September 17, 2010


I am reaching out to you all as I go through some transitioning with my work.
I would love to hear from those of you who worked and developed a particular style for a while and then chose to "switch gears" as it were... move into a new feeling in your work a new direction... perhaps something entirely different than the original work.
My desire is to hear your reasoning behind your changes, your motivation, your take on your own work...
Additionally, I'd love to hear about how you dealt with logistical change...what worked, what did not, how you dealt with it...(changing clay bodies, glazes, firing, forming techniques, etc)
How long did it take for you to put your "new" work out there... ?
Although the change may have been dramatic to YOU, how did OTHERS perceive it?
And lastly, are there any of you who dabbled in the idea of change and then backed off and stayed with your current work or came back to it and why...
I KNOW, it's a lot to ask, but I think these responses may be helpful to many of us...
Particularly those of us who work fairly isolated from other potters/artists..
Like me.


  1. Hey Judi- i think change is good- but you know your customers will not like it at least not right away.
    they love the comfort of knowing you will always make---x.
    If you are making a change give your self some time- new clay body, new glazes- could be a year or more before you are comfortable wit the change.
    In fact you will probably question why you are doing this and want to head back- but of you keep your head low, your wits about you - you could get something new and different going.
    After years of wanting to make tiles- I now make tiles.
    I also play with cone 6 glazes and I don't mix them all myself!

  2. Anonymous11:31 PM

    As long as you can still be creative change of any type can be a good thing.
    We have been professional commercial photographers since 89 & graphic designers since 95. We didn't even touch wet clay until 2005 now we're hooked. We make tile for kitchen backsplashes and we started throwing on the wheel last winter. Since we don't have the $40K we need for a digital back we can't really peruse new clients to shoot for so we're left with something that wont be replaced by technology anytime soon....CLAY.

  3. After taking a couple of years off, I recently came back but am now limited to low fire.
    I like the steady results, but sometimes miss the unpredictable aspect of high fire.
    Having primary colors has made me rethink some of my forms and glaze application. It's not just dunk and go, there's more planning involved in my decoration.
    The clay seems about the same, except that repairs are easier and the nature of the clay body opens up more possibilities than stoneware or porcelain.
    I've sort of focused more on assembling stuff instead of straight wheel work.
    I like pushing clay to it's limit even if it involves loss and failure.
    Not having access to a full studio sucks, but maybe that is a good thing for I have to make do with what I got.
    Key word here is improvisation.
    I started low fire in earnest late last year and am about to submit to first show. We'll see how others think of my new work.
    Overall, just another part in my ceramic journey and I think an invaluable one.
    Change and trying out new stuff is good!

  4. Hey I'm a change addict...I can safely say the only consistent thing in my work is shino glaze and that ive worked with since 1990, all else is up for grabs i change it, i like it and peeps are always asking me whats new...I flow with the seasons too and when i'm tired of a work i move on or give it a rest...:))

  5. Is it possible for you to make the change slowly? A metamorphosis of your work instead of an abrupt change? Kind of like rolling with the river of creativity as it twists and turn, foot by foot the river looks the same, but a mile down stream it can be a completely different place.

  6. I think you have to change if you want to grow. If you make beautiful traditional pots and have a very identifiable style,and have done it for years, that's one thing, but I make more art pottery, and my things change all the time. Last year my booth at Festifall had turquoise and white reticulated glaze raku, this year will be earthenware barns and farm inspired work. Who knows if anyone will like it, and no one will recognize me as the blue raku potter, but I don't really have a customer base that recognizes me for a certain style, they just buy what's new from me.
    I think my changing all the time comes from my background in design. I worked as a showroom designer and we changed our line every six months. In fashion, you are always looking for new trends and when I make things in the back of my mind I am working like an interior designer. I have changed my work quite a bit over the past year, lots of testing, lots of new ideas, but it has been so much fun, and I haven't been bored for a second. I envy the potters that have a very identifiable style and have made the same thing for years, but that's just not me. I do think you have to give yourself a year though. It will fly by, and you will learn a lot about clay and yourself!

  7. I've been going through a major change in my work this year. After working almost exclusively in soda fired stoneware for the past 10 years, I have completely changed what I'm doing. Now I'm working in porcelain in oxidation. My change was out of necessity- changing studios/home/cities/kiln.
    I have found that with my blog (and Facebook page), I've been able to share my process and it's been a great way to have people be excited and supportive about what I've been doing.

    If I was just switching up styles, without needing to ditch my previous work, I would do it by creating a second "line" of work. And market it that way to customers, galleries, etc...

    It's exciting to switch things up and exhilarating to push yourself out of your comfort zone. I can't wait to see what you make next!

  8. Hey Judi,
    Good questions you are asking! I dropped the line of work I made for over 10 years and have been wandering in the wilderness every since! I used to make clean and simple forms painted all over with pastel flowers and little blue dots, then dunked in clear glaze. My customers loved it but I didn't. I did enjoy the process of making it, right up until I didn't any more. But I kept at it for two more years after that, telling myself I'd slowly transition over to something new. That never happened though -probably because I had 3 kids under 6 and I couldn't keep the creative juices flowing steadily. So I finally decided to drop it once and for all, no matter how much people asked for it. That was 6 years ago -and I still don't have a new defined body of work.

    I kept the same claybody and continue to use clear glaze over underglaze for a few staple items, but everything else has changed. My hunt for the perfect suite of glazes in going very slowly but I'm happy to be more focused on form rather than surface decoration. I'm not sure I'll ever be able to settle on such a defined "line" of work again.

    My customers from before are all gone -I stopped doing lots of craft shows after the 3rd baby and then I moved 400km away -so that side of things is a complete start over. No going back even if I wanted to.

    The hardest part for me is not being able to answer the question "so, what kind of pottery do you make?" very succinctly. I make enough fruit stuff that I can start there, but I no longer have an elevator answer for what kind of work I make. I just know I don't want to be "the pretty flower potter" anymore.

  9. Thanks guys,
    This is great... I am sort of collecting all of your thoughts...
    The past year or more I have dabbled in some other work and I am in a place now where I feel like I have to commit MORE to moving in this somewhat or totally different direction... I guess the reality is, MY work will ALWAYS be MY work... even if it changes a lot... But your experiences coming... I am especially curious how you dealt with the time as you transitioned... If you took a year, what went on DURING that year...

    Tracy, I feel like we may have talked about this before... I TOO was a fashion designer and the experience of changing things seasonally definitely seemed to affect me... I feel like I need to just change it up...always...

  10. Hey Judi - I love working on new ideas in my studio but know that leap-frogging (like I sometimes want to do) will mean slow or no growth. So, I force myself to slow down and work in series. I try to reserve some play time each week for exploration, where anything goes. Some of that eventually shows up in my series work.

  11. At first the urge to go back and seek out my comfort zone was strong, but once I realized that it will always be there, it became easier to move "forward" and explore this new thing.
    What made it more difficult was my old work sitting around, reminding me of my "glory days."
    I had also left some unfinished business behind, so that kept tugging also.
    I almost resented having to change.
    Eventually though, it became a challenge, working with this evil low fire clay and glaze, and for the moment I enjoy it.
    There were times though, when I'd just stare at that bag of clay with no interest at all, like it was a chore or something less pleasant.
    Once I began to really work it, I realized it was just clay, and although it doesn't allow me to create the things I did before, it's still clay, and any day working with clay is better than any day just sitting around.
    If you know what I mean.

  12. Oh, and for what it's worth, after almost a year, I still have a difficult time considering what I do now as "serious work."
    I feel more like I'm just fooling around, but maybe that's just because I'm having such a good time.

  13. So... I took a look back... like memory lane at my previous work and I am thinking that I don't necessarily see this being as huge as it feels in my mind and body...
    #1 I am feeling like I can't have the clay feeling so PRECIOUS... I feel like I want to work in a way where each piece is not only running a risk of a teeny little fissure that won't let me feel comfortable putting it out there as high quality...I need a slightly more wabi sabi thing to happen... the uptightness of the current process(on most pieces) is making me...just that.... UP TIGHT.
    #2 There is a desire I have to work with more YUMMY TEXTURE and I had developed my work where it evolved to a place that what feeling too GLOSSY and cold... and this is something I am striving to move from... I want to feel the NATURAL aspect of the clay as a part of the pieces... I feel like I refined and refined and distanced myself from that YUMMINESS...
    #3 I think boredom sweeps in a lot... that and freedom of expression...looser movement...
    and... I know the "Yumminess" word is confusing but this is how I feel... when I love a rich yummy piece of pottery... ya know?

  14. I know exactly what you are saying, again I think that is coming from the fashion background!Why can't you take the same forms you have now and try some wood firing or shinos and see how that goes, do you have access to that kind of firing? Here's what I'm going through, I wanted that same yumminess but I have limitations with my kiln so I have been trying out layering glazes, decals, stencils, sanding through slips, terra sig, all kinds of things. It's a lot of work to get that texture, so it's either fussy perfect surfaces that drive you mad, or lots of layers, lots of firings, staining, same thing either way maybe. The thing I like about what I'm doing right now is that I'm not fussy with the surface, if my fingernail gashes the clay or if I drop a piece, so be it, it's there as a mark that the stains will highlight. Maybe try out some earthenware, you might like the yumminess of that, and it's great for altering. I don't know what your kiln situation is but I think reduction firing might be a nice break for you with some interesting glazes.
    As far as the year of transition...I had some left over work that I sold locally and at the Farmers Market and eventually got it down to a table I marked $5 for everything, got rid of it all and by then I had enough new work that I could start selling. This coming show in Chapel Hill will be a full transition for me from last year's show, we'll see ow it goes....

  15. Just to continue the conversation and up date you as to where my head is... a few days later...I feel like I will be focusing on larger pieces, wall pieces, etc in addition to the table top/ vessel scenarios... Reaching out to work with texture and continue to develop form. I won't be negating certain forms and I will be refining others... As I planned I will be working with more textured and darker clays( as well as maybe a WHITER clay... it need not be porcelain but maybe... The color storied will simplify(I hope) and the look will probably remain clear. I am not going to necessarily try to achieve gas kiln looks from my electric(cone 6) kiln... however, I play with application of glaze and/or stains and see what makes sense. I don't want to be as tied up in the preciousness of the pieces and I do want them to be more warm and "yummy" less glossy and sugary...I need to relate to the process better and enjoy it more and if I lose my celedon green colored glossy on porcelain customers... so be it...(You may see it but perhaps it will find a new way of presenting itself.) These future change are clarifying themselves to me... I have been reaching and grappling for a while and will continue to but it's OK... I feel a bit of a rebirth...but it's really more of a renewal... Lets see where it leads...

  16. Ghewiva2:20 PM

    Like a couple people here, I am seeking a new direction for my work, as I am plagued by perfection.
    I have a very strong sense of "craftsmanship" which makes me think and act in ways that require me to try to make pieces that are tight, perfectly formed, smooth, "flawless." People at shows have seen my work for sale, and said "How do you get it so PERFECT?"
    Ihave a very good eye for form, symmetry, proportion. Lest you think I am bragging, it is an albatross that results in work that is rather sterile, lifeless, overworked, technique-laden, and many times, just dead. As Harvey Littleton said "Technique is cheap."
    I had a revelation a few weeks ago when I saw the work of Rob Sieminski:

    and Akira Satake:

    at the American Craft Expo in Evanston, Il.

    I was totally blown away.
    Perfection is not possible, nor is it necessary, to be appreciated, liked, loved.
    Sieminskis work, in particular, lends itself to pondering, storytelling, myth-making; whereas a smooth, perfectly formed article might not do so. Did ROb Sieminski make those pieces, or were they made by a civilization that existed 100,000 years ago, and they have been buried in the earth fro all that time? Or did they lay on the ocean floor, or were they carved from lava by a mysterious underground civilization from Jules Verne's "journey to the center of da earth?"
    Anyway, good luck!

  17. OK... more to say. I just love that my 13 year old son BRILLIANTLY talked me through my creative crisis... (if we could just remember this when he goes all moody teenager on me...) I have renamed him..."the artist whisperer".But I am seeing that the general way I have worked and my forms do not have to change drastically to move forward here... working with a speckled(and even a chocolate brown)stoneware I can still use my voice... experimenting with glazes and glaze application and allowing for more wabi sabi in the work...perhaps not AS tight but not abandoning ship either... I feel like this could be me being a wimp but really I am trying to just be true to myself and my voice... I will still allow my self to play here and there too in manners of complete departure but I am beginning to GET where I want to go right now...

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