My second Ceramics Monthly Comment, published May 2006. I piddled around with an idea for a third one, but nothing ever came of it, and now they don't publish them anymore. *sigh*
I was surprised to find they printed this as a full page. As it was a fairly short piece, they filled out the layout with the best pull quote ever.
Some day soon, it will happen to you
You’ll be at a dinner party at a friend’s house, or Sunday supper at Mom’s. There’ll be a pregnant pause in the conversation. Coy looks. Someone will say, “Do you remember this?” And with a flourish, it’s there.
The Thing From The Past. The Monster in the Box. The Skeleton In The Cupboard.
Teapots that dribble. Pitchers that gush. Curly plates, leaden bowls, cups from Abstract Expressionist hell.
Meeting old pots can be as embarrassing as meeting old lovers. You know they were special once. You were proud to be seen with them. You may have even loved them. But now you think you can do so much better
“It’s like the horrible museum of my pottery,” says my friend Grace, “all these terrible old things. I’ll say, ‘Mom, don’t use that stuff’ and then she’ll get out this awful plastic and melmac and say, ‘What can I do? You won’t make me any new dishes.’ But I don’t have time
I’m not sure it matters. The Horrible Museum of Your Pots is a historical collection. New acquisitions add to, rather than supplant older exhibits. They’re all still there, waiting for their place in the display rotation.
“Oh God, I just want take it and drop it on the floor and say, ‘Oops, let me make you a new one,’” confides Tom.
I know that
temptation well. I’m only stopped by the sure and certain knowledge that if I do, on my next visit I’ll be confronted by Franken-pot, painstakingly reassembled with Krazy Glue and epoxy putty (possibly even gold leaf, depending on the sophistication of the conservator), a bolt through its figurative neck.
Besides, breaking those old pots smacks of the worst of revisionist history. Embarrassing or not, they’re a fact. Part of our past. A record of our path from pinch to coil to whatever lofty ceramic promontory we occupy now. It never hurts to be reminded of where we came from, nor that someday we may be just as embarrassed by what we’re proud of today. Those who forget the past are condemned to repot it, right?
That’s not to say that breaking pots is wrong. But do it in the now. Reexamine your standards from time to time, remembering that today’s not-quite-second could be tomorrow’s Ghost of Christmas Present Past.
Old pots are a lot like those embarrassing family stories your siblings trot out every Thanksgiving. They sting a little, make you squirm, but they’re part of your shared history. And you can cope with them in much the same way: tell your side of the story. “Oh Lord, that’s when I’d just seen the Bernard Leach cider jug video where he proclaimed the flat rim was the ideal form. I think every potter in Minnesota and western Wisconsin has at least one of those, and none
of them pour...”
Engage the pot, and its owner. Because that piece of clay, embarrassing or not, has done something miraculous. It’s become a treasure, a special part of someone’s life, whether because of a connection to the artist, association with an occasion, or just the day-to-day accumulation of memories that precious things accrue. This is what we’re trying to do every time we set up our booth with our current best work. It’d be a shame to miss a chance to learn more about how that connection happens.
Ultimately, you just have to let go. Pots are like children. You put your best efforts into making them perfect, but then one day they leave home. You may wince a little at their choices, but once they’re a part of someone else’s life, you can’t have them back.
“Actually, I don’t mind seeing my old pots,” says Jon. “It’s my high school poetry
that I never want to see again.”
Hmm, he’s got a point. There was that thing I wrote about my sister’s wedding where I tried to be ee cummings… But I digress.Frank Gosar actually made two flat-rimmed cider jugs in his Wisconsin days. He currently lives and pots in Eugene, Oregon, and tells embarrassing family stories at www.offcenter.biz.