Pleasanta Goodwoman. That’s a character name that Isabella came up with when she was around 10, for one of her short stories. I can’t remember the story, but the name stuck with me. I imagine that someone with that name would be good. A good person who never says the wrong thing, or speaks too loudly or unkindly, or causes the rocking of any boats with opinions or confrontation. If she were a color, she would be taupe. Not red-brown fire, bold bronze or chocolatey passion… just a consistent, uncontroversial, mid-value tan.
Today, I’m suffering from studio mania, fiendishly working to meet crazy goals I set for myself for the upcoming wood-fire, the annual community fiesta involving a dozen potters, a huge kiln, and the alchemy of the four elements that will, with any luck, turn out 400-500 pieces of lovely pottery four weeks from now. (You can see last year’s adventure in the Cerrillos mountains here. If you’re local or going to be in NM on April 7, please join us for the opening!)
Being a professional potter is not a safe line of work; safe meaning: predictable, conventional. A place to be 40 hrs a week, where a corporate or human someone tells you what to do. One that yields a reliable income, benefits, paid days off, and retirement. Pleasanta Goodwoman would never be a potter. No, the physical demands and creative responsibility would be too much for her. Plus, it’s messy. Downright dirty, in fact, as working with dirt tends to be.
Sometimes I wonder if I’ve made the right career choice, this one that involves so much happiness but also struggle. A career that would never be possible without the unwavering support from people who love me because they have to (thanks, family!), and people who buy my work. The good thing is, whatever happens is up to me. The bad thing is, whatever happens is up to me. But it always comes down to the same choice, one I imagine all of us in creative fields make: financial security & convention vs. passion. Doing what you love. The thing you are willing to suffer for, but would suffer more if you weren’t doing. Pleasanta would certainly choose the former.
I imagine Pleasanta would have a much cleaner house then mine, too, which at the moment is in a state of wreckage because I’ve neglected all other responsibilities save for the occasional feeding of my child in order to reach my studio goals. Wanna have a peek? Here’s how things are looking right now.
All these poppy cups and the two jars are ready to be glazed. Why did I make so many of those?
More cup/bowls! These will be painted with blossom designs to hopefully turn out like this.
Wait, even more cups…. A friend also requested an 8″-9″ vase so naturally I had to make 12. Oh, there’s that wine glass (I’ve discovered that a straw in the bottle works just fine).
If the wood-fire goddesses are smiling upon me, some of those will look like this.
Man, what a mess! Here are some Poppy urns that need to be painted. I’m making these for Funeria.
I’m pretty happy with the new lid style, a sculpted flower. I wonder if I’ll still like it when they’re finished? Let’s take a closer look. Is it too O’Keeffey-vaginal?
Wouldn’t this Aspen urn have been lovely? Had the foot not blown off because I didn’t let it dry long enough? Darn. Off to the garden it goes….
I’ve been thinking a lot over the past few weeks about what I am and what I’m not. The kind of self-analysis that sometimes dips a toe into self-disappointment (a gentler word than loathing). Those times when I’m just not proud of myself. Impatience. Hurtful words. Taking people or places or my life for granted. Biotchy. Despite my best intentions. The nice thing about clay is that it tends to absorb all of that while you work — the good, the bad, and the ugly — and give back something beautiful in return.
Mostly I’m really happy with the choices I’ve made, how I spend my time and the company I keep, the brokering of love in all its manifestations: art, children, gardens, family, lovers, expensive dogs. And for those times when I feel like a half-blind idiot fumbling around just trying to get it right, I remember my favorite [paraphrased] Walt Whitman quote, Do I contradict myself? Yes, but I am large, I contain multitudes. Absolute unworthiness is part of the perfection. Passion and risk go hand in hand. I’m not Pleasanta Goodwoman.
I still have more things to make so I’ll get going now. But all this internal melodrama has got things stirred up and guess what? Today, as I’m about to ship the final prizes from the last contest*…
I FEEL ANOTHER CONTEST COMING ON!!! something to do with the wood-fire and the nature of imperfection, but I’m still formulating it. So, stay tuned for your chance to. win. big.
*Sorry, Stacie & Maggi! Pleasanta Goodwoman would’ve had them finished & mailed weeks ago…