sometimes a teacher, always a student

Whenever I take on a new challenge in clay, I’m always humbled by what I don’t know…

After a month long trip through Baja, we returned to California and to two large pieces from my Rock Candy Series that were anxiously awaiting me in the studio. They’d been drying on the shelf the whole time we were gone, so I knew I could get them into a bisque kiln right away- which I did. It was great to just jump right back into the making process without hesitation.

But then they came out of the bisque with the same hairline cracks on the seams that I’d been getting on some of the medium size pieces. I know that they will only get worse in the glaze firing, but I couldn’t help myself and decided to try it out anyways. So I glazed them up and reloaded the kiln with my fingers crossed that the kiln gods just might take pity on me.

Well, the results were worse than I imagined or rather the worst I had ever seen come through my kiln. Ever. The pieces literally fell apart, collapsing, causing huge stress cracks and ultimately made me feel like a complete amateur in clay. How could these tiny hairline crack cause this much damage? And how is it possible that I’ve been working with clay nearly my whole life and I can’t get a few simple large shapes to survive?!?

Maybe I shouldn’t build big, maybe I don’t know what I’m doing, and maybe I’m not good at this. Doubt sneaks in easily in a clay studio where the ongoing mantra is always “this is ceramics, there are no guarantees”. Luckily, my pity party of self doubt didn’t last and the problem solver in me won the mental gameplay. I started looking for solutions.

I asked fellow artists and clay experts for help and now, with their help, I feel like I’ve got ideas of how to be successful at this new challenge. I’ve been a teacher of clay for over twenty years, but I will be a student of clay for a lifetime and I’m so lucky to have a community of experienced fellow clay peeps to keep learning from.

So stay tuned with your fingers crossed for me on this journey because now I’m determined to make these babies come to fruition!

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2 thoughts on “sometimes a teacher, always a student

  1. Hi Jenni, Have you tried paper clay for the big pieces? I’ve only worked with paper clay rolled very thin where it is horribly fragile but rolled thick, it might work. I stopped working with clay about the time you left your Aptos home. And when in Florida, I stopped working with clay about a year later. I decided I needed to find a medium that didn’t rely on studios, lots of equipment, etc. But I still miss working with clay and enjoy your posts. I didn’t get back to CA this summer because of the virus — afraid to hop on a plane. Still in Florida, hoping we dodge the hurricanes.

    So glad the fires didn’t get to SC and destroy your studio/home. Hugs, Linda

    1. Hey Linda!
      I’ve added paper into my slip so that the seams can bond together – they’re still drying, so we’ll see…
      Thanks for all the well wishes, feeling pretty lucky despite the state of the world these days. Would love to catch up with you someday and hope you get your hands in clay again soon!!
      -j

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