Pots; a table of cheese, crackers, and a vanilla brew; and an outspoken thunder storm was the setting of my first critique with Joy Bridy since beginning my apprenticeship with her in March. We gathered together work from the latest firing (my first with her) and work we had been making since kiln clean up had been completed. I had a variety of work with me that day...mugs from the firing, demo pots I had made that sparked a curiosity, and the most recent mugs I had been working on for the past month. Since beginning with Joy my focus has been handles, handles, and more handles...and I will not lie, there have been times where I was mentally and emotionally ready to move on!
But as I collected mugs from beginning to end and set them along the porch railing I saw something I wasn't expecting...progress!!!! I saw bolder, stronger handles and a transformation in the form I had been working with. Tall and lean, to curvy, to a squaty waistline.
Joy began the conversation with "well, how do you feel about your work? What are you seeing?" I pointed out my thoughts, observations, strengths, weaknesses, and ways I was hoping to improve. We looked at my first mug that was fired in comparison to the ones I had begun recently. A definite improvement in the handle...still work to do and still changes to make but Joy made an encouraging observation as I pointed out what I felt was working and not working in the two pieces. "Your eye has improved. The eye always moves faster than the hand...it takes time and practice until your hand can catch up with what you see and want to see." I had felt like I was noticing more...maybe this explained the moments of frustration and eagerness to walk away from handles all together.
While consuming a delicious treat of cheese, crackers, and sliced pears (another habit I hope to get from Joy) we discussed the forms that had sparked my curiosity and earlier pieces I had made before working with her and their potential for some exhibitions.
We also observed some of Joy's pieces...one of them an exciting new way to make the squarish lids for her honey jars! Both of us were inspired by this technique and anxious to see how they fired. Would they warp? Will they fit after the firings? How will they change when wood fired?
We compared our forms. How did they relate and how were they different? Why did we chose the forms/surfaces we did and what were we aiming for in the end result? Another observation....how much stronger my work had become since Joy had banned me from using the metal rib and encouraged me to slow down my wheel. Minimal tools and less speed proved to strengthen my work and help execute the visions I created in my sketch book. We discussed "form over function", "artist vs. potter", and the relationship between dance and clay. The basic moves we learn as a dancer and the performance and emotion we create with them. The purpose of seeing a "function in a form." All in all it was a successful critique full of great conversation, observation, and advice.
Joy concluded the day with one last question that I was encouraged to hear..."So I also wanted to conclude this three month mark with thoughts on the apprenticeship and what we have been doing. How do you feel with the way things have been going?" I discussed my thoughts on the past three months...my feeling of being excited and overwhelmed as we fired her kiln only a month after I began with her. My struggle to find balance in juggling both my job, my studio time at home, family (by that I refer to my dogs haha), and finances. Joy continued the discussion with her challenge in balancing the work I do for her and the time I get to spend making for myself. Within the past three months I have...yes, taken on a lot of changes...but I have also found an encouragement, a new friend, and a mentor in Joy. While we both attempt to find that balance between the old routine and the new, we expressed a happiness in what had been happening and what would come in the near future. The ability for us both to talk and share I believe is valuable as we continue on a path that we both have never before walked.
So what will the rest of our time together bring?? Well, at this point the next week will include a trip to two good friends of Joy's and artists. One, a metal smith, who we hope to learn from and get his input on an accessible and artistic way for us to create bucket handles. The other, a basket weaver, who through her years of experience and collaboration with Joy will provide some new and exciting inspirations for me and my work. We also plan to do some building...and I am looking forward to learning to make shelving and constructing a movable box that will serve as storage for my clay and a wedging table!
Now that I feel more comfortable in the studio and my work schedule will find better balance with the apprenticeship, I will also be able to come and go as I please. To work outside of our allotted time and use the clays and glaze materials to test and experiment in hopes of growing as much as I can artistically. And although my time making mugs and pulling handles has seemed long and enduring...it doesn't end today. I have found a strength in Joy creating a focus for me and I plan to continue with them for some time now and see how the forms I create will grow into a new function.