Inspiration is for Amateurs

“Inspiration is for amateurs — the rest of us just show up and get to work.” –Chuck Close

Chuck Close (born July 5, 1940) is a painter and photographer who continued to work after becoming paralyzed in 1988 from a spinal artery collapse. He mainly utilizes a technique referred to as “hyperrealism” which means he creates paintings that are so detailed they really look like high-resolution photographs. That’s hard!!

CBS This Morning has a segment they call “Note to Self,” where artists and others read a letter to their younger selves, full of the wisdom of years. You can watch Chuck Close read the entire letter he wrote to his 14 year-old self, while he is still painting from his wheelchair, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=milXH-433vs

Though I do think we can be inspired by various things, what he means here is that if we WAIT to be inspired, we are not truly professional artists. The habit of working regardless of whether or not one feels inspired to do that work is what ultimately produces good, and sometimes, excellent work.

Close goes on to say, “Every great idea I’ve ever had grew out of work itself.” Meaning that the doing of the work is actually the inspiration for more and better work. Here’s more of his wise advice: “SIGN ON to a process and see where it takes you. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel every day. Today you will do what you did yesterday and tomorrow you will do what you did today. Eventually you will get somewhere.”

This is so true! Even if one has talent, one must have an appetite for work. With an appetite for work, plus curiosity, plus some passion and heart, one can create. Who knows where that journey will go!

Calling All Self-Taught Potters …

Linda Fahey has a great formula for the self-taught potter: Have a curious mind, and attend a million workshops! But sometimes workshops are expensive, or too far away. With that in mind, I want to recommend Diana Fayt’s online course, called The Clayer. You can take this class from the comfort of your own home at a GREAT price!Fayt.badge

Diana is a marvelously talented potter who has created a couple of online classes, sharing her knowledge and expertise in surfacing techniques. I have taken both of Diana’s courses, and highly recommend them! She shares so much of herself, and her vast knowledge and experience. PLUS, she’s a great teacher.

I had been wanting to make some plaster molds for awhile, but was too intimidated to do it on my own. In Diana’s course, she walked us through it step by step, and now I’ve made several, and am at ease working with plaster. Sometimes you just need a little push in the right direction! This course also covers the water abrasion surface technique, along with carving and using paper stencils. It’s truly a fabulous bargain for all the techniques you will learn!

Take a look at some of Diana’s work. You can also listen to her interview with Ben Carter on Tales of a Red Clay Rambler, his podcast. Don’t you want to learn from a potter who can make this beautiful work??

dianafaytbowls Fayt.Plates fayt.walltile fayt.triplevase

 

Linda Fahey on Being Self-Taught

Potter Ben Carter produces a wonderful podcast series titled “Tales of a Red Clay Rambler,” where he produces thoughtful and interesting interviews with potters and other RedClayRambler.LindaFaheyartists. This past week, he interviewed Linda Fahey, whose work is wonderful and imaginative. Linda is a self-taught potter living and working in the Bay Area, where she also runs a a fabulous shop called Yonder. The shop is located in Pacifica, about 15 minutes south of San Francisco (find it online at Yondershop.com).

YonderShop.com

In the interview, Linda talks about her journey of becoming a potter and full-time artist–and her new role now as shop-owner of Yonder. (The tag line of her store is “discover beautiful things every day.” Indeed!) The whole interview is great, but I was particularly struck by her words about being self-taught. I am also on a self-taught journey, so I find her words (and work) very inspiring:

34: 54  I’m not confident enough to think I’ve arrived, ever. it is what fuels me to get better. We talked earlier on going through an academic program and what that entails, versus someone like myself, who is essentially self-taught, worked under people, but self-taught. There are gaps there that you have to find and then you have to figure out how to make it better. The academic environment is designed for you to not have a lot of blank spots. You are going to come out of that program and be pretty tight, right?… So this over here, me, working in the dark sort of, I mean I’ve gone to a million workshops and I have a very curious mind so I’m out there trying to find the information, but I don’t know what I don’t know. I still have a long way to go. 

Though Linda may feel that to be true (that she still has a long way to go), it’s clear by her body of work that she is quite accomplished at making the world a more beautiful place:

Linda Fahey, Yondershop.com
Linda Fahey, Yondershop.com

 

Linda Fahey, Yondershop.com
Linda Fahey, Yondershop.com
Linda Fahey, Yondershop.com
Linda Fahey, Yondershop.com

 

In Ben Carter’s podcast, she also talks about what she’s learned from working with Anthropologie, being a store owner, incorporating her environment into her work, and her future goals. Play her interview while you are in the studio–it’s wonderful inspiration. You can read her blog and see her new work here.

 

 

 

Samantha Henneke’s Glazes are Divine!

Just look at them!

Beautiful expression!
Samantha Henneke,  Bulldog Pottery, Seagrove, NC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I wrote previously about Harold Speed’s ideas about hidden rhythms and emotional significance in our creative expressions. Samantha and her husband, Bruce Gholson, work collaboratively concocting these dreamy glazes, and I think their work is a fine example of Speed’s ideas.

Speed believed that the appeal of a work depended upon the artist’s ability to capture truth and naturalness in their work. I believe this is so because universal themes and truths draw us in every art form, whether they are present in literature or the visual arts.

Samantha Henneke
Samantha Henneke, Bulldog Pottery, Seagrove, NC

With exquisite forms and amazing glazes, Samantha Henneke’s work is certainly arresting (Speed’s term) and appealing. Really, I am a bit awestruck by her colors and layering. Samantha gives equal credit to Bruce for their work in creating amazing glazes. She says their entire studio is a collaboration. WOW, amazing creativity, and a love story as well! You rock, Samantha and Bruce! You can read their Blog and see more of their work. Be sure to check out Samantha’s amazing photos of insects.

Samantha.Henneke.Yellowvase
Samantha Henneke, Bulldog Pottery, Seagrove, NC
bruce.gholson.jug
Bruce Gholson, Bulldog Pottery, Seagrove, NC

God’s Glory in West Texas

bloomingpersimmonGetting out of the suburbs and into the beauty of the created world is inspiring and refreshing! We saw many marvelous sights on our West Texas Journey, including an expanse of the heavens in Marfa with no city lights obscuring the incredible starry skies, beautiful and wild blooms, and the gorgeous granite batholith called Enchanted Rock between Llano and Fredericksburg, Texas.

Jeremiah 51:15 says, “He made the earth by His power; He founded the world by His wisdom and stretched out the heavens by His understanding.”

enchantedrockStanding at the top of Enchanted Rock and looking out across the rough beauty of the Texas Hill Country makes me feel the truth of this verse in my bones. And it awakens a hunger for knowing God more personally and intimately.

So when I read this invitation, “Call to Me and I will answer you, and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” (Jeremiah 33:3), I am both exhilarated and terrified! cactus1

We get so excited to meet our favorite artists–whether they are musicians, actors or other creatives–how much more exciting to get to hang out with the creator of the entire universe? It’s stunning, really. And a bit scary! persimmons.drybrushyellowbloom

WT.Greenery

Representation and Expression

English painter Harold Speed described the goal of the artist as developing command over both representation and expression, in order to create something worthy. This resonates with me. Take for example, this lovely basket by studio potter and artist Joy Tanner: JoyTannerBasket

Joy clearly has command over both representation (we know it’s a basket) and expression, which is what makes me exclaim, “How lovely!” when I look at it. It is her particular expression of the form (basket) that draws me. Though, obviously, in order to create the artistic expression, she also had to have command over creating the form itself.

Though Speed was primarily a painter, he also wrote instructional materials for developing artists. In 1913, he wrote “The Practice and Science of Drawing,” now available in the public domain. In the text, he beautifully describes those invisible things surrounding good art. Like this: “The strength of appeal in artistic work will depend much on the power the artist possesses of expressing himself through representations that arrest everyone by their truth and naturalness.” Right?? So right! Here’s another basket by a different artist, Adrina Richard:

Basket by Adrina Richard

Adrina also has command of representation of form, and a very different expression of creativity than Joy. Same representative form–a basket; two artistic expressions, both of which are highly appealing in their truth and naturalness.

Speed also encouraged the artist to look for the “hidden rhythm” and “emotional significance” in the appearance of any object. By doing so, the artist can capture what moves her (or him) and then express it with their own creative passion. Both Joy and Adrina have clearly done so with their baskets.

So let’s challenge ourselves to look this week for hidden rhythms and for emotional significance as we notice nature, our surroundings, or whatever it is we are looking at. Let’s study form and think about how that form we are admiring might transform into a work of art with our particular creative expression.

A Potter’s Journey

I have decided to chronicle my journey of fear and insecurity as a developing artist in the hope that it will encourage and inspire someone else–maybe you. It’s scary! But, you might be scared, too. So … I figured we’d just go along together!

For starters, here are my fear-based confessions: When I come across a potter whose style impresses me (and there are many!), I will often think, “Well, that’s it. This person has created the pottery I would have created had I been good enough. It’s now time to throw in the towel.” As if they’ve used up all the potter talent in the world, and there’s a possibility there isn’t any left for me to find. Or that I’ve started to late in life (about halfway, if I live to 100). Or that if I can’t make something jaw-droppingly stellar in my first few attempts, I never will.

A Scary Blank Canvas
A Scary Blank Canvas

When I watch the wonderful DVDs that Ceramic Arts Daily produces, or the YouTube videos so many share, or read various potter’s blogs, I am so impressed with their vision for creativity … but mostly what I see right now when I look at my lovely rolled out slab of clay is a scary blank canvas that I likely don’t have the wherewithal to transform.

I’ve been obsessed with clay for about 3 years now (today is July 19, 2014.) But in real time — between family, job, other interests, life’s drama, and what-have-you, the total number of hours spent/clay worked is more like 6 months/a handful of boxes of clay from Trinity Ceramic Supply. Any studio potter would tell me to get over myself and throw a few hundred more pots before whining. That is one reason I love John Britt’s fabulous YouTube videos! He always ends them with something like, “Now go make 25 of those and we’ll see you in the morning.” A great reminder that effortlessness requires hours upon hours of effort. 

 

Endless Curiosity

I have inherited the investigative gene in my family, and while mostly just useful, it can sometimes get out of hand. Basically it means that when I find myself interested in a subject, I am like a dog with a bone, and can’t let it go until I am satisfied that I understand it. Right now, I have an endless curiosity about the natural world and its ability to provide for and sustain humanity—specifically, in two areas–with fiber spun into yarn and made into fabrics, and clay formed into vessels for use.

Cups and a water jug
Cups and a water jug still wet from the wheel

So I thought I’d just take you along with me as I try to satisfy this curiosity in my clay journey, just in case you were wondering about it, too.

This all started with my own increasing amazement of our natural resources. I don’t want to sound ungrateful. I deeply appreciate clean water, available food, antibiotics and other advances that have freed us—at least some of us, looking at the world in its entirety—from ills that have plagued humanity through the ages. But, I am fascinated by the dual nature of the natural world. I say “the dual nature” because the natural world is both beautiful in its simplicity to provide, and amazingly complex within that provision.

Take fibers, for example. Linen, flax, wool, cotton, silk—all of these various fibers grow and reproduce, and did so and would do so without any intervention from us. Because of their natural properties—the way a fiber is constructed so that when it is spun, because of its natural design, the fibers interlock, become stronger, and can be made into the myriads of articles we need.

Clay is much the same—abundant in nature, and of such a specific construction in its nature that it is the perfect material for creating vessels—pots, dishes, water jugs, insulators, and even panels on the space shuttle. Clay is another natural material with astonishing properties.