Tonight was glaze night for the class with which I’ve been helping for the winter term. Not many showed up, which seemed like par for the course-it was a strange class. I glazed 10 smallish bowls I had thrown, intending some for the Empty Bowls charity fundraiser coming up. I tossed out 6 with nasty s-cracks in the bottom. That’s a lot, but maybe I rushed them to dry. John was getting a kiln ready to fire and without many people asking questions we went outside where I watched him finish the kiln load. I’ve been hanging around that kiln shed for the better part of 16 years or so. While John finagled the shelf space, wondering out loud how tightly he should pack it to make sure he had enough of what was still coming down the line for the last few classes, I sat and thought about the friends I had made and how many had come and gone since I came on the scene. John talked about some that had come and gone before me, but who I knew from studio lore. We talked about gardening and cameras, the quality of students and the little things about the studio. It was just one of those slow, pleasant evenings. John thanked me again for coming out and helping for so long. I realized that even when the students are more difficult helping out there is kind of a break for me. I don’t have to worry whether or not I’m getting the things done around the house that need doing, or really worrying about any of my own problems, but I’m there answering questions and hanging out with my friends. My family, really, as John and Diane have become more than just friends. They’ve given me so much in support and advice that I can’t possibly ever repay. I made a little joke about not being able to make stuff again until fall and John asked me to come back over the summer. The short semester starts mid-June and only runs 8 weeks or so, but I think I’ll try to get back.
Dustin showed up and we talked music and John smoked his pipe while the kiln pre-heated. One of the advanced students I don’t know came out and asked a question. A bit later she came back and asked another. I gave her some advice and it occurred to me that I actually do know quite a bit about general ceramic knowledge that I can use to help people. I often forget that I know, and still think of myself as sort of a newb. I’ve heard the quote several times from Malcom Gladwell that it takes 10,000 hours or 10 years of repetition to become an expert at anything, although I haven’t yet read his book. Maybe I’m getting close to that, although I wouldn’t claim to be an expert just yet. I do surprise myself sometimes. Sam Wilson, my drawing professor at the U for the foundation class said something that stuck with me. Maybe I’ve written this before, but it bears repeating. He said you start off in art ripping other people off, because it’s all you can do. He said the secret was to keep ripping people off long enough until you have a body of work and can start ripping yourself off. It was sort of the tongue-in-cheek humor that he seemed to like best, but it did have a point. Lately I’ve been thinking about my early stuff when I was trying hard to be an artist. Maybe there’s something there I should revisit.
I suppose I’ll go out Saturday morning and see how my bowls turned out, have a last Saturday afternoon lunch with Jack and maybe Chuck for a few weeks until the summer semester starts. Maybe by then I’ll think of something I can rip off from my early work.