Yesterday morning we unloaded the wood kiln. The video guy was there. (Diana is documenting the process of our MFA experience. It felt weird, at first, to have a camera running every Tuesday morning, but after a while it’s easy to forget he’s there.)

It was pretty exciting. I have spent a lot of years trying to make happy accidents in an otherwise pretty predictable electric kiln, and I likely will return to that once I graduate, so the new kilns available to me now are quite a ride.

I have always sighed over wood and salt fired pots, carbon trap and lustery shinos, and other effects I couldn’t produce at home. I half assumed that if I had access to those magical methods, my pots would be glorious too. Eh, not so much. It’s clear that a dorky pot fired in a reduction atmosphere just becomes a dorky pot with an interesting surface.

I didn’t have much in either kiln, though I am happy with two Anatolian-inspired jugs — one with temmoku glaze from the salt kiln, and from the wood, the bulbous form with the handle in the photo above. I left the kiln site feeling like I needed to make more work worthy of the kiln. The labor and judgement calls involved with long firings create a different level of commitment to results than I get from pushing the buttons on my electric kilns.

We’re starting to think in terms of throwing for specific kilns… tall, shouldery things for ash to land on, forms that ask for the pale marks from kiln wadding on the rims and feet, a clay body that will do something spectacular in salt.

We’re running out of semester, which is a little distressing. Wet work for the rest of the class has to be done by thanksgiving, though the grads can keep making stuff for next session.

I like the long quiet Tuesday alone in the studio. I am still grateful for the camraderie of my fellow grad students, but as we all get to know each other, things shift. I find myself driving home worried that Patrick seemed sad… Lonesome for home? Disgusted by the postmodern artist discussed in seminar who gets millions of dollars to climb around naked, squirting vaseline into his orifices? Or just tired, from loading and unloading kilns?

Then Jay was disappointed that his pots didn’t get much ash… I suppose it’s just the beginning of the inevitable jockeying for the sweet spot in the kiln, weighing of who puts in more pots, more shifts stoking, who loads and who decides. Reem seems frustrated and stalled with her work, and Diana has worked herself to exhaustion and needs to take a few days off to recharge her batteries. I find myself worrying over everybody, listening to conversations when I should be paying attention to my work… and I somehow always end up trying to fix things for everybody, mediating, negotiating, counseling. People can just wear you out sometimes, y’know?  Especially the ones you care about. I find myself wishing for the quiet of my own studio space, but once I am home, there are three kids who need my attention, new homeschoolers on the phone with questions, and my own extended family and friends to worry over.

When I am very old, if I find myself alone (women outlive men, generally) — remind me that there was a time when I wondered what I could create if so much of my energy didn’t go to other people. Trying to read moods, cheering folks who are down or seeking my own morale boosts, giving and asking for advice, negotiating egoes and tempers, trying to fix everything and mother the world.

Now, too, there’s the constant play between what I want to make (what DO I want to make?) and the new parameters within which I need to work. Once in a while Diana gets me back on track when my work heads off in too many directions, or reminds me that I need to find “my work” and focus in time for my MFA show… yesterday she said I needed to consider my “life plan”. No pressure.

My biggest job for now is becoming more visually aware. In her last meeting with the MFAs she told the story of the Zen student who studied and worried over his final test. When he came to be tested, there was only one question: “On which side of the door did you leave your shoes?”

Being aware of the world, the details, is a big challenge for anyone. For a woman with ADD tendencies and a habit of wrapping everything in words, it’s damn near impossible. Add three very verbal children home all day, and a college clay studio full of students as talky as I am, and it seems like a lost cause. I am thinking it would be an interesting homeschool experience to have a day of silence, maybe once a month, and see if it helps us see and be aware. I lived alone from the time I left the college dorms in 1980 until I married in 1990, and I swear I used to have the inner calm to see more fully, in a way I can’t anymore. I used to camp alone in oregon wilderness for a week at a time, not speaking a word. There was a clarity there that I haven’t felt in a long time.

I wouldn’t want to do this grad program without the social connection with other students and profs. In fact, the program would be incomplete without the occasional after class gathering at Side Track, a restaurant/bar in an old building in Depot town where the trains rattle by the big windows. Still, when Jeff left this morning at 5 to drive to Connecticut to deer hunt, I laid awake worrying over everybody’s worries, frustrations and disappointments.  I am not sure how to back up a step and reclaim that energy to put into my work.

With Jeff out of town, I’ll likely stay up late this week in the studio. That quiet place after midnight, I have always had to myself.

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