TOP 10! - A Year in Review - "365 Days of Clay Cups"

As I'm getting ready for my very first gallery show with the "365 Days of Clay Cups" and creating an Artist Statement, I've taken some time to absorb this past year. At the end of the project I posted the TOP 10 things I learned and thought I'd re-share them with you. It may be quite a long read, but it sure helped me wrap my head around what I gleaned from the 1 year journey :)

Hope you enjoy  
 ~ Tammy Jo ~
#1 Accountability & Accomplishment -- I couldn't do it alone!

This was a team effort!!! I got asked the other day what made me decide to post videos on YouTube. Well, the two things I needed most to become a proficient potter would be satisfied by a project of this kind. There was instructional critiques and repetitious accountability.

Attending classes wasn't possible, so this was my solution to a simulated classroom setting. On YouTube there were people who knew what they were doing when it came to pottery (I know because I'd watch their videos before the project) and hoped there would be other people that I could communicate with that loved pottery as much as I did. There was also the "kick me in the backside" effect I needed to get motivated because others were expecting me to keep my word.

The gratitude I feel is tremendous because of all the support, assistance and encouragement I've received from different people throughout the year. Every single one of you has been perfectly timed to spur me on another day, and hopefully I've been able to contribute and give something back. It almost feels like a lopsided trade...what can I do to reciprocate all that I've been given.

From day one I told myself that I’d publish videos and if I'm only talking to myself it would be fine, there was something in me that needed to finish to just prove to myself that I could!

This is the 1st New Year’s Resolution that I have thought about every day and actually accomplished! Everyone needs to try it, it's rather liberating!

#2 Setting Goals & Making Adjustments
When I first started this project, I had a general plan on how I thought I could accomplish the task of creating 365 Days of Clay Cups...the grandeur task of making 1 cup per day for an entire year.

I did some pretty crazy stuff at the beginning to keep my word and hit this goal! Since this is my hobby and not my livelihood, I had other responsibilities that had to come first. This meant I'd be out in my freezing cold, wet shop at 11:45 at night, just so I could throw my 1 cup.

In March 2011 I had an unexpected emergency room visit that changed everything. People could say, "She didn't meet her goal of throwing 1 cup a day like she stated in the beginning". This is true, I didn't throw one cup a day, but adjusted the goal to throw 1 cup for everyday of the year. I COULD have given up on my goal because I had to miss some days of throwing, but I'm a firm believer our lives (like this project) are full of little adjustments to reach an ultimate goal. It's just like trying to drive your car straight without making mini adjustments in your steering, if you aren’t open to these adjustments you'll drive off the road!

My ultimate goal was to become a better, proficient potter, and all that entailed. In doing so I made a little adjustment, which led me to think more clearly about the other processes in my workshop and how to streamline them. As I became more proficient I also wanted to become more efficient, which was another dimension to the project I didn't anticipate.

I believe I've met my goal, the ultimate goal, and there is no way I could have done it without the help and support of you all...but that is for tomorrows #1!

 #3 -- Open Minded Pottery -- Lessons from my son.
As some of you know I’ve been home educating my 4 children, up until high school and they off they go! My youngest son has an incredibly creative streak for inventing, science and architecture and has an above average intelligence for his age. He also has a learning disability called Pragmatic Language Impairment (PLI) (basically it's form of autism where there are challenges with the semantic aspect of language which is the meaning of what is being said...and how to formulate responses).

The bottom-line -- He learns best by reading words instead of hearing them! 

His challenges and amazing accomplishments have proven to me that there is more than one way to learn and to be open minded to different ways in accomplishing a task.

"Open minded pottery"...means it really doesn't matter whether someone is a 3rd generation potter, university graduate or a YouTube watching enthusiast; EVERYONE has something to contribute from their level of experience. With that contribution, we should all respect the differences. If someone makes amazing work all alone in their garage, without the respected educational background, it doesn't change the amazing-ness of their work!  Potters don't always take the same path, each path has its value in the whole scheme of learning and growing in clay and the joy of experiencing it!

Thank you my son, you are a wonderful blessing~ Love Mom :)

#4 - 2% Technique & 98% Opinion = ART
"What's beautiful to me may not be beautiful to you!" That is the "beauty" of variety in creating art!

This concept took me sometime to realize. The whole idea of art is to express YOURSELF not forever focusing on how it's accomplished! There are specific laws, if you will, on creating good form and function, yet not every piece  will conform to that idea. This project has given me skills to use so I may begin creating with clay the images/impressions/concepts that make my heart sing. Will people love every piece?..nope... When I look back on all of these cups, do I love every cup?...nope. But I've learned that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and that excites me! It opens up so many avenues of discussion and education. To know that people can be free to share their artwork, whether anyone else likes it or not, it is a wonderful gift!

 #5 Disasters Can Be Delightful!
Never give up hope! There is a side of me that really enjoys making something out of a possible nothing. I have to say that some of my most favorite cups are the ones I should have (at some point) thrown into the recycle bin! Working with these cups some how made me feel more free to create...and that's what it's all about for me!

#6 Repetition is a GOOD thing!
Knowing thyself! Against my nature of disliking anything monotonous,I chose to throw 365 different cups. In retrospect, it would have been easier if I had just decided to repeat the same cup over and over. I would probably have become more proficient more quickly, and quite possibly even progressed farther than I have come today by doing so. The challenge I was also trying to conquer was maintaining momentum for 365 Days. I'm glad I chose the path I did, I MADE IT TO THE END, yet after the project is over I'll probably be making more sets and practicing duplication, as I honestly believe this would be much more efficient road to progress!

#7. "Enough is as Good as a Feast"
My favorite Mary Poppin's phrase that in some ways has become my own personal mantra! The concept of "enough" was something I pondered on with each and every cup and video! Have I trimmed "enough" or when I'm decorating or adorning is it a feast or too much? Being satisfied with what's been done is still a very difficult thing for me, because I can always see ways to fix it or add more... but I realize... More is not always better...sometimes is just "more".

#8. Moving from Technique to Creativity
I'm not exactly sure when the switch over happened, but there was a moment in time when the "how" (technique) didn't matter as much as the "why" & "what"(creativity) I was producing. My focus changed! In other words, once I had my basic techniques, "what" I was making began to fill my mind and the gathering or the "how" slowed down. Don't get me wrong, I'm always learning new things and happy to do so, but when I was able to really focus on the creating, the project took on a whole new dimension.

#9. Practice Makes Better - Never don't get hung up on it!
One thing this journey has taught me is that the destination of perfection in pottery is ambiguous. It's ever changing because your skills & perspectives are always growing and changing. Even with all the years of skills, pottery (if they are trying anything new) will fall. Even now, the next few cups (foreshadowing ;) are not the best I've ever made. Why? Because everything hand made is different. Some cups I thought were amazing a few months ago are not so amazing to me today. That's why I love working with clay...there is always the element of surprise!

#10. Find What Techniques Work Best For YOU!
When it came to the basics...I learned not everyone uses the same techniques (and some people can be pretty adamant about the benefits of their own technique). No one technique will fit every person, so I decided on which ones gave me the best results (for me) then practiced them over and over to work towards mastery!