I've been sculpting dragons in clay. They're cartoonish, primitive, wonky. They're also pretty thick-bodied, which I know is a bit dangerous in ceramics. More clay means more chance of air bubbles and other flaws that might cause a break in the high temperatures of the kiln.
Last night, we did a bisque fire of several pots and four dragon sculptures. This morning, the kiln is full of half-baked pots and shards that were my dragons. There must have been an air pocket in the largest sculpture. I think its shattering caused the one beside it to break along some internal fault line into the four pieces you see above.
I've fired enough ceramic not to cry about this. You don't count your ceramic dragons before they've hatched (if that's not an old potter's saying, it should be). Of course, I'm disappointed. I spent hours carving these, finding their personalities, imagining what they would be when they were fired and glazed. No matter how much I tell myself not to get attached to things, I do.
At my parents' house in Frostproof, where we raku, there is a pile of red brick against the pasture fence left over from building the house I grew up in. It's covered in weeds and spiders, and when we break a piece in a raku firing, we take out our frustration by hurling the fragments against the brick pile, shouting for the necessary catharsis. This morning, unable to hurl and shout in the early Sunday quiet of the apartment complex, I unpack the kiln carefully. Half-fired ceramic is brittle and easily shattered. I burn my fingers on the hot clay as I examine each piece, analyze this failure, look for where I went wrong. I find things I can salvage.
These pieces are broken cleanly. I'm going to fire them as they are. If they survive, I will glaze and raku them. I will imagine a new life for them, a new personality. Maybe a mixed media piece called "Deconstructed Dragon." I will make something of my failures. I will call it art.
Canaveral National Seashore
I recently finished/abandoned the longest poem I've ever written. It feels like the only poem I've ever written or the poem I'm always writing. I don't know. I can't really talk about it yet. It's about the things I love most--family, art, the idea of home, this place--and I've been writing and revising it for a long time, scribbling lines here and there, adding and taking away, looking for the thread that might tie it all together.
What's been great about writing this long poem is having a focus. It's not really true that "the hardest part is getting started"--I think we all know that the hardest part of any creative endeavor is finishing--but starting is one of the intimidating parts of writing, and it's been nice not to have to face a blank page for a while. Now that this long poem and the bigger chapbook project that's gone with it are finished, the new page seems especially blank.
I'm not sure that I want to write another long poem, at least not right away, but I do want to get started on another specific project in order to maintain the focus I've had over the past few months. I think this blog might be a good tool for that eventually, but for now I'm casting about among infinite possibilities, looking for the idea that will grab me next. I expect my creativity will be fairly random for a little while.
After you finish a creative project, how do you find the next big thing? How do you know when you've found an idea worth your energy and focus?