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Let’s talk about clay, failure, and the new year

Happy New Year, dear ones! Let’s talk about clay, failure, and the year ahead.


I’m celebrating this fresh start with time in the ceramics studio. After one undergrad course in wheel throwing, so much about working with clay is new or unknown to me. Take coil building, for instance.

Last week, I met the extruder (think Playdoh on steroids! and see the picture). I pumped out lengths of clay. Can you see how hard I worked? I took my pile of clay snakes (that could also be said to look like something else, a-hem), and pressed the soft coils into plaster forms. Like this ↴

This tactile work was such fun that the next thing I knew, I had made four of bowls!Failure

The next day in the studio I turned to mending my work. Why? Because in my excitement and relative beginner state, I didn’t know/think to score and slip the edges of the coils as I pressed them in place. Without this scoring & slipping, the coils will separate as they dry, and the bowls will crack and fall apart. 

Mending means adjusting. I wanted the finished surfaces to look a certain way, but to salvage the bowls I released that plan. I used a rib tool and a scraper to score and scratch the outer surfaces of each bowl. Next, I daubed and smeared and pressed slip (very wet clay) into the deep scratches I’d made. I repeated this work on the inner surfaces. Finally, I reworked the inside and outside of each bowl with a tiny rubber rib for smoothness.

As I scored, slipped, and smoothed, I discovered myself in the zone: that timelessness place that, for me, comes with making. (Or, in this case, fixing, where I’d failed.)

It is possible some of the pieces may survive. I must wait & see. Ignorance is not bliss; however, failure is rarely fatal. 

Redefining failure … is a vital part of creating a strong, inspiring culture. Stop playing not to lose, and start playing to win.” ~ Sam Chand

The New Year

New Year’s resolutions hold little attraction for me. I like the quotidian practice of learning and adjusting course along the way: to live life in wiser, kinder, more joyful ways. So, instead of a New Year’s Resolution, I’m choosing now, and every day, to live wholeheartedly. And hazard the consequences!

Instead of walking gingerly, speaking guardedly, or guessing how my presence, choices, actions might go wrong—in an effort to play it safe, I’m going to do that dangerous and delicious thing: show up as my wholehearted self. Curious. Present. Paying attention. Owning my ignorance. Asking for help. Fixing failures when needed.

Competition doesn’t resonate with me, so I paraphrase Sam Chand’s words, and say I’m playing all inThis year, this month, this week, this day, rather than playing not to lose, I will show up, all in
How about you? 

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