It has felt like a dry spell for me, in fact a very uncomfortable dry spell. I’ve been short on inspiration, and I’ve questioned everything I do. Am I an artist, or am I just fooling myself? I have not been able to see the road ahead… it’s been murky and clouded and confusing.
I love making things that are whimsical, but I began to think that if I were a real artist perhaps I would be doing more serious things. Maybe I do fun things, and real artists do ART.
Then I got really stuck because I had this overwhelming desire to make very big sculptures, and I thought – who’s going to buy those?! And I started thinking that perhaps I should concentrate on only making things that people may want to buy – and voila! that made me want to stop working altogether.
And THEN began a new cycle, with me wondering why it is that people like what I do? After that I went on to the really big existential questions – like What IS art?
Okay, okay – you get the picture. This is a hard place for an artist to be, especially one who is used to a constant and unending flow of ideas and inspiration, someone who gets up in the morning with a head full of dreams and ideas to capture in clay.
I’d like to share with you what I did and what I learned in the hope that it may help YOU, next time you (or I) run into a dry spell.
What I did was to put my hands back into clay, and to keep them busy in clay. I just kept working at it – even when I did not want to. It felt as if I was thinking out loud in clay, in an almost unconscious process, hoping that something would come out of it. And it did – because it ALWAYS does. Because even though it may feel like you’re not moving toward anything, as long as you keep your hands in the clay, you will move forward, I promise. I’ve learned that now.
I started making things – and oddly enough, I made them in multiples. I was DRIVEN to make multiples of things. I made a group of 9 rabbits that are really maquettes for a large sculpture I want to do. I hope some of you may be getting excited about the possibility of a sculpture group of 9 large and whimsical rabbits for your yard?!
I also made groups of penguins, groups of mermaids, and groups of highly experimental pots – here they are below!
Many of the pieces I made are still waiting for glazes. I’ve been stalling on completing them by not glazing them. Honestly, I’ve been a bit afraid that in the glazing of them I would end up making some bright, fun, cute things – and that would prove once and for all that I’m not really a serious artist!
But seriously - emerging from all this angst, I have now come to believe that our dry spells - the times when we believe that inspiration has fled forever, that our work does not and never has had value, when we distrust both our creative process and the results of it – that these spells are in reality the times when something new and exciting is in the process of being born. It’s hard to have confidence in this painful process because the very nature of a dry spell is to not see the fertile spots that lie ahead. But they are there. Something big and new is ahead for me, and I am wondering if it has anything to do with a yard full of 9 very large rabbits.
Besides just keeping your hands in clay, another usable trick for getting past a dry spell is to go out and find some inspiration. For me, it magically happened in Gainesville, at the Cade Museum. I found myself in a room with robotic beasties, and suddenly I felt alive and inspired again! I laughed, I took pictures, and I just savored and enjoyed the whimsy of them. And I knew for sure with all my heart that whimsy is okay, that art doesn’t have to be serious, and that making people laugh when they see a yard full of big rabbits is really what inspires me to create.
In fact what I love perhaps as much as making things is showing them to others and watching the smiles and laughter as someone encounters for the first time a snook submarine with a snorkeling rabbit, or a manatee with goggles and a timepiece. Laughter and the sense of joy it generates is what makes me want to work and keep my hands in clay. And although creation IS a solitary exercise, my creations come to life in your's, the viewer’s eyes.
I love to educate people about clay, and am passionate about how it works; joining it together, kneading it and making it do what you envision - and then firing it.
I am Peggy's sister. I love what she does, and have set out to show off her work! I am the webmaster here at PTCA, and I write some blogs too. My background is in building a values-driven business.