How much time do you spend trying something new?

Even for those who have honed their work to a well established voice and style, I believe the question is a valid one.  For those who are still exploring as part and parcel of their working practice it may be more closely examined a process.  However, the question must fall somewhere for all.   I believe it's a very valid one, and creates a series of questions on the creative process.

How much time to you spend on new possible forms, styles, projects?
Is there ever a drive to do something entirely different from your established and successful work?
Are you afraid of your customer base/peer base not responding well to your "new" attempts?
Is there fear/avoidance in exploring at all?
Is there comfort is sticking with what works and spending the time to elaborate within that framework?

I made this as a request.  I do like the idea of wall pieces,  I have some ideas for some that I think will compliment some of the work I'm doing.  I have to be honest; I wasn't exactly sure what I was going to do to make one of my Ship&Whale vases hang on the wall?  I just had a hard time at first even getting there.  I resisted.  Obvioiusly, I finally did it, and the result is I'm ambivalent about it.  I didn't have the luxury of spending a ton of time figuring it out - and what you see is the result without much time for exploration.

But, it's brings up a some questions for the purpose of broader discussion.

I've gotten mixed response. I don't know.  I'm mixed. But to lightly defend its existence, I will simply say that I am devoted to exploration.  That includes making things that I may not be super excited about, or pieces that are early iterations...and even making sucky things some times.  We can't make great stuff every time, can we?  Well, maybe some of you do, bless you ;-)  In decades of creating, I still don't.  And I feel if I start to worry too much about what someone will think - I will lose what I believe is a freedom.  Am I being naive here?

When I go to workshops, I am so respectful,  I rarely ask the artist what isn't working, what hasn't worked or things that don't' work - but I want to (I did once because they opened the door).  Perfection is lauded and encouraged, and it should be.  Excellence is probably a much better word.  The learning, the practice, the hours, days, years of arriving at excellence, however, is about what didn't work.  All the things that didn't work that added up to making great work.  Right?  I wish we (the collective creative community we) talked about this more.  There is a confidence in putting the whole show out there.  The ability to express the failing along with the winning.  In my mind, as I write this, I picture those backdrop photos we all see so often with jacked up, shitty pieces that would normally not see the light of day.  They are what make us good at our trade.  Why aren't we proud of them.

Ok.  I don't think that piece is horrible, but I'm not stoked about it.....but, it does create in my mind a bunch of new ideas in having made it.  Therefore, I believe it was worth doing.  So, at the risk of looking like an ass, sometimes I think I'm going to post about some stuff that isn't working, that is suspect, that is a back to the drawing board exercise.  Why not.  What do you guys think?


  1. relishing your honesty in this post. i do believe we all struggle with this question. i find myself craving creative time of exploration outside of my comfort sweet spot. if helps when there is no pressure to make any of the results into finished work. but perhaps we should celebrate this exploratory work, imperfections and all, for its contribution to our journey to excellence.

  2. You have to experiment in order to move forward. There are a lot of baby steps on the way to "perfection" - whatever that is! It's such a moving target, isn't it?!?
    What is it that you are ambivalent about? I'm not big on wall pieces personally, but I really like the way you've used the vertical surface with the movement of the whale coming from below. The image is pretty powerful! Nice work I say.


  3. thanks Anca and Michi - I don't know why I'm ambivalent. Just am. I mostly like it, but like anything I do, I'm very critique oriented, critical is too negative. I do want to improve and improve. So, I have a tendency to think about the thing from various standpoints of whether it works, over all or a little and whether or not I'd make more and if I'd make more then how I can improve upon the idea. That's all and that happens with everything I do.

    I just like the discussion of making and people's approach, what they think about and how they apply that to process. Let's remember, I spend a lot of time alone in my studio ;-)

    thanks for the vote of confidence on the work! the piece is growing on me.

  4. As a new potter, I'm so busy trying to "do it all", I feel like I'm experimenting all the time. I don't mind so much...but there are some things I'm either trying or want to try that I just wish someone would say "don't bother. As for wall pieces. I kinda like the idea of them. There seems to be so much functional pottery out there, that making something of a decor piece seems like a great idea to me. Then again, I really have no idea...but...I actually like the piece. I love the shape and the design is amazing! Best of luck!

  5. Hey Brenda! Keep it up, whatever it is you are doing. It all adds up and helps you keep moving forward. All of your creative actions inform your process - so it's all good news! I guess my thing about this subject is we have a tendency to share the wins a lot. I know there are crappy pieces hidden away in everyone's studio ;-) I don't want to laud them, I'm curious about the creative relationship around them. That's all...a lot of time on my hands today!

    - p.s. I got your note on my website but it had no return address. Can you please go back and leave an email with a return so I can send you some info ! I'm happy to do so.

    thanks for the comment.

  6. Great post Linda! And I agree that these are some questions that creative types need to ask themselves.

    It seems most of us are spread out on the continuum of either experimenting or sticking with what we know. The more we cling to the ideas we know will work the less we are willing to fail. So it seems that if an artist is still able to cut loose and reimagine how things should be done there has to be some room for attempts that don't succeed. And since usually we are our own harshest critics its sometimes hard to recognize when we've landed on something that has merit. At the far end of the explorer spectrum it can sometimes seem that each new thing we've done is only there as a placeholder for future starting points. Explorers don't always rest on their laurels. They don't always see even the best of what they've done as something worth sticking with. Even the most perfect work they have created is still a potential chain that could tie them down if they are not careful.

    For me personally I get bored easily, even by my triumphs. I like to think that its better to forget even the best of what I've done so that it doesn't hem me in too much from the exploring I can do. And if at some point in the future I look at something I once did in a distant past and decide it was intriguing, then I pick up that past challenge and go exploring on that semi-forgotten terrain.

    Part of the truth about explorers is also that we don't always recognize the good from the bad. Sometimes it just takes a little delay to fully appreciate what we've done. Sometimes we are not the best judge of our own work, especially in the heat of the moment. If we are used to changing things up we are also used to being dissatisfied with our work. And we might even say that this dissatisfaction drives us forward. So perhaps it makes sense that we never really see what we've done as a stopping place, that we almost always see results as new challenges to explore.

    If we make our work without any surprises ever unfolding, that just says that we are willing to take a stand on these things as the final articulation of our imagination. There is nothing wrong with that. Some folks are either built that way, or as you suggest are just lucky enough to usually get it right. The restless folks are simply built differently. Even the best of what we've done is ultimately not good enough.

    But if we know this about ourselves then we won't be frustrated. We might just see how important it is to sometimes be 'bad'. Its only when we still cling to the expectation of finally pulling perfection out of our dissatisfaction that we are misled. If we simply don't aim at perfection then we are free to explore knowing that EVERY corner turned has the potential for something new and interesting. We just need to remember to see with an exploring eye.....

    Getting beginning students to see this is sometimes hard. They sometimes want it done 'right' and they often won't have the patience to wait for it. Teaching them to enjoy the process rather than live or die on the results is maybe the most difficult thing we can teach them. If the process is what engages you you will never be crushed when things go wrong. There's always another chance to start again.

    Thanks for the great post!

  7. Carter !! thanks for the response - I appreciate your insight. Have you ever read Dave Hickey's "the invisible dragon, four essays on beauty" ?