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identity crit , flat tile, spiders, freedom and responsibility-long

updated wed 19 jul 06


Elizabeth Priddy on sat 15 jul 06

I have been thinking a lot about your conundrum and
this is how it works out for me logicly:

If it would make you change the design to remain pure
to ceramic tradition you are working as a ceramist
making sculpture and you are a ceramic sculptor.

If you would first change the material in order to
accommodate a shift in the vision of the form, then
you are a scultor working with ceramics, or a

I face this in two arenas. I am a chinese brush
painter. I learned on paper and now I paint on paper.
I also know my ceramic pigments well enough to paint
in that manner on clay and also how and what the
limitations affect the painting when it is fired in
different atmospheres. But when I am generating
images on clay, I am still a painter using the same
knowledge of materials base, just an issue of media.

And so when I am making a tile piece, I wear two
distinctly different hats when I am making the final

A lot of potters and others respond strongly to the
"frames" of my paintings. I think I know why. They
are purely a ceramist generation. I was looking for
forms to paint on, had lots of clay and was
uncomfortable calling myself a painter at the time
(and rightly so, I have grown into it over a decade of
practice and learning-no school available, but a
subject that keeps my attention, probably an internal
model of my other education issues). And so the issue
of what shall I paint behind me, I moved onto what
shall I paint on.

Then it is all potter with an organic understanding
and sentiment with regard to clay. On the one hand,
it is the stuff and I am the creator and so I am the
one deciding how it will be. If I wanted to paint on
flat square surface, I would indeed just go ahead and
paint on tile, as is traditional. And I first pursued
that. As Chris Campbell han attest to, I figured out
how to make anything get and stay flat and then it is
just an issue of cutting it square. So the tile fit
behind me and resolved, I started looking at them and
was exceedingly blah about square flat tile. I knew
that I could make all the flat tile I want and that
was sufficient and considered just buying it by the
gross because it is mind-numbingly boring making flat
tile, to me at least.

So I addressed the clay with an open mind to what is a
natural form for it, what happens to its edges when it
is allowed to flow into a flat pattern, would it ever
naturally be found in a perfectly square
configuration. All of these are issues I learned
about and to address regarding my materials in a
graduate level design course called "Patterns in
Nature", probably the best and most useful class I
ever took. It was not an issue of letting the clay
simply be clay or any other flakey attitude that might
accompany that line of thinking, as my mind does not
see reality from that perspective, but rather an issue
of "working within the constraints of allowing for the
natural properties of the clay to determine the
parameters of the pieces final form while maintaining
precisely my needs for painting surface" it may
result in the same bundt cake, but how you get there
is really different and it shows in the work. That is
where the response, "so natural and expressive, the
clay seems so relaxed but the picture is so precise"
comes from. I am letting each element be what it is
first and what I am using second.

which makes me a potter reacting to clay in the
process of making a flat thing to paint on, and to me
clay is not as attractive when forced into a flat
square. That is not a battle I want to fight. But
flat is, as clay will definitely naturally go flat, if
dropped from up high. So it is all about
understanding the limits of the material, not about
"getting in touch with what the clay wants to be", as
clay is inanimate and at best *wants* to "sit quietly
and possibly erode if it is convenient and there is
enough time." But this is an issue of philosophy and
not so much art and is probably irrelevant.

For a hundred bucks and airfare I will gladly come and
solve your warped tile problems in about 15 minutes,
but it is like tap centering as mel well knows, you
can talk about it all day and you still just have to
show them to make them believe what I know is true,
"Drywall is for chumps with too much time on their
hands". And that is a production design issue, even
regarding southern ice porcelain. Drop any clay from
up high enough and onto a flat surface and then leave
it alone until it is past leather hard but not brittle
and it will not warp, up til you heat it hot enough to
melt it structurally, and then it will get even
flatter. It requires planning like: what am I going
to drop this onto and what is the shape of the thing I
am dropping it onto and can I lift it again once it is
dropped or do I need to cut it into tessellating
shapes to make the individual pieces fit together
later and if so when do I cut it (answer: no sooner
than leather hard and with a dissecting needle which
has almost no width)and what could I drop it onto that
will leave me the texture I want or the resulting
internal recessed square that I want and what will
happen to the edges if I do this...

The short answer is to drop it from up high and the
rest might take the rest of the weekend to convey the
information - which I can do, but it would cost you
dinner as well.

All in all, and back to the subject:

I think you are a Sculptor working with clay, as I
think it does not "bother you" to change the material
to suit the design. And if it were reversed, that you
would change the design before you would change
material, then you would be a Ceramist working with
sculptural forms.

Snail addressed this much more eloquently and much
more universally. But this is how I have dealt with
your dilemma in my life.

And when asked, since I work in many media and paint
as well as sculpt as well as pot as well as handbuild
as well as teach, I inow say that I am an Artist
working with any suitable media to get the ideation

Sort of like that "Git 'er done" guy only really

I hope I made you laugh and also helped you realize
that it doesn't matter escept in what you write on the
form, as in the end you are expansive and are many
things at once and at all times. This is a bit of
bhuddist philosophy that I did not understand until I
became a mother and had to reconcile my internal
existential angst because I had to have an answer
ready for when he asks these questions. That and the
ability to kill anything including spiders that might
harm him with my bare hands in an instant.

Which brings me back to the Patterns in Nature class
and a story to demonstrate that people are who they
are and don't really change much past age 20 or so.
We were to bring in an example of quality and specific
design from our lives and of course one of the black
haired design students in the class brings her shock
value pet, a tarantula, to the class and want sus all
to let it crawl on us to really experience the way the
legs work.
[Well I had a spider'nest emerge in the window next to
head of my bed when I was about 10 and woke to find
about azillion spiders crawling on my face and body
and thusly do not like spiders. My therapist says
that is ok, they are an acceptable phobia considering
the circumstances (which was cool until it occurred to
me that someday my young child might be frightened of
a spider and I might not have a newspaper an then
what? so I can kill them with bare hands now although
it is still really gross whent hey squish, although
somehow very satisfying).]

So she's passing this thing along and as it is coming
my way I am in a near panic and I ask the Professor if
I might make a note about large spiders. He says go
ahead and I say something to this effect "the larger
the spider, the more the exoskeleton looses its
capacity to hold up its own body weight, which is
largely water. So what happens to a spider when it is
flung against a wall really hard is that it goes splat
and the larger the spider, the less likely it is to
survive the splat. I know this because I researched
it in an attempt to conquer my fear of spiders. But
it did not take. You know a lot of people have a fear
of spiders and most people have poor impulse control
with respect to fear reactions."

She quickly took her shock value pet and put it back
in it's opaque box, which she had brought it in to
increase the shock value when she brought it out, as a
hermit crab carrier would have allowed us to see its
legs work and not had us have a large hairy tarantula
crawling on us and giving us all the willies.

So the point of that story is that the world may
change, but I rarely do. At least not with regard to
the essentials.

Was I the asshole in that situation, spoiling her
fun...maybe. Or perhaps I was being really nice and
letting her know that I did not "want" to kill her
pet, but that I probably would if it got any closer to
me, as I was about to hyperventilate and was sweating
already. What I hope she learned that day is not to
f47k with people just to entertain yourself unless you
are willing to deal with the consequences if you push
the wrong button. And I think I was nice about it
considering the circumstances.

Today, I would have simply said, "If you get that
thing within two feet of me, I will kill it." And I
would no longer feel the need to explain. I just am
old and have decided that I own a two foot window
around my person and anyone or anything coming inside
that box is playing by my rules. Probably another
useful lesson to pass on to the boy, but not till I
get done hugging and squeezing him whenever I like.

Motherhood does have its privelidges

Elizabeth Priddy

Beaufort, NC - USA

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Kathy Forer on tue 18 jul 06

On Jul 15, 2006, at 6:09 AM, Elizabeth Priddy wrote:

> I hope I made you laugh and also helped you realize
> that it doesn't matter escept in what you write on the
> form, as in the end you are expansive and are many
> things at once and at all times. This is a bit of
> bhuddist philosophy that I did not understand until I
> became a mother and had to reconcile my internal
> existential angst because I had to have an answer
> ready for when he asks these questions. That and the
> ability to kill anything including spiders that might
> harm him with my bare hands in an instant.

It appear to matter a lot!

A friend who was here typing on the desktop computer (I was on the
portable five yards away) asked me how to spell Buddhism, was it with
an "h" or without, at the very moment I read your comment and had
noted the different spelling. Well, I was ready to fall over!

The Buddha may be a spider, expansive and all-encompassing.