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“You took various elements, you were precise about each one of them, but you made them fresh by the way you arranged them. The process kept his brain alert and alive. Or so he thought, as the months became years, and the years became decades.” – Pete Hamill

Well, that last one could have used some editing.

(I mean, all those ridiculous parenthetical asides — those alone would sink any ship before it left the harbor. You’ve gotta burn the ships!)

But but but — it was No. 33, and nothing says ‘almost perfect loop’ like 33.333333333, &etc. You, my die-hard All-22, will recall “my minor obsession with counting things and fake belief in numerology”.

I AM A STRANGE…

OK — stop it. Just stop.

[I think there’s such a thing as a blogging hangover. Like you’ve wrung every drop out of the sponge, vigorously and gladly, but are then left dry and kind of sad looking by comparison. Like you’ve given away too much of what you’d been storing up, and need awhile to casually soak up some more before putting any more out. (Maybe I’m afraid that if I squeeze too hard it’ll make me cry?) Reminds me of why the weekly routine was such a bear sometimes.

Get it? Bear? Yikes, I’ve gotta get busy figuring out how this new rocketship works.

Also, I think there’s something to this tactic of front-loading each post with the word salad detritus routine, to scare off the looky loos and pottery tourists before we get to the real meal. This isn’t a club you can just waltz into; you’ve got to earn your way in.

The first rule of Blog Club is… we make you wade through hot garbage before the fighting starts.

Oh: blogging about blogging. You never get old to me, as a way to prime the pump. But you’ll never get less interesting or insufferable to all the poor humans who think there might be something here worth their time. I just keep stringing you along, dear reader, with the occasional glimmer of fool’s gold amidst the mounds of clinkers and chalk, don’t I?

Come to think of it, it’s sort of like when you click the reading lamp back on in the middle of the night, and the brightness is so intense you think your eyes will never adjust, but just a few minutes later you’re lost in a New Yorker tale about some pop star you’ve never even heard sing, or an exegesis on 100 years of academic infighting over Freud, or a profile of some hypercapitalist asshole who’s literally ruining the world for the rest of us. And then stopping reading, and going back to the dark, seems just as strange and counterintuitive as starting did a half hour before.]

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“Dear reader, my apology, I’ve… gotten lost before.” – Michael Stipe (before he unexpectedly draped his sweaty t-shirt over my head that time; so weird.)

So I was wide awake — or, as I should call it, Fake Awake — at 2:10 this morning, rather than 3. Brain churning through three different post ideas, spawned in the half-light of those first few hours of dreams. The illusory brilliance, how it all seems to come together and make new sense, if I can just weave the threads together just so.

Starting to think it’s a legit side effect, and that I should flag it as such.

The Wizard says you can get wired and more anxious. I’m wondering if delusions of grandeur* are also on the menu, or if that’s just the “authentic” me. “The authentic me” is a bit of a wildcard, even at the best of times, and can be kind of a narcissistic dunce.

[* I tried to spell that “dillusions”, like the pickle. Proof that the organ doing the writing ain’t nearly as grand as it might sometimes think.]

[Oh right — another blog about making pots, you say. OK, here goes.]

I spent a rare Friday at the office last week, swapped for my usual Wednesday on request, so I had W, TH, SAT in the studio. It reminded me why I very deliberately established a work schedule with all the office days and studio days confined to their separate halves of the week. That hole in the middle of the making cycle is like a bullet in the brain.

I wasn’t strategic enough (or diligent enough) to start some pots on TH that could carry over to SAT, so, in that most rare of circumstances, SAT wasn’t a breathless, semi-panicked rush of chasing plastic. (Like shit and Sissyphean stones, wet pots tend to roll downhill to the last possible moment.) While I occasionally take some pride in finding the enthusiasm to go back out after Pixel is pixelating, to finish up a bit of deco or wrap up some half-completed mess, it mostly sucks to leave it to that last resort. I make terrible, lazy decisions almost any time after 4pm. Same goes for squeezing in some task on Family Day — moving a batch of reclaim clay forward to the next step, or packing up a pot for shipping. While threading the needle can be rewarding (“Look at me!”) that kind of stunt usually costs me more than its worth. Just get it done on Saturday, dude.

{Hi, K from A! Here are those characters you used to like, back in the day. I haven’t forgotten about them completely, and I hope you still like them. They’ve come a long way in 2 1/2 years, but also not so long at all.}

[OK, still not really “about making pots”, but getting closer. The picture is not the frame.]

I trimmed through a bowl, getting too assertive about that vanishing foot. 11/12 ain’t bad. I took a picture of my calendar and posted it to Instagram. I took a picture of my beard, and didn’t. I kept smashing up bits of dried clay, slaking it back to wet earth, grateful for the distraction; for something to do with my stupid, stubborn hands. The floor space recovered by grinding through those boxes of scraps is delicious, but I’m faking myself out. Converting them into five gallon buckets of wet slops, stacked in the corner by the stove, is just kicking that particular can down the road. They’re gonna have to go somewhere when it’s time to bring the firewood in, and that time always comes sooner than I expect.

So strange, amongst all those bits of near randomness, to find artifacts of my former intent, preserved like skeletons buried in the ice. “Oh, there you are, Peter.” A hard, faceted line embedded in a pile of formless shavings; the curve of a thrown rim up against a clump of hardened throwing slip; the ultra-rare perfect shard of my name stamp and date code, lying there face up near the bottom of a box, discarded in 2004 or ’14 or god knows what those four dots actually meant at the time; likely because of some killer spiral crack through its base or careless chip from its rim.

My unpaid intern came out on Saturday morning to help me cycle some slops. She loves putting her arms into a bucket of slip up to the elbows, but hates the feel of the clay drying on her skin. (I told her the story of the prof who used to dip his whole head in slip as a class demonstration — Soldner? Clayton Bailey? No idea. — and you should have seen her face. Like I’d just eaten a live bug.) The next day, she helped me pick out more buckets at Lowe’s. I indulge myself with buying clean buckets, and it feels like dying and going to potters’ heaven sometimes. Her mom says she can’t hammer up scraps anymore — stupid asthma — and she’s right. But it’s a shame: that tactile activity, alluring dexterity, cathartic use of manual power to crush, shape, and grind at will. I’ll have to try to come up with some way to replicate it in wet clay, without all the dust.

I did white slip on some of the dozen minus one bowls, Simon via Taylor’s Magical 6 Tile Greenware Flashing Slip on others, black underglaze, too, but less than I wanted… can’t put black underglaze on fucking everything. Left a few bare clay, which feels wrong and naked and like the bad old days of ∆10 reduction. A reduction of what the pots can be; a reduction of myself.

I placed a clay re-order, despite that mass of porcelain still taunting me, to get my credit from Standard off the books before we all forget about it. They were more than decent about making amends for that 300-odd# of #508 with junk in it; unlike that other place. Even though I aggravatingly had to wire-screen it and pick through that shit, it still worked (far as I can tell) and didn’t cause any problems in the fired clay. So 66.6% in credit seems fair to me. After x years of very happily using their clays, this was the first issue of any kind I’d had, so it’s super reassuring to have them treat me right.

And — not in any way a slight to Standard, although one can never be too sure of one’s own motives — I also ordered one box of three different B-Mix type clays from Laguna, to test. That evergreen hope that there’s some new clay out that that will ride in and solve all my problems, give me the fine trappings of my dreams, cradle me in its protective embrace. Yeah, right. “It’s too late for you and your white horse, to catch me now.”

I listened to Simon Levin & Co. on RCR. Ben Whose-Last-Name-I-Shouldn’t-Forget-Oh,-Ha!-It’s-Carter-Guess-My-Brain-Can’t-Handle-Duplicates is doing god’s work. (By which I mean, not that bloodthirsty autocrat from the O.T., but the pottery gods’ work. It might not pay well, but I bet the kiln karma is outstanding.)

I did the bare minimum of straightening and junk sorting to reclaim another shelf of my drying rack for actual pots — still all out of sorts from the big shelf revamp this summer. Shit everywhere. Sawed down the old dorm room door panel so it’d fit in the top frame of my bespoke rolling cart — I mean, so ridiculously over-built and heavy duty that you’d laugh while also churning inside with envy. Maybe now I’ll actually move the banker’s boxes from the spring sale — May! — out of the showroom and back into storage, until next time.

There are few things in clay that make me more content than the sight of a full ware rack of bone dry greenware. Like a pile of seasoned firewood in the shed or a five digit number in savings**, it’s like earned kinetic energy; a huge-ass rock that I rolled up the hill myself. Ready to release it when the time is ripe. Proof that I have been working lately; but nothing yet left to be done to them. A temporary pause in the otherwise-relentless cycle of obligation. Still full of possibility… it’s unlikely, but they could still exceed my expectations. An injection of confidence and ambition when I walk in early to open up the windows or late to drape a board of work in plastic. I HAVE BEEN MAKING POTS. I throw, therefore I am. The luxury of philosophy.

[Aww… that was pretty good! Why do I always doubt myself so badly, those first half dozen paragraphs? A perpetual lack of confidence, that must be re-proven every time, it seems. When will I have my proverbial 1o,ooo hours in? Is that what it takes to be able to just jump in and go for it? Does Wendig still do ten minutes of self-waggling each day? Or is it maybe akin to stretching and warming up; word wedging? You have to believe that this thing before the starting is the starting. Sure, you show your wedging in the final object — for those fans sensitive enough to see it — but nobody buys a ticket to watch the athletes stretch and run wind sprints.]

[OTOH, sometimes my favorite sound in music is the crowded anarchy of an orchestra tuning up. Like watching a bone-wielding paleolithic ape evolve into a sapien doing banking on their iPhone in the span of a couple minutes.]

** Note: I’m full up on firewood, but it has been a long time since I had five digits in the bank. Like: pre-Crash, which now seems like a lifetime ago.

Bam! Bam!

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“The challenge for the functional potter is to achieve personal expression within the limits of an established problem. This is a very difficult and noble task.” – Wayne Higby