“The advice I like to give young artists, or really anybody who’ll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself. Things occur to you. If you’re sitting around trying to dream up a great art idea, you can sit there a long time before anything happens. But if you just get to work, something will occur to you and something else will occur to you and something else that you reject will push you in another direction. Inspiration is absolutely unnecessary and somehow deceptive. You feel like you need this great idea before you can get down to work, and I find that’s almost never the case.” – Chuck Close
I recently ran across the above quote from Chuck Close a few weeks back and it absolutely describes my work process. Yes, there are times when I get inspired by things outside of my work process, but when it comes to the actual translation? The actual piece I create to convey my idea? It is absolutely always found through the act of making.
As I sit back and look at all of the plates I created this past month for a show, I realize that so much of what was created was born out of all of the months of making that came before them.
Take these plates shown above, all of them have shoe prints. In fact, a good five or six plates from this most recent group have shoe prints … most of them my shoe. Using the textures found on the bottom of shoes started for me years ago when I first came across the work of Jim and Nan McKinnell. They used shoe prints for texture and I had all of my students making “tramp” pots of we called them.
I’ve made shoe print based work off and on over the years and in January installed a show of plates with all of them based on collected shoe prints. Its actually one of my favorite ways to work when I can start from a place completely out of my control. I have no idea what people’s shoes look like before they step on the clay. I have no idea how they’ll step.
Here I am creating plates and patterns, because I do now have a specific pattern for my own shoe, very intentionally from shoes in the studio.
Then there are the plates like these three above that feature tire tracks, bottle cap stripes and pinstripe lines just like so many of my planters. I felt during the making process for so many of these plates that I was often drawn back to many of the textures I used on my planters. I might have used them in slightly different ways. They might be combined and mixed with my past favorite patterns.
Or these plates that are definitely a throw back to my series inspired by watch gears from last year. All of my plates for that series were round to echo the circular nature of gears, but I find I like the off-center slices of these texture patterns. We never quite see the whole thing and are left to wonder what we might be missing.
Its so interesting to be able to look back and see how your past work has influenced your current work. I can tell you that its not even intentional. When I’m creating, its only in rare cases that I specifically work a texture design into a new piece. More often, its a melding, a remixing of old and new. Each time I work with clay whether its as a demo for one of my classes or creating my own work a mental sketch book page gets added for future use.