My formal ceramics training is sparse. I don't have a degree in fine arts, although I did get introduced to the medium during three classes I took during college. In addition to those three semesters, I have a ton of independent studio classes under my belt. I like to think I have a decent foundation on which to work with clay as a medium.
I've learned. Everyday I learn new things about working in clay.
Sometimes these lessons come from my own experimental nature ... I wonder what would happen if I do this. Now I have a new foot for some of my bowls that is the envy of others in the studio. I've already been asked if they could do something similar. Hmmm ... wonder if I could get royalties out of that?
Sometimes they come from a passerby in the studio watching me work. The questions, "I thought you have to cut the bottom a little bigger when hand building?" "Nope, you don't." I tell an amazed student who you know always secretly knew it was true all the while realizing that it certainly is better to cut it bigger for certain forms.
Sometimes they come about from someone who works in clay with even less formal training than me. A fellow studio member, who is basically self-taught, mentioned to me one day that the bowl design they were working on that day was great to use up scraps.
I didn't say anything out loud, but scraps? I looked and she had a whole collection of partial slab pieces in various sizes and shapes waiting to be used. Just as I was wondering why she doesn't just wedge them, she asked me, "What do you do with your scraps?" I replied, "I wedge them together." "Oh, I don't know how to wedge," she replied.
It was, I've got to admit, a really thought provoking conversation. In both of our minds, the obvious solution to the same problem was so radically different and yet, really, neither solution was wrong. Why couldn't she approach the problem of scraps by creating something completely different and unique? Why couldn't she use the opportunity to try out a different idea? Test a few glazes? To create a piece for fun?
Recently, I received some clay samples to try out. The clay samples were, to be blunt, small. There wasn't much I could do with them. I decided to make some hearts, little decorative ornaments, out of samples, but as I cut out wonky and fun shaped hearts I found myself with these scraps of clay. Too small to re-wedge, too small at this point to do anything with I thought. Then I remembered.
I started adding them in crazy patterns to the hearts. Some of the designs are definitely abstract, but some I like to think look like faces. I have always made hearts or pendants when I wanted to take a little break from my more involved pieces, but these made with scraps hearts I think just might be my favorites.