I am almost there! New Designers is only days away, the work is packed, the shelves painted. I think I am good to go. Yesterday was spent with a lovely group of people at City Lit preparing the plinths for our graduation show at Candid Arts, which is the week after. Who’s idea was it to have two shows in two weeks I wonder?
The space at the end of all this frantic preparation has got me feeling reflective. I am beginning to identify the making sequence with which I develop a piece and, for all those artists out there who read and share my blog, I thought I might have a go at defining the different periods.
Gestation: For me a period of agony! In a recent issue of Ceramic Review (issue 273) Gareth Mason described the desire to achieve as an ‘ache’ which for him has a continual ‘tug of war’ with his inner critic. He might feel that he has the upper hand here – a maker of considerable repute; a household name, a man with many years experience and skill. So who am I to have the nerve to empathise with him? Well, I think he describes my feelings exactly. The sleepless nights of ‘pot anxiety’ when you know that there is something going to happen. It is almost like the tension before a thunder storm; that heavy feeling in the air.
First semester: Then comes the stage where ideas creep in. You think you know where you are going, you are just not sure what route to take or what things will look like in the end. There is a lot of trial and error. I make a fast amount of rubbish at this stage. The frustration is palpable. I cannot work out what it is I want to express but I know there is something coming.
Second Semester: By now, I have started to narrow things down. I enforce a bit of discipline into my work. I make myself reject some ideas and follow about three or four. I know that I am still not making the final pieces but I have to make this stuff in order to end up in the right place.
Third Semester: At last! Some idea has hit a chord. I can reject everything else – stop all house work, give up on cooking or shopping, think of little else. There should be a big notice hung round my neck at this stage – unless the question involves the word clay, do not even bother to ask it. Perhaps I should get a badge made!
Labour: Now I am flying – work churns out, a level of confidence seems to build, I know where I am going. Make, Make, Make.
Birth: But suddenly another feeling seeps in. I seem to take a step back and look at my work with a more critical, but less confident eye. The work is almost done but is it any good? Does it say what I wanted it too? Is the message clear? Does the work stand up to scrutiny?
This is where I am with my final work for the diploma at the moment. Days away from the exhibitions, preparation all done and full of doubt.
Later: . . . Well what little experience I have of this stage has shown me that there is a very strange feeling once the work is on the plinth. It looks good, doesn’t it? But who else might think so? And what if they buy it – what will they do with it? Will it get the treatment that I thought it deserved? Will it look good where they place it? What will they say to their friends about it? Will anyone buy it at all?
Gareth Mason describes this process extremely well. ‘Emotional impetus to begin is inspirational. It feels optimistic – yet this rite-of-apprehension can wreck my day. Getting started can be an act of frustration, anger, or even desperation’. What I find most daunting of all is that I was sort of hoping the feeling might get easier to handle. But if people like Mason are writing about it, I have to accept that this is the path which I have chosen. It is not all about the clay – it is equally about the highs and lows of mood which accompany the resolving of the piece.