“I don’t expect to be treated like a fool no more; I don’t expect to sleep through the night.” – Paul Simon

Maybe if I believe it enough, I can turn into a Raven and fly away from here. Maybe.

I dunno.

You dreamed I tried to set you up, then brought me jelly doughnuts and whiskey. That is one strange quid pro quo, my friend. I mean — we know some very nice, currently-single women, who might even be able to see past the whole potter thing… but I still can’t figure out where the whiskey fits in.

Anyways, I started reading a book about writing and it encouraged me to go weirder and more brutally honest, so I am. But on second thought, I think it meant to do that for first drafts, not last ones. Oh well.


{Are they gone yet?}


"Why deny the obvious child?"

A post shared by Scott Cooper (@stearth) on

So: last porcelain season, I was riffing on black brushwork and stumbled onto this sequence of plusses or — it occurred to me later — crosses. Scattered in that one-two offset that I like so much for filling up space. I’ve tried a straight grid, swiss-cheese randomness, other types of staggering or sequencing, but I keep coming back to this one. It just feels right; “natural”. Back forth. Day night. In out. Up down. The dialectic bloppity hoo. You know how it is: the cliches that ain’t true don’t last long.

Then that layer of intent got wonderfully washed out and blurred by that flowing honey lava in the kiln, winding its way along fingertip banding twisted horizontally into kaolin rows, rolling off and then pooling on texture and transitions like water over smoothed rocks in a summer streambed.

The glaze and salt vapors take my idea and my work — a few particular minutes with brush in hand, going down the rows, left right, left right, repeat {trying to remember to leave a hole at the end, for the spirit to get out… trap ‘em in there and it’s just asking for trouble} — and tweak it, bend it, run it like a simulation of the multiverse, or a genetic mutation bumping up against the bounds of physics and randomness. Lots of goodness to explore, there.

Anyways, yeah. “Crosses”. It gets me thinking about the perils of trying to evolve a personal iconography. Anything I come up with that isn’t simply a rehash of known tropes is more likely to clash with the larger cultural iconography than to dovetail with it. (Which gives some explanation to the pervasiveness of birds, flowers, vines and faces; or, several rungs down the kitsch ladder, peace signs, hearts, smileys and hashtags.)

My best unAmerican reader reminded me that the word “cross” meant intersecting lines long before the Romans got ahold of it. Like “cross it out” or “cross your fingers”. So I see the symbol for a math(s) operation, or simple intersecting lines, like the first marks made in charcoal on ancestral cave walls, but you might see Calvary and serious portent. Or commentary. Or, even worse, “Content.”

And look — what you or Bob or Susan might see in it is not my responsibility. I mean, I can’t account for everything. But while it’d be super easy for me to just ignore those possible, unintended interpretations, it seems obvious (and undeniable) that I’ll make better pots if I at least consider them. I can at least try not to miscommunicate.

Just as I aim to take ownership for Every Little Detail of Every Single Pot, I should try to own, to the extent I can, what these surface marks say to people, and why. Especially when it comes to symbols, icons, glyphs — or even stray marks that could be seen as such. The average person can’t “read” the curve of a handle or the thickness of a rim or the texture of a glaze worth a damn. (My customers can, of course, because they are uncommonly awesome; I mean those other people.) But they know a cross or a letter P or a #7 when they see one. Nobody wants to wake up some morning and realize that the “starburst” symbol they’ve been painting for years looks like a swastika to half the people in Europe, and like the glyph for “donkey” to half the people in India.

So, here in the American “Heartland”, these considerations have me looking over my shoulder, but I try not to let them stop me. Smart to consider; dumb to get stuck on. Find a way to make it yours. You want plus signs? Do a thousand plus signs; a million. Your sensibility will bleed into them eventually. Own it by putting in the reps. While you’re at it, find a way to allow for an alternate or even contrary interpretation that doesn’t kill your intent. And then, in the end, accept a certain amount of fuzziness to human issues, and surrender to the fact that taking these risks is required, if you want to do or say or make anything and put it out into the world. You do what you can; not what you can’t.

No matter what I do, someone will interpret these as capital-C Crosses, and therefore freighted with religious meaning. Why are you distorting a holy symbol? I love how you got the real message of peace and salvation into your work! And then we’re off to the races. Unintended messages = unintended consequences. Fortunately, to date, those consequences mostly mean weathering this sort of embarrassment with a stoic grin and a friendly-yet-non-commital nod; I’ve endured worse. But you never know. In the Instagram era, anything could happen, and probably not for the better.

“Sonny wanders beyond his interior walls, runs his hands through his thinning brown hair…”