“And hey, can you go wrong? More times than you thought that you could be?” – Wheat

Every week the studio momentum dies, on late Saturday afternoon, and I have to resuscitate it on Thursday morning. This fucking sucks. Some weeks, it takes a long time to get it going again. That rock doesn’t roll itself.

(Can you forgive me for jamming two metaphors into that paragraph? I just couldn’t choose one over the other. Dammit; no discipline. If not, how can I make it up to you?)

I’ve tried to minimize this aspect of the dayjob/studio compromise with a lot of different strategies. None really work any better than just going out there straight away on Restart Day and starting to move clay around as soon as possible. Usually, this is super difficult — so much inertia in being stopped. With the prior week’s enthusiasm and focus drained away, I can think of a dozen reasons why not: chores or other tasks that should come first, or the hazy temptation of a “slow” morning. It’s easy to think of excuses why it should wait until tomorrow, or just until some unspecified “later”.

Some of this problem is because I have no scheduled or planned time off in a typical week. Three days at the office; three days in the studio; a day to catch up on chores and try to be a decent Dad. That last one can be restful, but often isn’t. So I just keep charging through, hallucinating that this is a workable/reasonable routine, until I get sick or some semi-desired “vacation” time appears, or for one of those days where I’m so worn out that I wake up and find that I just don’t give a fuck.

That’s no way to live.

But the alterative — scheduling time off proactively — requires so much more confidence that I ever have. I’d have to believe I can take a day in late August to just rest (eg. “be lazy”) without that coming back to haunt me in mid-November. Every sale prep cycle, almost every one, is a crashing, crushing race at the end. A miserable way to finish off a work season; a dumb way to present myself and my new pots to the public. So, every year — or every twice a year, I guess — I do this dance of how hard and fast can I work early in the cycle versus what will it cost me later — in illness, frustration, buried small debts — to just keep flailing away until I can’t?

Which is also wrong, though, because it gives the idea that I don’t want to work in the studio — that it’s all the same as the dayjob days, or mowing the grass or something. It’s not. I do want to. Often desperately.

That’s why losing the weekly momentum is such a killer: once I’ve regained it, say around mid-day Friday, I finally start to feel like a person again, with ideas that are meaningful and goals that are useful, and with things I want to do more than escape or hide or sloth away the minutes. That lasts for all of about 24 hours, because by Saturday around lunchtime, most Saturdays, I have to face all the pots that have to be finished Now Or Never — because almost nothing wet lasts over that four day layoff well. I start to regret the lingering I did on Thursday morning, or the extra pots I made on Friday in my enthusiasm, or the idea I had to put handles on these and slip and flashing slip and underglaze, each of which takes time to set before the next step, and must be finished before bone dry.

That’s no way to live, either.


And so last week was reviewing my greenware flashing slips, making elaborate test tiles of various combinations, cleaning up my #508 clay test notes, so that I could remember what’s what and see what I’d already done and not waste precious effort duplicating things that already proved themselves to not work. Chicken scratchings on reused paper scraps ain’t gonna cut it. Because there wasn’t enough room for actual pots in and around getting and moving a 6’x10’x8’ pile o’ firewood, accidentally crashing a glass door because I’m an idiot, mowing, and other assorted usual tasks and panic… etc.

There was the first tinge of Fall, windows open; remembering fresh air and what it will be like to not have the A/C running constantly everywhere. So much goddamn rain and damp.

After waiting out some weird pains on Restart Day — goddamnit! — this week was graciously, gratefully back to throwing; picking up stubbornly from those first taller vases, finally ginning up the wherewithal to tackle pitchers again. Earlier, I’d looked through about ten years of my photos archive, and sorted all the pitchers images into one place for reference. It primed my brain for it; refreshed my vision of what a good pitcher should be. It was good to at least see some progression there — from very hesitant and uninspiring a decade ago to fairly successful and worth trying to repeat and build from a year or two ago. There are a few I’d love to make again, if I can find the groove again. New details I want to try — stronger lips, beefier handles. Scale, of course, as always.

I had 2 1/2 # of really stiff clay, so I slapped it down on a bat and just went for it. Somewhat astoundingly, a pitcher form appeared, reasonably thin walled and standing proud, bigger than I’d hoped; potential. Resting my overworked back carefully in between them, I made three more, and could feel the throwing method refining itself; the old hand-knowledge dredging up from the murk. Like this; not like that. Do this thing first, hold the tool that way, don’t hold your breath, twist and lean just so. Finish carefully.

Looking at that page of amazing forms in Evolution; wondering which elements to try to emulate, if I’ll ever get there, how it would feel to have made such things.

Then I spouted ‘em that afternoon, after they’d set up a bit, and finished ‘em the next day, with handles and some deco. Handles too big — almost comical on one or two — spouts awkward, but better than those meek little blurbs. Better to go to far, at least at first, than not far enough. Can always pull back later, and there’s no sin in tossing some into the scraps box. Probably a virtue. Freedom.

Slot, variation.

A photo posted by Scott Cooper (@stearth) on

“Is your look in the mirror clearer than it used to be?”