Apr 3, 2011

Collaboration X

A while ago I blogged about my art history and my new favorite place and Marie who has been encouraging to me by challenging me to just dive in and do art. And so to fly.

At her urging I entered a poet / artist collaboration exhibit. Looking back, I was crazy to do it. I had only just learned how to make a clay tile when I said I would be an artist in the exhibit and use clay tiles as my medium. At the time I didn't realize just how difficult a medium it is to work with. Making flat tiles is tricky because the clay has a tendency to want to curl up. Painting the tiles with ceramic glaze is an exercise in adjusting your expectations.

The poem I chose is about a couple who are looking back on their relationship, realizing that things didn't turn out the way they'd planned. Each of the verses reflects on something that didn't turn out right, but each verse ends with "come walk with me in the morning light." I identified with the poem. And I loved the idea of walking together at the beginning of each new day. It's hopeful.

I decided to make a small tile for each of the six verses and a large tile that would be in the center that would capture walking in the morning light.

While working on my tiles in the clay studio, I struck up conversations with the potters while they glazed their bowls and mugs. I admire the beauty of their pottery. I can't wait to learn how to throw clay on the wheel. It surprised me, then, when one of the men told me that he admired me. "You have courage," he said when he learned that I was making tiles for the exhibit. He explained that making tiles is not something that just anyone can do well. Many people don't have the patience for tiles.

That's when I realized that I'd dived into the deep end and only knew how to doggy paddle. I'd taken on a project and I had no idea what I was doing. And this particular project would be on display for a month with my name on it.

The thing about choosing to do my piece in clay, is that I was at the mercy of the community kiln schedule. It's not really a schedule, per se, it's more of a loose agreement to fire up the kiln when there's enough to fire. Initially I thought I'd have a chance to correct any mistakes I made on my tiles because I'd have enough time to go through a couple cycles of firings.

Except that people were on vacation and shelves didn't fill up with things to fire and the firings didn't happen when I thought they would. Suddenly I knew that I would have to use my tiles 'as is.' When my center tile (a larger tile that was as wide as the whole piece) didn't turn out because it warped too severely in the glaze firing, I had to re-think my entire presentation.

I suddenly felt like I was in college again, an art major that didn't belong in the art department. Unsure of myself. Pretending. But then I told myself that I can do this.

And then I did it.


  1. Glad you did it. Beautiful.

  2. Sounds like you are flying brave to me. I have worked with clay and I think what you finished with is beautiful. Can you share the poem?

  3. Thank you Amy and Jennifer.

    Jennifer, I wasn't sure if I can share the poem because I didn't know the author's name (we weren't allowed to know who wrote the poems until the exhibit went up). But now that I know who it is, I'll be able to attribute it to her. Stay tuned.


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