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  • janenewaudby

Art and fear

At my first class at Morley College, each of us was given a supply of clay and the task was to produce a coiled vessel. Cool, right? So over the next two sessions, each person produced their first pot. The thing was, each person's pot was completely different to the others. I have done 12 terms now, and each term has its new beginners who start by coiling pots and its still my favourite part because, right there is the wonder of the human imagination. The beginners are especially fascinating because they don't yet know what they can't or shouldn't attempt and they just let their imagination go wild faced with the freedom of the clay.

The act of creating is such a complicated process to describe - so I am not going to try because I am still working it out (I would only say that in this process, I am definitely the lab rat and not the scientist). A friend of mine recommended to me a fabulous book which made alot of sense: David Bayles, Art and Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking. He describes how one must start by acquiring the skills of a craft, but to become an artist your job is “to push craft to its limits — without being trapped by it. The trap is perfection: unless your work continually generates new and unresolved issues, there’s no reason for your next work to be any different from the last.” As someone who was brought up to consider failure a bad thing, this is an interesting point. I have had to learn to accept all the many "failures" (unresolved issues) as progress. Frankly, its liberating.

So I am still not sure of the purpose of all of this, but I just know that there is something deeply and intrinsically personal about it. Learning how to make ceramic pots is the (relatively speaking) easy part. The difficult to understand part is how to make my pots (at the same time avoiding bringing my self worth into question!). In this, it helps to have faith and to accept that a desire to make beautiful pots (for whatever purpose) is simply integral to who I am. Amen.

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