Concentration

I used to faithfully keep my cell phone out of my studio – bad luck, I thought, but those days are gone. For a long time I made sure there was never a clock in there either – I'd set my watch in sight of the wheel, teaching, then whisk it away.

Recently, unfortunately, I found the perfect spot where a little digital clock can sit, out of the way but conveniently in view. I shouldn't – but I'll probably just keep it there.

Last week I went out to load the kiln – this used to be, for my first five or ten firings, back when I was just starting, a contest of discovering enough work lying around in the studio that I could gather together to comprise a load - these days it's the opposite. Always way more work than will fit in a given firing, and the only contest is not to feel defeated by how much I couldn't find space for.

A kiln fires better when tightly-stacked - when there is little empty space on the shelves - better radiation of heat, slower flame travel through the chamber. But there's a tipping point - more work is better, yes, until there's too much. It's easy to pass this point without noticing. Too tight of a stack and circulation is poor, temperatures are uneven, firing time is protracted, and the glazes - is this just in my mind or is really true? - have a funny, unsettled, look. They seem anxious - like the potter who loaded them.

Things change, and years pass, and studio work evolves, slowly enough in my case that, like with the cell phone & the clock, it would be easy to blithely not notice.

Back at the beginning I used to fire the kiln with a naive, curious, inquiry – on one level I was happy if I could just get the glazes to melt. At all. Now things are more complicated. Which goes to show that some things never change - you gain experience and start having to be productive & efficient - I am so not a fan of those two words - then you're always trying to get back to the beginning, in the studio, and recapture the kind of simple concentration - call it innocence - that you used to have.