Making Lemonade From Broken Pottery

You know the saying, “When life gives you lemons…” – it’s a saying I try to live by.  I recently read a blog post by a potter who emphatically stated that when she screws up a pot she immediately trashes it, screams, cries, and says a lot of very bad words.  I know the feeling.

Years ago I had the pleasure of hosting Ellen Shankin in my home while she was giving a workshop for our Texas Pottery and Sculpture Guild.  She is a fabulous potter, teacher, and all-around wonderful person.  One of the things she taught was about screwing up a pot you made, especially one you spent a lot of time creating.  She said, don’t throw it away – take a deep breath, then take a second look.  Whether it is while you are throwing, carving a leather hard piece, or unloading a kiln to find a disaster – see what you can learn or where the mistake might take you.


It’s hard! But, every time I mess up, I hear her words and try to obey.  This has led to some really cool new work for me over time.  Once, after spending hours carving a platter, I picked it up carelessly and broke off part of the rim.  Eeek!  I really wanted to throw that thing as far as I could, but Ellen’s words rang in my ears, so I gently put it down and walked away.  Later, when I took a second look, I saw beauty in the broken part and decided to go with it.  Now, those platters with a section of uneven, cut off edge are my best sellers!  So I tried it with bowls.  Who wants a perfectly round bowl or platter when you can have something unique?  My customers love them.

 
 
This platter is a great example.  The cut edge was intentional (lesson learned long ago), but when I took it from the kiln, there was a blob of red glaze on the yellow.  NOT intentional.  After looking at it for a while, I decided to add more red glaze to make the shape of a heart, re-fire it, and title it “For the Love of Horses”.  The customer was thrilled!
 
So, whatever your mistake – in life, in business, in art – stop for a moment, take a deep breath, and see just what you can learn from it. You may discover something wonderful!
 
I’d love to hear from you about mistakes you’ve made and what you learned from them.  Leave your comments below.
 
Yakoke! Thanks for taking the time to read.  You can see more of my work on my website:
 
 
In gratitude,
 
Carolyn Bernard Young
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4 comments to Making Lemonade From Broken Pottery

  • Bram Stolk

    Wow, amazing lessons of life. We were both educated to only accept products meeting the drawing requirements. When defects or deviations were found a QAR had to be written and to become dispositioned as either SCRAP, REWORK, RTV or USE AS IS. Coming back to your Blog pages after all these years I learned that there is a reborne Carolyn Adkisson enjoying the less stressfull life in the countryside as a forever Miss Young nowadays advertising defects can be functionally too.

    I love your Earth to Art work as much as you teached me the Art to Air when I was dispositioning the F-16 QAR’s.

    • Carolyn Young

      Hi Bram – it’s great to hear from you! I’m so glad you see the irony in my new approach to “defects”. Thanks so much for reaching out and I hope you will keep in touch. Take care…Carolyn

  • Suzie McKay

    And that’s a story from a true artist!

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