I’ve been in Columbia, Missouri for a little over two weeks now. I’m here as an Artist in Residence at Columbia College, and have the run of the ceramics studio. My (unpaid) job for the summer is to make work. After a year of heavy teaching in Florida, a summer of making is exactly what I need most, and I’m still pinching myself to see if this is really happening.
Bo, my host for the summer, is an old school potter, using a high fire red clay that gets cone 10 reduction glazes. I’m working in a cone 6 porcelain slip, cone 04 terra sigillata and maybe throwing in some terra cotta handbuilding and slipcasting as we go along. Battle lines have been drawn in the studio – highfire vs lowfire, red clay vs porcelain, throwing vs. slipcasting. Although we joke about the intrusion into his studio space, it’s been good for both of us to have company in the studio, someone to measure against at the end of the week, a little friendly competition as sunny skies tempt us outdoors.
My biggest motivation is that I am genuinely happiest when I am in the studio. I know that sounds corny, and rather obvious. After all, who in their right mind would pursue a career as an artist if they didn’t like being in the studio? But I am an artist and educator, and sometimes all of the other things that go along with the choices I’ve made – exhibitions, job applications, website updates, email, creating syllabi, coursework, etc can get to be overwhelming, and squeeze out my studio time. As a rational human being, I have always prioritized the things with hard and fast deadlines above things with nebulous due dates, i.e. making new work. Sometimes I need to take a step back and remember that this time in the studio to make is not something to only be enjoyed after all of the other work is done. This IS the work, and without it, nothing else really matters. The bonus is, this is the work I enjoy the most.
So I am savoring my complete lack of responsibilities this summer. I am relishing this opportunity to spend all day, every day in the studio. I’m making, and not questioning what I make. I’m trying new things, trusting in my process and aesthetic to bring me to a new place, and enjoying the journey.
As much as I love my porcelain slip with a coat of terra sigillata over it, lately I’ve been entranced with terra cotta. So this week I’m experimenting with some commercial red casting slip I picked up, seeing how it casts and what I want to do with the surface. I love white slip on red clay, so maybe it’s time to take some of the surfaces I put on my cups and translate them onto my sculpture….
I feel an urgency to get as much done as possible, knowing the summer is going to fly by, and soon I’ll be on the road again, to whatever new adventure the fall brings.