The new year began early, for me. Hastily I finished what pieces I could in the studio, mixed batches of clay, packed up the truck to drive to McKinney Texas for a weekend workshop. I was looking forward to it - and as I set out, before dawn, so as to be pretty far down Route 285 by the time the sun started rising, I was also thinking: soon as I get back I need to get to work.
These two things are always distinct for me - teaching, and working. Making work. When you're doing that you're working. When you're teaching - or attending a workshop too, for that matter - when you're learning - you're doing something different. That is a funny distinction to make, but I do it. Despite the fact that often, when you're teaching, demonstrating, you end up making work that you really like. Why is that?
Learning and Labor - this was the motto of the college I went to. There, too, a supposed separation between work and study. The learning part - in that college context - carries the connotation of being passive, sedentary, cerebral. Labor - that part is supposed to make you honest. Adding a physical dimension to the life of the mind, I guess the thinking goes, work helps you 'earn' what you know. Makes your learning stick - makes it authentic.
Maybe that does happen. But the studio has always been an escape, for me, from this artificial distinction - separating the mind and body - and from the academic. For a long time I didn't want to teach at all, and this was the reason. In the studio there are no ideas - just things that need to get done. There is a great freedom in that - even if it is a bit of an illusion.
Teaching & learning take tremendous energy - they are hard work - work on the other hand, so often, is a source of energy - you leave the studio on a day of making work and feel light, the drudgery redeemed. Also when you think about it - the work you make - the best of it - has a lot less to do with the physical, the tangible, the thingness and the labor.
Your best work wafts out of the tangible and into the world of idea - and when you're there at the head of the group, doing some demo you hope students might learn from, your work slides in that direction more easily than ever.