I used to faithfully keep my cell phone out of my studio – bad luck, I thought, but those days are gone. For a long time I made sure there was never a clock in there either – I’d set my watch in sight of the wheel, teaching, then whisk it away.
Recently, unfortunately, I found the perfect spot where a little digital clock can sit, out of the way but conveniently in view. I shouldn’t – but I’ll probably just keep it there.
Last week I went out to load the kiln – this used to be, for my first five or ten firings, back when I was just starting, a contest of discovering enough work lying around in the studio that I could gather together to comprise a load – these days it’s the opposite. Always way more work than will fit in a given firing, and the only contest is not to feel defeated by how much I couldn’t find space for.
A kiln fires better when tightly-stacked – when there is little empty space on the shelves – better radiation of heat, slower flame travel through the chamber. But there’s a tipping point – more work is better, yes, until there’s too much. It’s easy to pass this point without noticing. Too tight of a stack and circulation is poor, temperatures are uneven, firing time is protracted, and the glazes – is this just in my mind or is really true? – have a funny, unsettled, look. They seem anxious – like the potter who loaded them.
Things change, and years pass, and studio work evolves, slowly enough in my case that, like with the cell phone & the clock, it would be easy to blithely not notice.
Back at the beginning I used to fire the kiln with a naive, curious, inquiry – on one level I was happy if I could just get the glazes to melt. At all. Now things are more complicated. Which goes to show that some things never change – you gain experience and start having to be productive & efficient – I am so not a fan of those two words – then you’re always trying to get back to the beginning, in the studio, and recapture the kind of simple concentration – call it innocence – that you used to have.