October 19, 2009

Boy Oh Boy...Where to Begin?


I don't want to get TOO personal here as it's "inappropriate"...HOWEVER....(I always have a "however",) I have had an overwhelming experience over the past 6 1/2 weeks and occasionally my fellow bloggers blog a little about "life lesson" stuff... So...I am tempted.
My dad(who shall remain NAMELESS) suffered a heart attack and stroke...Well...first the stroke and then the heart attack about 16 hours later...he had SEVEN stents put in the arteries leading to his heart... I flew (in my car...)from New Jersey to Baltimore when I got the call... and over the past few weeks I have had to take on a huge new project... it's my DAD: his care,his heath,his LIFE...etc...needless to say....IT HIT ME LIKE A TON O BRICKS....
Let me start by saying...he is doing well physically.... and his speech impairment is the main problem(generally speaking)...BUT he is getting the much needed therapy and hopefully will continue on that path....(Let me add the disclaimer that my dad was a VERY independent guy and did thing HIS WAY...his whole life...)
ANYWAY this is MY blog...SO....

I speak about his situation(with lack of detail) just to put into perspective where I am coming from. This has been HARD. My life, my family, my work/MY ART has definitely taken a backseat to the issues at hand...I'm not exactly sure how to transition back "from whence I came"...
I've had VERY few hours in the studio(oh... and I've been continuing to plan my 12 10/12th year old's Bar Mitzvah...which is sort of a big deal....).
Back to the studio part....
So ...I get in there to work on things for people that had already place orders... I try to get productive and BAM!...
Either the time runs out...or I have to run out...ya know?
I've told myself..."This too shall pass" and I try to hang in there...
But, my fellow potters and artists...YOU KNOW...it's "easier said than done"...I am itchin'...and I CAN NOT scratch appropriately...
I have also, internally, started to question my work and its direction and wonder "if this whole shaking up of things" is supposed to shake up my work as well...
Is this happening to change my whole direction... I had JUST(that morning 09/09/09) pulled out a batch of new glazes with subtle movement in the direction I was striving for...crystals were forming(subtle crystals) by layering the crystal strontium matte recipe under and over my glazes....in my ELECTRIC KILN...I was ready to take it further and...BAM!
So, lately I have reassessed my work... My "technique" that I basically developed over time... it's "clean" in it's nature...BUT it take A LOT of work to create those "clean" lines (if you know what I mean....)
There have been technical issues...trying to make the clay do things, well... things, it really doesn't want to do...
I have become more and more focussed on the refining of the process...
I am torn about logistically getting things done(being on the rundown to and from Baltimore(3 hour drive), a lot, makes it hard to make things with attachments as the drying synchronicity is ALL screwed up....
I have ideas but....I'm not too proud to listen to your thoughts..and I can't help but wonder if all of that refining takes the "LIFE" out of what I am doing...I am tempted to feel more "free" in my work(of course I'm not sure if I can handle that from a "personality" standpoint)
I have wondered (for years) if I should take my focus away from the glazes...working with more "naked" surfaces rather than DRESS them in glaze...
I have even wondered if I should explore more of my sculptural interests(really still the same body of work though) and let go of the functional work a bit. Needless to say... I feel like I'm in a blender, all shook up, on a daily basis...
All of this has made me feel rather alone... my sweet friends reach out... but as any of you know who have dealt with various issues...it's really up to YOU.
HOWEVER...I follow ALOT of your ceramic artist blogs(and other creative artist blogs) and I have followed YOUR ups and downs.
SO, I can't help but reach out to you NOW in my "Time of Need" and ask for your comments on this....Unless of course, you have all given up on me....
You are my friends(virtual...in most cases but none the less...my friends).


  1. From the tone of your blog I think the first thing you need to do, is slow down and breathe :) It is good to hear from you, have been wondering where you were!
    My dad story is this: I found out I was pregnant with my daughter and my dad had lung cancer with less than a year to live all in the same week, sixteen years ago (while I was also trying to be super woman working as a sales rep for Jansport). I was so filled with joy over my new baby, I was a terrible daughter to my dying father and I have so many regrets for my behavior.I know, as a potter myself, it can be all consuming. I lie in bed every night thinking about glazes or why a pot cracked or what clay I like best, on and on. I think you could take the energy from the chaos you are going through and create some powerful sculptures, maybe pottery could become the outlet for expressing all that you are going through right now, and your work could become more expressive. We have to create, it's what we are, but you can make things that fit with this cycle of your life. I can't do everything I want to right now because I have a sixteen year old that I spend a lot of time with. But she will be off to college in one more year and I can do all that I want, so right now I do what works for this time in my life and enjoy the precious time I have with her. You are definitely not alone. I am working on so many different tests right now, it's crazy, but it's a process I have to go through to get to the next place with my work, and I'm just doing it one day at a time. I remember in a job interview one time the person asked what my 5 year plan was! Can you imagine? I never know what my weekly plan is, I live day to day, and that is working for me! I like putting things like this out on my blog, I always get so many helpful comments and I feel the support of so many that are experiencing similar thoughts and feelings. Just putting it out there for the universe will help and bring some order to your thoughts. Best wishes! There is snow coming so you can get out there on your board and work a lot of this out!!

  2. I am going to agree with what Tracey said - Breathe. I can offer two bits of advice; one personal, the other professional. Feel free to take neither.

    First and foremost, I believe your family comes first. Your dad, your son...YOU. I am assuming you have no pending show commitments, which is a good thing. With orders taken, you can email the buyers and explain the situation. They will most likely be understanding and, if not, fuck 'em, they don't deserve your work. Your regrets in life will come through not seeing your son through his most important day, which will, I assume, making sure Dad is there in some way shape or form. You will always have a chance to make work. You will never have more time with your dad that god/nature gives you, so take what you can and what will make you feel like you've done your best. Your son - your eldest son - will never have another bar mitzvah. Your reward as a mom will come, in part, on that day, when you will be so friggin' proud.

    Pots are forever. Think 103 year old eva zeisel, or Beatrice Wood, or the Heinos. The great pots are still before you, as is the time to make them.

    Second point: I am always fascinated with the B&W pic of your pots on your Etsy store. I love the lines. So striking. I had a critique by Jeff Oestrich very early on in my "career", and it was eye opening. He would ask what my goal was, or what i liked about a pot, and I'd say "the glaze". he told me to use my ugliest glaze - or no glaze at all - for a year. This was an exercise in discovering *my* pots. My raw, naked pots and what they were about. As a result, I discovered how to see beauty in a form, and what form is really about. How to read a pot. Ironically, my new body of work is unglazed.

    I'll leave you with this last bit of wisdom, told to me by my friend takeshi yasuda. Look at your work and decide what you like about it. Then do more of that. he says americans try to fix perceived flaws, which is unnecessary if you add more of what you like.

    My last 2 cents: even the act of thinking and writing about your work is working and art. Your thoughts and experiences will come out when you start touching clay again. But touching clay is just a small part of the creative process. Like sex, the best part happens in your brain.

    xxx....hang in! and never forget you rock.

  3. Oh Judi -- I'm so sorry you are torn in so many directions right now - it must be overwhelming to even know what to concentrate on in any given moment. You've gotten great advice from Tracey & Lois -- so my only words of wisdom are 'stay in your heart.'

    If every decision you make comes from your heart - you will have no regrets. You also need to take care of yourself - breathe - but also do something that brings you joy every day -- even if that's just hugging your boys or your dad or your husband.

    You can always make pots - your work is amazing & you will not lose that . . . being a mom, wife & daughter is also your work - let it be your creative outlet too.

    And don't hesitate to ask for help when you need it -- even if it's just from your blogging buddies.

  4. hey you,, i don't always leave comments but i'm always cruising by your blog...i say if your instinct is to try something else right now try it!! have a play,, dont take it too seriously and you may discover something else you like or not just play i say......cheers ang

  5. I do the same when things get topsy turvy, head in a new direction. :) I sincerely hope things calm down for ya though!

  6. Can I just say... ?
    I LOVE you guys...
    You are all great and I NEED this communication more than I realized .

  7. Take care of yourself and your family Judy! The rest can really wait. You could call this a sabbatical and try to do some hand-building/sculptural stuff- merely for the sake of growing/learning, not to try to market and sell.
    All the best during this difficult time, though. Take care! Heather

  8. Just stumbled by to see if you had any updates on your dad. Wow, life has a funny way of throwing things at you. I think the advice given by the others is great: breath, take care of your family (and that includes yourself) and follow your heart.

    I will share two of my own experiences or lessons learned in my life thus far.

    First, i think taking a break from something you are so passionate about is a good thing, even if you do so against your will. Put it aside. Focus on family. If you get too itchy, don't rush back to it while you are still torn in different directions. Instead to to the library and study. Study pottery, study metal work, study architecture. Whatever. All of this will feed your soul while you focus on other priorities. You will know when it is right to go back to the clay. And you will do so with a clearer head about where you want to go with your work.

    Second, I am a believer that everything happens for a reason, even if unrevealed for a long time. Ten years ago, I had quit my job as a rising superstar in a San Fran lawfirm to go move to Portland, OR, with no job in place. I wanted to leave the rat race and have a slower pace of life. Three days after quitting my job, my mom died. My plans to move were put on hold for 6 months. That gave my firm enough time to make me an offer my ego couldn't refused. A year later I was miserable. So I redoubled my move efforts (thinking that would solve everything) and moved to work in my firm's newly opened DC office. I knew no one in DC. A yearly later I found my self miserable again. That was when I turned to art. First painting, then photography and eventually pottery. It was pottery that eventually convinced me to jump out of the rat race. The moral I take from my experiences is that you have to have faith that life will take you where you need to be (no matter how circuitous the path or how often you ignore the signals.

    Hang in there and know that you can only do as best as you are able and no more.

    On another note, I'm going to be firing at BCW on October 29/30. If you are in Baltimore, stop by for a break.

  9. It is amazing how much support we get from everyone on these blogs isn't it?! I'm feeling a blog coming on about my miserable state of glaze success so get ready! I thought of something you may or may not want to do. I took a bag of clay to my mom's on my last visit just to have something to do and I made pinch pots on her porch while chatting. She is 79, never done any art, and I showed her how to make a pinch pot. She loved doing it, I fired it for her in my Raku kiln and she was thrilled with her handy work! Maybe your dad might like to pinch a little clay? Just a thought.....

  10. Anonymous4:46 PM

    Hey, I'm not a potter, just a pottery-collector and your pal, but if you want a couple-day spell of time in your studio, I'll take a couple days off from work, grab those great kids of your, pack 'em down to my house and get them to all their activities and such. I promise not to buy them a dog or instill too many radical-liberal values in them. They will be well-fed. And loved by "auntie." Your work is too beautiful to go undone.

  11. You are ALL so great...I did suggest bringing my dad some clay and art supplies... He used to talk about how he took classes at Maryland Institute of Art(MICA) as a kid......he seemed open to it...we shall see.

  12. Anonymous10:39 AM

    hi judi... sorry to hear about your dad and your life in the blender. i know that you mentioned near the end that you know the decisions are up to you but that doesn't help with the frustration. maybe the two things... dad and your work are more inextricable than it seems on the surface and you're struggling with one which makes you struggle with the other. i think with potters and other artists too that part of it is that old "familiarity breeds contempt" thing. i mean we wander around online and see so many things that interest us because they are related to what we do already and think to ourselves... it'd be fun to try that... and that and that and that. it sometimes reminds me of when i was younger and thought do i wanna be an artist, a tailor, a musician, make furniture, play the stockmarket? after years of floundering around not choosing any of them (at least one or two could have been ruled out), it became clear that i just have to pick something first. i feel myself starting to ramble so i'll stop. you could try something new and if it doesn't work, you still can go back to making the great pots you already make.

  13. Jim... so true...I took a walk today and had a bit of a realization... well... it's probably nothing new...it may have just been how it all "came to me"...
    I guess what I am saying is that...I know I can't spend a TON of time working right now and people say, sketch,read etc, instead...but I was sort of dancing around all of that because I guess I am almost AFRAID to go off in different directions when my work has always felt so uniquely mine... I really think I strived to be very consistent in that way...
    Then I thought... Judi(I call myself "Judi" when I talk o myself...) I thought, Judi... your work is uniquely your regardless of what you do... WHAT ARE YOU AFRAID OF???
    I thought about how I spent MANY years working to become and becoming a fashion designer...I knit too... and I've always thought weaving was so cool... and I thought... so what is it pulls these things together for you? The fabric, the nature of fabric and folds and ripping and tearing and the effect on the edges when this is dome... The figure and skin and the same similar qualities and designing...working in groupings with concepts or trends and creating cohesive,connected groupings where the selected items(or pieces) almost speak to each other... and I thought... DUH!!!!
    I can go back to sketching and be inspired and expound upon such ideas... start in the sketch book...as I did,about a year and a half ago... but play with it... let ideas come together there...even if they never make it to clay... and see where it goes... if its new groupings/series...working on things I started to develop a while ago, deal with colors or even imagery....REGARDLESS...it is MY work....
    In the past..that freaked me out because THEN I get CRAZY inspired and want to go into the studio and not come out until all of the ideas have been brought to fruition and I have worked through each and every one....BUT..this is NOT my current approach. I will develop and test and see where the ideas go, or they may stay in my sketchbook until(if ever)I am ready to move forward with them ...
    The realization is that the art happens every step of the way...AND I will enjoy the process...WHEN I can get get to it...and we shall see...I just may have to leave some of those balls up in the air and comfortable with that feeling(of them being up there...) and we will see ,over time, how this develops.

  14. SORRY FOR THE TYPOS...no going back now...

  15. Thanks for sharing your life capades so honestly and eloquently Judi - Been thinking of you and wishing much progress and improving health to your dad. I am sad that you have been struggling so. I know it must be hard to be torn in so many directions. This phase won't last forever, but that isn't any consolation now. Your friends have all given good advice for you to draw from. Come back when you're good and ready.
    Kathi - "EE"

  16. Judi~~ So sorry about your Dad! I've been "following" you on FB and sending good thoughts your way. I don't know that I can offer any advice that you haven't already heard. Will keep you in my thoughts. Graciela

  17. It's good to hear from you, Judi. I've been thinking about you and sending good thoughts your way. I think the introspection on your part is very good and am certain that some good things will come of it. Hang in there. - Deb

  18. Hi Judi - Am just catching up on blog reading and have read every word of this post and the comments. Sounds like there are so many others who can relate to your feelings about family, about work, about the creative decision-making process.

    I can't say it any better than the rest of your blogger friends. Such great words of wisdom. Perhaps the most important direction given is to breathe and be gentle on yourself.

    Am thinking of you and hoping your dad improves daily.

    Love the idea from Tracy about taking a bag of clay and making pinch pots with him. That's really dear.

  19. More thank yous. I feel a bit better. You are all super helpful!

  20. I miss your muddy presence too but am glad to hear from you, and appreciate your ability to share. Take care of yourself!

  21. Hey Judi,
    I'm sorry about your dad, I know that dealing with aging parents who need help can be very stressful. As for your work I always think it's best to not question or try to justify what you want to do. You just have to follow what interests you for your work to continue to develop, and (try) not to think too much about the results. "Refining" your process is just another word for development-- work that isn't growing is a lot more lifeless than work that is simply overworked. You have to trust your artistic sensibility, that's how you got to where you are right now, you'll know when you've gone too far.

    I struggle with all these same issues. I've had to let go of a lot of my labor intensive processes in favor of a "simpler" approach to be able to meet orders. But it's okay because that's just another process of development. So, cut yourself a break, take care of your dad (and yourself) and take notes in the meantime about what you're going to be working on when you head back to the studio-- besides the late orders!

  22. Anonymous6:10 PM

    Dear Judi,

    Your words witness again that seeming easiness is always a result of hard work.
    For me your works represent the best sample of well balanced shape and colour and you are undoubtedly Master of clean line.

    Wishing good health to your Dad,
    Draeming-to-be-a-potter Arina from Russia


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