I was particularly taken by this method of teaching by Toshiko Takaezu, one of the potters in Clairan’s last post. In her comment Margaret provided a YouTube link to a fascinating film on the potter, and 3m30 in she is shown teaching a class and saying that at this stage they will be much freer in their interaction with the clay and shaping it if they know that whatever they do will be destroyed.
This somehow rang true with me. From the other end, so to speak, I often think about the piles of stuff I have made which still clutter up so much space (not to mention how much landfill I am still creating and will leave behind!). This thought of course runs in parallel with the compulsion to keep exploring ideas and to make them manifest – and the glorious learning spiral which takes something made in the past, deemed good at the time, but which had not reached its full potential until coupled with an idea in the present (see my blog post of 14 April). Perhaps if we deliberately destroyed more at the beginning of our journey into manifest self-expression, we would be able to articulate more eloquently and perhaps less indiscriminately prolifically later.
Too often perhaps we expect immediate success. This ties in with Margaret’s post on RCC: Everybody wants to get it done quickly, and my own blog post on the paper cutting day I attended last summer. If we knew that at the end of a workshop we were to destroy anything we had made, would that not help us to concentrate more, concentrate better, and perhaps also discriminate better as to the quality of the workshop. I always have a notebook for workshops, and the best teachers I have encountered have led not only to the best notes, but also to the fullest memory of the experience – and generally to very little in the way of ‘product’. Now it is true that I never expect to come away with a completed or almost completed anything from a workshop, and neither do I expect actually to come away with an idea for a specific piece of work. I believe that to be serious about discovering one’s own voice, all the input has to go into the pot but that the soup should be one’s own mix. We all use an overlapping range of ingredients, but it is how we use them and what our results are that should be critical.
Perhaps our critical judgement might well be more finely honed if we knew that we had to destroy what we made for a certain period of our learning/experimentation. This probably seems contradictory, but I wonder if freeing ourselves to throw away whatever results from exploration and discovery for a certain while – rather than feeling obliged to make it into something ‘finished’– and instead noting avenues for further exploration might lead to greater discrimination especially in the quality of the thinking about making.
I look forward to reading your comments, and hope that discussion ensues.
No specific illustrations seem appropriate for this post, so, I thought I would share with you one of the paintings in the National Gallery of Scotland with which I spent much time during my university days: A Lady in Grey (The artist’s daughter, later Mrs Wiseman) by Daniel Macnee 1859.