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“Autumn leaves were falling down like pieces into place, and I can picture it… after all these days.” – Taylor Swift

The weather turned this week, and it’s like rocket fuel straight into my tank. It’s like I can breathe again, can aspire a little, can bypass my A/C guilt and the ensuing daily debate and just get straight to thinking about throwing.

“Time — I think it’s about time.”

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It’s so weird to wake up at 3am excited about blogging again. I would say, “I wonder what’s changed?”, but that would be more disingenuous than even I am comfortable with.

1) Besides that other reason, getting back a few chunks of laudatory feedback really helps. It’s so encouraging to have proof that I made a connection; that those words landed somewhere. I like feeling that I made people I care about grin or feel or think a new thought.

“I will go to America. In your name.” – Witt, after Pete Hamill

I know the writing is best when it’s about the writing, which is to say, when it’s intrinsically motivated. And I think it mostly is. Well, OK — 50/50 is closer to the truth, on the average day. But let’s not lose sight of the other half of this equation, which is the sharing. As I said last time, I write plenty that stays home; rooted in hearth and tradition. The words that I send to America, in your name… well, it’s nice to know when those emigrants have arrived, and that they’re in a better place, full of possibilities.

2) Oh, and duh: reading a good novel, one that pulls me along rather than me having to climb my way up it, really helps, too. Makes me love words on a daily basis, instead of only weekly, or less.

3) Music helps: a song in my head in the shower, or kicking off the morning in the studio, or when Pix’l takes over as DJ on the ride to school. Letting (or making) myself close my eyes and air drum it out, all the way through to the end of the song, so that I really feel it; like sucking the last, sweet-sour little bits off the pit.

(Oh Taylor — now look what they made you do. “And I know it’s long gone, and there’s nothing else I can do…” I always seem to love to old stuff best, and to regret when “my” pop stars make the inevitable turn to the new; the image re-image, the big makeover, the new sound. There’s an obligation to feed the culture mill that made them, and that mill grinds best on a persona shift, with all its readymade contrast and gossip about motivations and authenticity.

And sure, you’re culpable in that choice; we all are, even the not-famous, not-bazillionaires. Every day is a choice between the rose garden or Madison Square. But also, “the world doesn’t just let girls decide what they’re going to be.” And I’m keenly aware, these days, of just how quickly the world sneaks up on you.)

4) Switching from Ulysses — no, not that Ulysses — what do you think I am, insane? — to Bear, while momentarily heart-stopping and terrifying, weirdly and unexpectedly also helps. Like a clean sheet of paper and a fresh new pen, sometimes you’ve gotta change your software to escape all those piles of entangled old code and good intentions.

(Funny, though, how I’m gonna keep hitting Apple-S every few paragraphs, reflexively, from twenty years of hard-won, ingrained habit, even though now it literally does nothing.)

(Funny, too, that I switched — or am in the process of deciding to switch right now — because I balked at being shook down for a monthly subscription for writing software, but with the new thing I’m still going to pay a monthly subscription for writing software. Price point counts — always — and $1.49 a month is a lot better than $40 a year. But so does that feeling of honoring the deal that was made, and of punishing those who do not by taking my patronage elsewhere. Note to developers: you can’t change the rules of the game halfway through the game unless everyone agrees. And when your platform is basically open (eg. has not yet achieved critical lock in), do not fuck with your users.)

(And also, the main feature they’re charging for is cross-platform data synch.  Arguably, that’s an ongoing service and therefore (just barely) worth paying for continuously. But it’s also almost completely useless to me, because I’ve gotta type on my good keyboard looking at a big screen. I cannot imagine wanting to write on my iPad or, worse yet, on a phone-sized piece of glass. As a backup system, that synching is mostly redundant for me, too, because I still do backups the old school way; the hard way, with spinning platters and cables and everything. I’ve already got redundancies on my redundancies. I might have too many backups. Also, storing every stray captured phrase and draft and quote and note-to-self in The Cloud? — e.g. hackable, copyable, sellable, and probably pre-screened by the NSA (and/or worse) — that’s paranoia-inducing.)

(If you doubt that this is a reasonable degree of caution, look up an article about how they successfully stripped SSL off of Google’s back haul traffic — for years — until Snowden told us all what was really up.)

(OTOH, almost none of that knowledge prevents me from using Evernote like an outboard brain for almost everything else, or several other services for mission-critical data. So: guilty as charged. I guess you’ve got to draw that line somewhere, but better that its intentional rather than circumstantial, or worse, in blissful ignorance. Remember: “If you’re gonna put all your eggs in one basket, then watch that basket!”)

OK, that’s 4 reasons. Enough writing about the writing, fer god’s sake.

Two domino vases, pipped and ready to rock.

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In the studio, I’m finishing off the dregs of last year’s batch of stoneware. Just two two-part vases wiped out the #508. A run of a dozen small-to-medium bowls ate about 15 lbs. of the Troy’s #621. (I ask myself: am I bowling for dollars, or because I just felt a little too out-of-sorts to go vertical today, and genuinely had a thing I wanted to try again with those thick rims and tapered, vanishing foot? I answer myself: can’t it be some of both?)

Either way, I made them, and was proud of myself for the effort; thinking all the while about him, and that lovely old CM article, and the poem about a hole in the earth and a barrel of ink, and that amazing email after I wrote KTD out to the clay world (and, of course, another round of regrets for how I probably botched the reply with my characteristic bombast and overkill. Nothing chases away faster than forced sincerity and multiple drafts of obsequiousness).

(And yes: I get the irony that that’s exactly what I’m doing to you here — well, minus the editing and drafting part — with all these gratuitous interruptions and asides and parens and formatting garbage. It’s so tempting to go grab another coffee and keep this party going, but I know for the sake of all of us I should switch to water and eat a banana instead. Wondering if you’ll be able to tell, from the rest of this, which course I chose?)

(I intend for it — the zaniness, the swerving, the hyper-caffinated mania, I mean — to be part of the fun… and I confess that sometimes it’s fully half the fun for me, doing it — and/but so I know it’s way more self-indulgent than good, and that I should listen to old dead Gary Gygax, but also, back to that int/ext tension and the battle for the soul of my writing, and some sort of truth to power or integrity of process — god, dare I say, “craft” in this context? — and that I’m chasing you away on one hand and later begging you to stay with the other. I get it. I’m sorry—not sorry.)

(And how about all these photos lately? My new iPod Touch has made me pretty bonkers for Instagram. I went to make those vases, and after that long, awful run of cracking at the seam where the halves are joined, started taking obsessive notes with each batch. Which is good, as words on paper, but lacks the visual reminder. So I was giddy at realizing I could — quickly and with very little friction — thumb through that archive of images and see the very pots that my notes were referring to; in wet process, as bisqueware set out on the big table for glazing, coming out of the kiln. I’ve documented all this with a camera since the early days of tw@se, if not before, but it’s just now becoming truly accessible. The “Insta” part is a really key feature.)

Anyways, I cannot conceive of how it took me 15 months to go through 7 boxes of clay… maybe I had some left when I reordered last summer? I sure hope so, because that’s a mere 21.33#/month, on average. Crikey.

See the Ceramics World on a pound of clay a day! (Or less!)

Porcelain is next; ooh, porcelain…

My notes say the seven boxes of that, sitting patiently on the sledge, have been there since 5/27/16, so it’s a good thing Standard’s clays tend to come a little wet, and magically keep soft in those wrapped bags so long. [He said: having not actually checked, and so with virtual fingers triple-crossed.]

My Photos archive should easily be able to tell me when I last switched clays , but it’s sketchier than I’d expected… I see photos of stoneware this time last year, and we definitely weren’t doing porcelain when Witt was here, and there’s one from last spring, around the time I put on the brick chimney… OK, September 2015 that’s definitely porcelain. Small plates and that set of quirky small bowls for my friend Trox, and I remember going out at night in the dark and the cold to scrubby scrub scrub all those little holes, but the record goes worryingly blank there.

Wait — Instagram to the rescue! See? I knew it would come in handy! February 13, 2016: there it is on a Saturday To Do list. So that was the last time I switched from white clay back to brown. 18 1/2 months ago? Whew… that’s a long time. So I must have gone back-to-back stoneware after that? Yeah, that sounds right. Not firing redux anymore, which is what the majority of the porcelain went to, and needing more taller pots to fill bottom shelf of salt (and also that sucky bloating problem with the #257 in the super hot zone of my kiln). Yeah, OK; I think that rationale adds up to the reality close enough to call it a memory.

Huh.

“Dada, remember when Carter was here, and we had Fruit Loops and pancakes every morning?”

Uhm… sort of? Sorry, honey, but I hardly fucking remember anything these days. Like how we bought Taylor’s Fearless instead of Speak Now, or how many firings I did last fall, or what I was going to write about this morning back when it was 3:31 and I didn’t think I’d get back to sleep.*

Good thing you can remember a lot of it for me.

* I totally jinxed it, CG! I knew I shouldn’t say the name of the spell if I wanted it to keep working! When will I ever learn?

X's.

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Look at all those beautiful X’s. Are you detecting a running theme here? I sure do like my X’s. All those days I’ll never have to live again. Writing down the bones. Good, Average, Wretched. Clear the dishes, setup the coffee, mark it off. Repeat.

Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Then do that fifty one more times; then do that fifty one more times; that’ll get you to what, 97? Surely that’ll be enough. Surely. ‘Time — I think it’s all about time.’

oatsiltpony @stearth fuck. no time. never enough time.
oatsiltpony @stearth and always too much too.

Never enough time, and always too much, too.

But seriously, tho’, I’d really like to get those kind of X’s on my pots somehow. Not just the blood red — although that’d be stellar (encapsulated stains? I’m awash in my ignorance). But the can’t-be-faked aspect of making a mark, and then another day making a similar mark, yet different, because it’s not the same river twice, and the pen is at a different angle, if it’s even the same pen, and your mind and heart and guts are all oriented and entwined differently, even if just a little, and then all those add up and repeat and loop, 28, 29, sometimes even can you believe it 31, and these patterns emerge and create the magic of negative space — what an idea, as if space was naturally positive and needed a qualifier to delimit it’s boundaries up against human intention — and then, oh, then, an artificial event horizon that says, “Hey, dummy, it’s time to turn the page”, and we get to do it all over again. So good.

In a medium that is “all about time” — clay, that is — how could you possibly orchestrate that process? Mark an X; spray it; cover it. Another one the next day; and the next; and the next. Bonkers. Or, to quote my one-time studio mate Rick, “That’s just crazy talk!”

Remember when you had some grade school assignment that you were supposed to do all month, like tallying the books you’d so proudly read, [PHOTO ALBUM ON THE COUNTER, YOUR CHEEKS WERE TURNING RED, USED TO BE A LITTLE KID WITH GLASSES IN A KING SIZE BED] or all semester, like a studio sketch book that would have been so good for you if you’d actually done it but for reasons you can no longer imagine — you were probably too busy chasing girls or imagining starting a band or lying on the grass in the quad a 1:30 on a Thursday — {YEAH, YOU CALL ME UP AGAIN JUST TO BREAK ME LIKE A PROMISE. SO CASUALLY CRUEL IN THE NAME OF BEING HONEST, I”M A CRUMPLED UP PIECE OF PAPER LYING HERE AND I REMEMBER IT ALL, ALL, ALL TOO WELL.} — and so you tried, mostly unsuccessfully, to fake it at the end: writing left handed, switching pens, or from ink to pencil, a little cursive here, block printing there, maybe some scribbled notes in the margin and a few drops of Pepsi or some wrinkling to make it look authentic? Yeah, well…

If I tried to do all those X’s like that, but compressed into the time that I’d normally finish a pot, before it could dry on a more typical schedule, I think that same fakery and distain for the organic integrity would shine through. All ceramics are fake, but that’s more fake than I’m interested in perfecting.

Maybe someone will give me a big grant to hire three pre-MFAs and build a Kanenko-sized damp box, and each day we’ll ascribe one X each on hundreds of nearly-identical pots, then build one of those wooden boxy thingies, to hang on the wall and somehow in aggregate give them a gravitas that any one of them would singly lack? Yes, maybe they would. Craven like a raven. This is how good potters morph into mediocre sculptors.

Oh yeah. That part right there? That’s the part I should cut. But I know I won’t, and now you know I didn’t.

I am so glad I don’t have comments.

Amateur.

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I should wrap this up, or save the rest for another installment. Maybe I’m making this a mega-post in the hope that almost no one is still reading, so I can tack this on here at the end, hidden in plain sight?

Here’s what I hope qualifies as a drop into the bucket that Pilcher held out to us seven years ago; when he said ‘fill this with deep, personal stories about your thinking and how you make decisions in your work’ — or something to that effect.

So I’ve been growing out a beard — a hipsterish goatee, to be precise. It’s starting to get bushy, and in a surprise echo of my Nordic-Irish roots, its got some red in it. Also, in a non-surprise, due to my lapsing life force, its got a respectable bit of grey at the edges, too.

It began as a standard vacation beard; simply a lack of the shaving routine while out of town. But at the point where I’d normally have zeroed it out, something in me said not to. Like with that new software, I felt the need for a small new beginning; even if just an arbitrary external transformation; more chrome than core. My own pop-star-persona reinvention routine.

I listened to that urge the same way that I follow that mysterious internal barometer that tells me what to make next in the studio. It’s not fully rational, and you have to risk putting your trust in it. When I do, it seems to tell me which things are worth hunting, chasing farther down their winding paths. It can smell which ideas are still fresh and detect which have gone stale, or even started to rot. It’s so close to religious mumbo jumbo or some vague self-serving “spiritualism” that I hesitate to even acknowledge its parameters, but if I’m honest, that caution doesn’t make it any less real. I rely on it; over 20-plus years, I’ve come to depend on it. If the other is the mirror to my shade, this is like the mirror to my… my…

Anyways, the beard is there, I think, to remind me that I’m aiming to be another person; an outward sign of a subtle yet potentially deep interior change. Proof that I’m trying. Proof that I can choose to turn left where I always turn right, or undo even long-ingrained habits. A strange thing to present to the world as a badge of honor — an extra bit of hair at the front of my face — but surprisingly effective. People say, “Oh, I didn’t recognize you,”, and I think, “Good. I’m trying not to recognize me either.”

Because fuck that guy.

It’s good to tug on or rub while I’m musing, like a knowing parody of the psuedo-hero in some Gen X movie. I run my bottom lip across my ridiculous new mustache and am reminded not to get stuck in the same old loops; to try for occasional gratitude, even if I don’t really feel it; that I was over there and now I’m just a little over here, instead. It helps me remember that I have a choice.

Look what you made me do.

So now I guess fluoxetinian sunsets will be the only ones I can love, but thus far that’s a hell of a lot better than not loving any sunsets at all. Walking past that almost-daily majesty, with the studio closed up for the night and the key in hand; head down, watching my feet plow through the gravel; so focused on the crush of stone on bone that I miss those glimpses of the blessedly infinite and distant; the reminder of larger things outside of self, running on their own clocks, their own loops, their own spheres.

None of this will last forever. And so, even if it’s mostly bad times now, that too, then, is weirdly a good thing.

X’s and O’s.

“…but I forget about you long enough to forget why I needed to.”