves stretching them, breaking accepted rules, oftentimes with less-than-acceptable results? With many of us, the ideas for making things flow like torrents, and in the middle of their making, mistakes are made. We haven’t thought them through with a full degree of thoroughness. And then, after the work does not make it through the complete cycle, our disappointment is often accompanied with that “ah-ha” moment. “If I had only…” fill in the blank here with one of perhaps hundreds of ceramic constants.

A good analogy can be the skill sets used for wheel throwing and handbuilding, and those for designing ceramic work using plaster tooling. One can certainly move quickly through making work on the wheel or by slab or coil, understanding that there is a good degree of forgiveness with the process and the material. Designing work that uses plaster molds is a slower process and is definitely not forgiving. No value judgment is implied as to their inherent worth. They just require a different skill set. In fact, what they each require are differing degrees of patience and understanding. Making ceramics in any way requires-no, demands-a level head and a large dose of patience.

Do any of these ring true in your studio practice?
  • If you rush through whatever it is that you are doing, I can almost guarantee less-than-positive results.
  • If your days are full of interruptions, the work will resemble this disruption and break in the work flow.
  • Not having a solid glaze testing procedure will most assuredly lead to results that are less than expected.
  • Not listening to your inner voice telling you to slow down will also yield unrealized work.
  • Not taking care of both your mind and your body, not nourishing your soul outside of the ceramics métier can produce disastrous results.
These are just a few, yes? I am sure that many of you can add to this list. I have been fortunate to have a 40-year career in ceramics, and my list grows all the time. It is important to be present, mindful and aware of not only everything within your ceramic world, but everything outside of it also. With this consciousness, surely you can expect the unexpected.

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