Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Failure is Sometimes the Only Option - 42998VII

Failure is Sometimes the Only Option - 42998VII 
I feel like there is an assumption about these platters. Either they are a "planned" painting in glaze, where every variable has been hammered out and glaze is treated like paint.... OR.... everything is unpredictable and I have no idea how things will turn out. 

No matter how many times I have heard those judgements, they still sting. Neither concept begins to come close to how I experienced these platters. On the one hand, experimentation was a constant theme throughout the two year experience of making them. Failure was a given. I lost over 90% of what I made. I filled dumpsters with entire kiln loads. 

I also had wild successes. I had firings where I might only have one failure...and shelf after shelf of awesome platters. 

Through it all, many of the potters I was working with in the studio begged me not to smash so many of the less-than-successful platters. In some instances I could be coerced to leave it around the studio for a few weeks... see if some aspect of it grew on me. Most often though, my initial impression is what stuck with me. The hammer was ever-present in my studio throughout the making of these platters.

Getting back to failure... we seldom learn from our successful endeavors. We may gain self-esteem, but the depth of our learning is stymied by our very success. Failure however, offers endless opportunities for growth. In the case of this platter... I was experimenting with the idea of trying to create a localized reduction (silicon carbide, in a very fine mesh size, combined with copper oxide and tin) in hopes of creating an oxidized copper red that looked like a reduced blood-red copper glaze. It is readily apparent that this glaze didn't come close to my expecations.

It did however, teach me a great many things. For instance, the islands floating above the ultra-fluid crackling glaze, are made from titanium and rutile and a fair bit of frit. It never occurred to me, that titanium's matting effect on glazes, and its tendency to create micro (or macro) crystalline formations would inhibit the colloidal copper form forming. 

The sad thing: not one potter in the studio back in grad school gave a shit. None of this was of interest to them. Not even learning amazing things about how materials interact when pushed to the absolute extreme ends of the glaze spectrum. It left me feeling very adrift in this process. I am sure that is part of what the immersion in the grad school experience is supposed to happen... but it really reinforced the separation I felt/feel from other potters. 

In the end, failure was really the only option. To have succeeded would have left me learning nothing.


Newfoundout Potter said...

I find that today many are afraid to try something new as they are afraid to fail - and they say they would be embarrassed by their failure. I think they should be congratulated for trying something new. Somehow they think that everything they make should be wonderful - but in the end as you say it leads to failure.
There is a great book on creativity - called Imagine - How Creativity Works and its one of the best that I have ever read in the subject and it talks how you need to fail to make that big breakthrough.

alexander solla said...

So true. Being afraid of failure is such a predicament. According to my therapist, I am far more afraid of success. GO figure!