Saturday, January 2, 2016

New Year's Day: The Ruminations

New Year's, as you've no doubt noticed by the onslaught of weight-loss commercials and ads for personal fitness centers, is a time of resolutions. While there's something to be said for the shiny, clean slate of a New Year -- and believe me, saying goodbye to an old, hard year is certainly something I've done and will do again -- this year, the ball drop didn't bring the sense of renewal it has in the past.

This year, I've been overtaken by a sort of existential restlessness. My mind won't stay peaceful for more than a few minutes at a time. I can't focus on the book I'm reading for long, because I soon get lost in thought, though my eyes are scanning the pages in front of me. (I often read the same page several times over, just to be sure I didn't read it the first ten times.) Things in my private life have been contributing to this sensation, but I'm not ready to share that now, if ever.

I have something best described as anxiety. I can tell, because of the tightness in my chest. And the fact that both my dogs are clinging to my side and looking at me as if to say, "It's o.k. We got you!"

My head is full of noise. Just when I want to give my best to my art, to give a gift of love from my heart to my customers. *sigh*

The sense of things unfinished, of goals unreached, is strong. Why did I not accomplish some of the simpler resolutions of 2015? Why am I not more poised? More polite, in the true, old-school way of things? Why can I not be dignified? More graceful and less of a klutz? Quieter, not so dang loud all the time?

Why can I not be more like Judi Dench?

What is wrong with me?

I know many of you have felt the same, and feel the same. (Although maybe not the part about Judi Dench...)

There's just so much room for improvement. As a potter, a sculptor, a human being, a spiritual person. Sometimes -- times like now -- the prospect is so daunting. How can I be better? Deal with life more constructively, instead of being reactive in the way I always was?When will I ever be "good enough?" 

Probably never, right? At least in the harsh confines of my own mind, just like you in yours. *sigh*

The thing is, though, when I take a breath, I realize that I have improved over the past year. I know that I'm "in process," that the journey is the goal, as Pema Chodron says. I know that no matter how badly I've screwed something up, I'm not a lost cause.

Because the journey is the goal.


Fortunately, there's retail therapy, paired with Christmas money. It's a nice distraction from the real issues, whatever they may be. (I know I'm not supposed to distract myself from the real issues, but hey, I already said I'm not perfect!)

Pottery and sculpture can be hard on tools. It can also be difficult to determine what tool might be the right one for your particular throwing or sculpting style. Sometimes you need to play around with different shapes and materials to shape your art, just to see what works best for you and your needs. Lucky me, I found Troy Bungart Studios, also known as Burlchaser on Etsy.

Troy is both a potter and a woodworker, which gives him a unique perspective on a potter's needs in the tool department. And can I just tell you, these tools are so very well made?

Each of his tools is a work of art, a privilege to use. Just looking at them inspires me! He utilizes different kinds of wood for each, as you can tell from the picture below.
Some of my Christmas Money Bounty. Pic taken on my wedging table.
 I once bought one of his ribs as a gift for my pottery/sculpture sensei, who, when asked if he had used it yet, said, "It's too beautiful!" and still has it on his desk, to be admired. (I bought him another pair of tools, plus some beeswax and mineral oil to care for them, but don't tell!)
I'm very much looking forward to making some bowls and platters with these new ribs. I'm kicking around how much "regular," functional ware I'm going to make this year, versus how much Hallowe'en stuff I'll need for the shows I want to do. 

So far (knock wood), I haven't had to go in for any surgeries which would keep me out of the studio like they did for the past couple of years, so I think I can at least tentatively make a plan and a schedule. 

If there are any potters reading this blog, I'd be interested in how you go about laying out your schedules for the year! I could use some ideas!
I started playing around with wine cups, again, just to get my hand back into the rhythm of throwing. I've been off my wheel for a bit since I was gone for the holidays, and it helps to have a "warm up" form. I'm also playing with stamping the forms (like Gary Jackson) to add some texture and fun. You can see a couple of them at the back of the above photo. (I thought I had a better shot, but I don't.) I can see why Gary likes his stamps so much; they're really, really fun to work with! I'll post more about that soon.

More adventures, soon! Meanwhile, from me to you, have a happy, healthy, wealthy and prosperous 2016!


  1. So very kind of you! I very much appreciate people like you putting out the word about my pottery tools. Some day I hope that this will be my full time job.

    I now have a laser engraver and will be making custom wood and rubber stamps for artists. If I can help anyone accomplish their custom stamping goals I would be happy to discuss their needs.

    About setting goals… Between Christmas and New Year I plan out the coming year. Each year I get more detailed and each year I am more thrilled with what I accomplished. I have had setbacks for sure, (health, doubt and accidents) but having a plan helped me make headway once things got better.

    I am so happy to have been a part of your journey, success to you!


    1. It's my pleasure, Troy! I love using your tools to create, and I look forward to seeing your new embellishments!

      And I will take your advice to heart. Organizing will be a good thing!

  2. Happy New Year, I hope that anxiety settles down... love those tools, the wood looks like it would take the water immersion of pottery well.

    1. This, too, shall pass, as they say. :) The anxiety will take care of itself, eventually, especially if I turn my focus away from it.

      Meanwhile, I will make pretty things, fail at making pretty things, and grow, grow, grow!

  3. Heh heh, noodles, sorry I can't resist!

    I hope you have a happy new year and accomplish some of those goals towards being a better person and stuff!

    1. Nice reference! And thanks for the good wishes!

  4. It really is about the journey. I've reminded myself of that a lot over the last few years as I try out different arts and crafts projects. Or, teach myself how to use my sewing machine...or, my latest goal, figure out how to crochet flowers and leaves.

    I also find this quote by Anais Nin quite helpful..."You live out the confusions until they become clear."

    Wishing you a productive and satisfying 2016!

    1. And to you, too!

      Wonderful quote! So very, very true.


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