Studio Flood — and a New Beginning

Once again I have fallen far behind in posting here. Earlier this year, I devised a plan to spend the summer focusing on more pit fire experiments, as well as documenting results from last year’s firings and publishing them as new blog posts here. Alas, life had its own priorities and requirements, and as a result I didn’t get to start the first firing of the year until well into the last week of July. But the worst was still to come.

oil on paper from art student days in the 80s

figure 1: oil on paper from my art student days

On the 3rd day of September, disaster struck. The hot water heater in the house attached to my studio building broke, while the tenants were away on a camping trip, and the studio became flooded with 3 to 4 inches of warm standing water. To make a long story short, I spent the rest of September salvaging what could be salvaged, and getting rid of what could not be or were not worth salvaging. In the process of doing so, I found myself getting reaquainted with some old, old artwork from my art student days, dating back to the early 80’s (figure 1, 2, and 3.)

a quick sketch done on a beach in Morocco, 1982

figure 2: a brush and ink sketch of a beach scene

So a big part of my world was suddenly turned upside down. I had originally planned on using most of September, the last of the sunny months here in rainy Seattle, to finish a series of firing experiments; instead, I ended up spending the whole month drying old sketches and old notebooks, and sorting out what to keep and what to throw away.

It turned out, however, that this whole exercise has not been in vain, as having your whole world turned upside down on you can have its hidden benefits, too, once you get past the shock and distress over what you have lost. In my case — well, in this particular case anyway — what I’ve gained is a new perspective on the big picture. So, what is this ‘Art’ thing that I’m doing? Where have I been, and where am I heading? Where do I want to go, and how do I get there from here?

another drawing from the distant past

figure 3: a pencil drawing from the distant past

Now, for those of you who are long time readers of this blog, if you should begin to think that I am about to abandon my dogged experiments with pit firing to refocus myself on ‘art making’, or worse, to leave pottery all together and return to the refined and genteel world of drawing and painting — have no fear, as that’s not what I had in mind at all. :-)

What I did have in mind, though, is to become more conscious of the distinction between art and craft, and to step back, every now and then, from a total involvement with the immediate joy of making and doing, to try and place what I do in the context of something that might fit into the grander scheme of things.

finally studio is ready and better than before!

figure 4: finally studio is ready and better than before!

Alright, enough of this cryptic sophistry — for now it’s nothing but words anyway, so let’s just leave it at that. But what is likely to happen here in a tangible way, in the coming months, is a total revamp of this website.

More specifically, the documentation for each firing, e.g. the planning notes, firing logs, and associated photos and video clips, will all be put online in their original unvarnished form, warts and all — but in an area separate from this rambling blog.

Meanwhile, a different section — again separate from this blog — will contain the latest version of my how-to notes, e.g. for packing fuming materials, or for the firing process itself. Currently they are scattered throughout various blog posts, some from over four years ago, and many contain possibly erroneous or at least obsolete information. Besides, having a separate section for the more carefully researched how-to instructions will allow me to write these blog posts here more freely and spontaneously, too.

Finally, from now on I will try to be more responsive (and more timely so) to the comments left here — and to update the blog with new posts more frequently as well. And, just as the studio itself has been salvaged from, and indeed made better by the flood (figure 4), hopefully this blog and website will likewise gain a new life from now on…

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