Saturday, February 16, 2013

It's the Process That's Important!

One of the things that I have a hard time expressing in words is the overall feeling that "making" gives me. We are a results-oriented culture, not a process-oriented culture, so all that touchy-feely nonsense that artists talk about regarding the excitement of learning new techniques or making new things seems to mostly be lost on the general population.

Even Mr. ShellHawk, who is a genius at business, falls prey to the end-result trap. Granted, he is funding my experiment to a large degree by allowing me to stay home and work in my studio instead of having me work a full-time job (although this could change if our circumstances change), so "results" are part and parcel of my focus as a business owner. No sales=no positive result, right? So it's hard to crow at him about a triumph in the studio when there are no tangible sign of results in terms of cash flow. That's business, and it's not personal, and I get it.

Process, however, is what allows us to move forward as makers. For Hallowe'en artists or prop-builders, it's sitting down to make a three-axis skull work. For a potter or a sculptor, it's a good glaze firing. What people see is the end result, not all the struggling you did to have that finished product. And people do not seem to understand the value we place on making it ourselves, rather than buying something pre-made from a store.

I mean, wouldn't you rather own one of Pumpkinrot's works than buy some knockoff over at Spirit Halloween? To point out that it has more soul and craftsmanship is like pointing out that the Mona Lisa is lacking eyebrows; that is to say, it's obvious, once you take some time to look at it.

I was reading a blog post by potter Carter Gillies about process, called Your Pot is an Uncooked Noodle, in which he encapsulated everything regarding process that's been bouncing around in my head for a long time. 

It also brings to mind one of my favorite books, The Unknown Craftsman, which I've mentioned here before. That book was written when the industrialization of common household items was really getting a foothold, and the first signs of hand made craftsmanship falling out of favor was becoming evident.

But I digress.

Process. It's being a beginner, failing epic-ly not once but many times along the road to doing something well. The people who do well are the ones who don't quit when they realize it takes a lot of hard work to be merely competent (like I quit when faced with my stupid stirring witch project!). Judging your beginner's work while it's still in process is setting yourself up for failure. Here's what Carter Gillies has to say about it:
Judging your unfinished pot while it is still on the wheel is like deciding you don’t like a book because the cover is all wrong. It's like deciding that the film you are about to watch will be great simply because Bill Murray is in it. In other words, it is a preemptive judgment. While the pot is still on the wheel it not only suffers from the disadvantages of where and how you are looking at it then, but also from the fact that it is incomplete. A pot still on the wheel is something like a noodle before its been cooked. Sure, it will be the foundation for your shrimp scampi, your Miso soup, your Pad Thai, but to judge the eventual meal on what essentially is still an uncooked noodle just seems a bit preposterous. For beginners, at least….
Here's to uncooked noodles, my friends, and learning how to cook them, just right.

2 comments:

  1. Took a bit of Blogpsot break and missed all the new creations going up on etsy. Wow...lovely work and some of the glaze colors are amazing.

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  2. "We are a results-oriented culture, not a process-oriented culture, so all that touchy-feely nonsense that artists talk about regarding the excitement of learning new techniques or making new things seems to mostly be lost on the general population."

    Wow, that's perfectly put.

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