Is there a regular day in the our lives as potters? Of course not, and that probably doesn’t come as a surprise to you, either, since your day often has zigs and zags, too.
Yesterday John got to the wheel after the usual set of morning chores. Bring in wood. Empty ashes. Feed sick kitty. Burn burnables. Fix the compost bin (dogs found the weakness and must eat there each time they get a run). Finally, CLAY!
And a glitch. The large caulking gun he uses as his slip trailing applicator was not working. The flow of work stopped and John has to solve this problem.
First, he empties the gun and then re-mixes the whole batch of porcelain shooter clay, using a very loud industrial hand mixer.
Then, while loading the gun, he pulls the trigger and voila! He finds that the pin was sheared off. That was easy to replace and he returns to throwing lanterns.
I learned all about his adventures while we were making dinner and I groan because I was waiting for him to throw lanterns so I could videotape that, but he forgot to tell me, I forgot to ask, and the opportunity passed. “Will you be throwing more tomorrow?” “Sure.”
Here it is: Tomorrow. We have a SNOW DAY!
and that takes care of the morning. Snow must be blown and shoveled before the plow guy comes to plow us out. Once done, (while it is still snowing, kind of a thankless task, as John will have to do that all over again) he has a hot lunch and a hot cup of coffee while he ices the muscle pull in his back caused by walking 3 dogs on a slippery surface. The studio is cold with that steady wind from the east which is bringing extra snow from Lake Michigan so the small wood-stove is working hard to take the chill off the clay so it will not be torture this afternoon.
I have to say, I am vibrating with anxiety. Once I get into my afternoon project it will be hard for me to jump up and start filming. So I want him to get up and into the studio. But I can’t. He needs this downtime after lunch.
The studio is filled with northern light and John’s wheel is surrounded by lots of natural light. But that’s not enough. John also has what he calls ‘The Light Of God’, a dental light that dispels most of the shadows in his corner of the studio.
Behind him is his studio radio, knobs covered with clay and glaze. It’ is usually set to one of two stations-NPR or the local sports station. There is a television a several feet in front of his wheel, on the other side of his wedging table. On weekends, or playoffs, the T.V. is usually on one sport or another with the sound off. That way John can listen to talk radio and keep an eye on one of his team’s scores. There is also a wall of windows overlooking the large bird-feeder. Pileated woodpeckers, sparrows, robins, chickadees and other birds give John something lively and interesting to look at in between pots.
FUN FACT: John saves certain studio tasks for football games. Trimming pots, throwing something simple, pugging or wedging clay. Our puppies have learned where they can go to find peaceful spots.
Studio dogs and cats. Do all potters have at least one? We have five total animals. Right now there are more furry creatures than humans in our home, and so far we are safe. They don’t know we are in the minority.
The cats like to drink from the water bowl near John’s wheel. Sometimes, when the dogs are tricked by the cats into chasing them, the cats push-off from his pedal and jump to his small colored clay slip buckets to escape the dogs, thereby causing John’s wheel to spin at top speed, scaring the dogs and cats who scatter almost invisibly. It’s a lucky day indeed when there isn’t a vase or bowl on the wheel, drying.
We jump up to stop the whirling noise and mutter about animals.
At 4pm it’s time for John and the dogs to go outside and stretch their legs. This is followed by more studio work, using up the clay wedged for the day and filing the ware boards with products. Dogs and cats are all rested from their naps so they take this hour to remind everyone that soon it’s dinner time. It’s doge the pet time in the studio, while the people work steadily to finish what ever project they are in the middle of.
We might have started dinner earlier, so cooking aromas fill the studio and that does make it hard to concentrate. There are days when dinner can be late, and we work late, sometimes to 7pm. Other days we have people joining us for dinner, so of course we must clean up the studio and ourselves. John always washed his brushes, wipes down surfaces and tools.
We sweep the studio regularly, and damp mop also. We live in an open concept home/studio. I can see John at the wheel while I write at the kitchen table. Vacuuming-sweeping-mopping-dusting happens all the time and as you can imagine, with all the animals around that’s a good idea. In fact, as John says, we rake and bale around here, not vacuum.
Another advantage to having our living room and studio next to each other (in fact there is almost no dividing line between them) is that during the evening John can be with his family enjoying a movie or reading the newspaper and then he can attend to one task or another in the studio; that the rhythm of pottery making: covering or uncovering pots, removing pots from plaster bats, attaching handles on mugs or pitchers and trimming those last few cups extends to the end of the day.
What kind of a routine do you have for making art? Or don’t you? maybe you struggle to create one? Maybe you have solutions or suggestions? Let us know. Share with your friends.