Life is a matter of being an artist and doing your art. For some, that art involves using clay. For others words, for others the tools of liturgy or cooking or counseling or parenting. For some, their art is in aging into a good death; and while I can see the leaves blowing in the late summer wind, I am aware that my own life is coming to a close in the next few decades. For others, their art is their wit or their humor, their weaving of phrase or of a story or of an explanation. I know one person whose art is dirt. They move it from one place to another, charging both clients- the one for removal and the other for delivery. Brilliant! Graceful! Go!
When I approach my pottery wheel, I have a small ritual. I have a different one when lighting the kiln.
When I approach my wheel, I take off my shoes and bow. My bow includes God but it is not entirely to God. My bow is a half bow. It is slight and it is fast. And since I very rarely allow anyone in my studio when I am throwing, it goes unseen. And yet, were someone there, it would still probably go unseen. It is fast. It is slight. It is almost in motion. It honors the edgy creativity which pushes boundaries.
My bow comes from my mentor Shoji Hamada. He taught that a potter must always respect the art. Bow. With your body. Honor your limitations. Celebrate your ability to move. Learn and then learn more. And make pots. Lots and lots of pots.
In the past few days, I have emerged from the first pottery block (the inability to touch clay) in 35 years of throwing pots. A friend helped me. He came over and made pots with me. It was all I needed. That, and a reason to make art – to make pots.
We all must find our art. For me it is friendship, teaching, writing, fundraising, and pottery. For others it is other things.
The important thing is to fly, soar, experiment, do new things. Make trouble! Do new things. Break rules, annoy anyone who demands you color inside the lines – anyone who says the apple must be only red. Draw your apple. And make it blue, purple, white. Not to annoy them. To make a new thing and test it out.
Godin reminds me that only half the Icarus myth was a warning against flying too close to the sun. The other was a warning against flying too close to the sea.
Seth Godin, The Icarus Deception