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Category: Ginger’s Musings

Burned Toast Thinking

There is a story out there about mothers eating the burned toast so that their family has good toast. It’s become a metaphor of sorts for putting yourself last. For not feeling that you deserve something better. I’m not going to get into the whys of this. I suppose some of it is the way our societal roles were modeled by our parents. And it’s only natural that we want the best for our children when resources are limited. And it’s not just parenting. We’ve all done without things so that someone we love can have something nice, even if it’s just toast. But I want to suggest that we might still be doing this unconsciously, out of habit. Even when it’s no longer necessary. Even when there’s no good reason. Yesterday, I donated all my plastic drawer units to Habitat for Humanity ReStore. Those drawers were a godsend when I found them at a garage sale many years ago. With three kids and a tiny house, I was working out of my bedroom and space was a premium. With both of us out of work at the time, money was also a premium. Those drawer units came at a perfect time in my life and served me very well! But even when I could afford better, and as my storage needs expanded, I bought more plastic drawer units. And then I bought cheap particle board bookcases to put them into. Soon, my studio was a hodge-podge mess of plastic

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We’re not trained to talk about art

In a recent thread in the Community Forum, Phyllis Cahill and I went down a rabbit hole about illustrator N.C. Wyeth and how he treats light and value. I started that thread because watching the documentary “Wyeth” sparked much conversation here at home and hours of thought as I considered the paintings and what was/is unique and significant about these paintings and body of work. I could geek out about this for hours, and not just about the Wyeths. Don’t get me started on Edward Hopper. 🙂 That little foray got me thinking about how we talk about art. Not just “fine art”, but our own art, too. I think most of us appreciate fine art and do enjoy a wander through a museum. But I think that our appreciation of art tends to focus on our enjoyment of the emotion or the decorative aspects of the art. Do we know how to talk about…do we even have the words to discuss…the deeper layers of the way light, value, narrative, historical influences, allegory, trends, etc. affect us? And when we don’t have words to discuss them, and therefore the inability to compare impressions with others, do we even see them? I don’t want to start a rant about our education systems. But my goodness, why didn’t we learn this in school? I had an excellent art education as part of my regular education, so I consider myself blessed. Plus my mother made sure I was immersed in this stuff (more

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Where does this come from?

Humans are complex. We often feel more than one way about things and have conflicting voices in our heads. It’s normal and common to have little idea why we feel the way we do about things and self-introspection can be a difficult process. I got my finished pottery pieces from the kiln today. I excitedly inspected each one, hoping I’d like it. For the self-critical perfectionist like myself, pottery gives a lot of opportunity for self-flagellation. There’s the throwing, the trimming, the glazing, and the overall design choices. With pottery, the glaze firing step always has an element of randomness to it, as well, adding to the chances for things to go awry. I didn’t like any of them. Sure, I was pleased with how well I did in a beginner class. I put in many hours of practice sessions, so my skills advanced rapidly. It’s great work, for a beginner. And really, what more could I expect? I AM A BEGINNER! But I wanted a piece to love. I wanted the seas to part and magic to happen. I wanted all of the pieces to be worthy of using in our home, giving as gifts, or displaying as art. Somehow, looking at all those average beginner pieces made me feel naughty. It somehow felt self-indulgent to spend the time, money, resources, and space to make things that aren’t “good”, (whatever that is). Things that are nothing more than a “report card” for how well I did in the beginner

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Material vs Medium

Lately, I have fallen in love with the material of polymer clay. That seems like a funny thing to say, especially since I’ve been working with this stuff since 2001. And what do I mean by material? Isn’t that the same thing as a medium? Well, yes and no. Let me explain. Medium. It’s a word that means “the middle one”. Not large and not small. But there’s also another meaning of medium. Here are the definitions from • an intervening substance, as air, through which a force acts or an effect is produced. • the element that is the natural habitat of an organism. • surrounding objects, conditions, or influences; environment. • an intervening agency, means, or instrument by which something is conveyed or accomplished: Words are a medium of expression. • one of the means or channels of general communication, information, or entertainment in society, as newspapers, radio, or television. • Biology. the substance in which specimens are displayed or preserved. • Bacteriology. a liquid or solidified nutrient material suitable for the cultivation of microorganisms. • a person through whom the spirits of the dead are alleged to be able to contact the living. • Fine Arts. Painting. a liquid with which pigments are mixed. • the material or technique with which an artist works: the medium of watercolor. What all those definitions have in common is that a medium is a carrier of the important thing. You could also say that a medium is the carrier

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Asymmetrical Growth

My daughter is the one who prompted me to take a beginning pottery class. She took two semesters of ceramics at university and is taking the intermediate class at the local craft studio. We’ve been enjoying practicing together during open studio time. One day we were discussing our frustrations with throwing pots. I mentioned a recent epiphany that I’d had about pulling up the walls and she had no idea what I was talking about. She had not yet had that epiphany. And she mentioned something that she had recently realized but I had no idea what she was talking about. I hadn’t yet encountered that understanding. Here we were, two different people with vastly different experience levels with pottery, and we each knew things the other didn’t know. You’d think that growth is linear. First you learn step one, then two, then three. But in real life, it doesn’t usually work this way. We might figure out an advanced step when we’re still really loose on the beginning skills. I think this asymmetry is particularly common in the arts because we grow on both technical and psycho-emotional levels. What does this mean for us? It means we can learn SO MUCH from each other. As we’ve found out in our Studio Drop-Ins, pros and newbies learn together, each adding bits and pieces to the other’s experience. Just as it’s foolish to assume that you know it all, it’s also foolish to assume that you know nothing and have nothing

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First, learn your craft

Because it’s been Thanksgiving break, we didn’t have pottery class this week. But there’s a code for the door, so I can go in anytime I want to practice. I’ve spent a lot of time in the pottery studio, trying to figure out how to make my hands throw pots. I’m not very good. Yet. But I am seeing progress. One thing I’ve really enjoyed is the lack of pressure to know what I’m making. At this stage in learning to wheel-throw pottery, the objective is to “pull a cylinder”. In other words, you just practice (over and over) the act of centering the ball of clay, making a hole in the center, and pulling the sides up into a cylinder. Once you can do that effectively, then you can start intentionally shaping the cylinder into a vase, bowl, mug, or cup. Most of the time, however, beginners have no idea what the clay will become because we have so little competence to intentionally create a specific form. When the cylinder becomes off-center or wonky it gets turned into “something”. Lots of stumpy, fat cups at this point. 🙂 I think this type of non-specific practice is imperative. This is how we develop the medium-specific skills that are necessary when it’s time to be intentional about WHAT we want to create. I think polymer artists set themselves up for failure by assuming they should lead with design. Design, color, composition, and the intense process of idea generation are separate skills

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Learning Something New

My younger daughter learned that a local art center was offering pottery classes that included open studio sessions. She thought it would be fun for us to have “mother-daughter time”. And when your 22 year old kid says something like this…you do it! So after not touching a wheel for 35 years (and having a bad time of it then), I walked into a class of strangers and got started. Doing something new like this has sparked a whole bunch of thoughts that I want to share with you, so I’ll probably be riffing on this for a while. Here’s the first thing I learned on day one. Because I’m already an experienced polymer artist, I know how to use my hands. My eye-hand coordination is good, so it seems like I’d be able to just switch to pottery and be off and running. Ahem. Well. Turns out it doesn’t work like that. You see, I don’t have any trouble telling my hands what to do. I can control them. I am strong enough to wedge the clay. I can hold my hands steady. I’m used to feeling a material move under my fingers. But I had NO IDEA what to tell my hands to do. Sure, I watched the teacher do her demo. And then I put my hands on the clay and was lost. Totally lost. I asked questions, of course, not sure that I was doing it right. The teacher said to just keep going. Ugh. I

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Are you Resistant to Learning?

We all have previous knowledge, expectations, experience, and assumptions. Sometimes those concepts form a basis for further exploration and learning. (My mom is famous in our family for saying that children are busy installing hooks in their minds that they’ll spend the rest of their life hanging knowledge onto.) But sometimes our background can become an impediment to learning new things. Sometimes we don’t hear what’s being said to us because of what’s going on in our own mind. Other times we think we already know about a topic and only pay attention to the parts that affirm what we already believe to be true. I often encounter students who will make an initial assumption about what they think I’m saying and they stop absorbing at that point. From a teacher’s viewpoint, it’s quite frustrating to watch happen! When you’re learning from someone, are you listening? Do you really, truly, fully consider what they’re saying? Are the “hooks” in your mind open and ready to gain new layers of understanding? Jumping to conclusions, making assumptions, and some students’ compulsion to teach the teacher are some of the most frustrating impediments that a teacher faces.

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Miserable is an Option

I remember watching “Auntie Mame” when I was a kid and vowed that I wanted to be like her. I recently re-watched this campy (and a bit improper) 1950’s classic and found it to be just as delightful and inspiring as when I was 12. Mame’s philosophy of life can be summed up in a single phrase. Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death! Miserable is an Option You see, life is multiple choice. We have choices every day. Every minute. And “miserable” is an option you’re not required to choose. “Gee, that’s great in theory, Ginger, but life doesn’t work that way. Miserable things happen.” Of course they do. Nobody ever said this life is going to be easy. We ALL have our challenges. Every single one of us. And no matter our situation, we’re all miserable from time to time. Every life has constraints. Money, health, disability, responsibilities, and opportunities can hold us back. I guarantee you that young, fit, wealthy, funny Elon Musk has his crappy days. He’s human. It’s part of the contract. It’s all too easy to get into the mindset that happiness is something that happens when the roadblocks are removed. But…you guessed it…the roadblocks will just keep coming. Clear one, another one comes bumbling into your life like a flaming sack of poop. This might come as news (especially if you’re young), but you will NEVER get a clear path. Get used to it. But rather than letting

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My husband and I just got back from an overnight backpacking trip into the Devil’s Backbone Wilderness in southern Missouri. We enjoyed each other’s company, but I can’t say that the trip itself was particularly pleasant. Hiking in the Ozarks shows you that the universe really is held together with spider webs and stick-tights. Add in some heat, sprinkle with sweat, a lot of bugs, and dust the whole thing with vigilance for the ever-present possibility of copperheads and timber rattlers and you have a fun (!!) experience. To top it all off, I sat in a nest of seed ticks and woke in the night with a flat sleeping pad. As we hiked up the hill to go home, visions of an ice-cold spicy margarita in my head, the heat (and sweat and bugs) got to be a bit much. Light-headed, I dropped my pack and plopped to the ground, whining that it was too haaaard. “How much longer?” I asked my amused and patient husband. He replied, “A mile. Twenty minutes. Longer if you keep stopping like this.” So I pulled myself together, got up, and kept going. Twenty minutes later, I was sitting in the air conditioned car, wiping off with baby wipes, and already changed into fresh clothes. Bliss. I could have avoided the whole thing if I’d stayed home, of course. Nobody likes being uncomfortable. But it’s a funny thing about discomfort. We fear it and work really hard to avoid it. Sometimes, going to

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