A New Head Space

 

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my best distraction…. Sadie La Pup

In my studio each day, I try to focus on my art. I set my intentions for the day. Some days this is harder than others because I can get distracted and have trouble getting started. The distractions are many times in my head. Where do I start? What are my emotions for the day? Where did I end off yesterday? What is on my to do list? When is the next show? And, how many mugs do I need? (Do we really need more mugs in the world?)

But, some days, I have to get out of the emotions and find something to help my brain have a place to land other than the days news, family problems or just planning for another event. So, I have found that I can get into a zone much quicker if I have someone to listen to that will evoke learning about a new topic or give me a different perspective of how the world works.

I have found Podcasts to be very good for doing all of this. And I thought I would share the few that I listen to and why, in case you also need to get into a new head space. Here are the five that I have found to be just the ticket to help me to get through when silence or Pandora is just not enough to soothe.

So, first, Waking Up with Sam Harris. I think that he is about to rename this podcast soon though, to become, Making Sense with Sam Harris. Sam is a neuroscientist, philosopher and best-selling author. He explores important and controversial questions about the human mind, society, and current events. Sam also meditates. I think this is what I most am attracted to this podcast for is because his best selling book Waking Up is about doing meditation without religion. Sam is an atheist but realizes that we can train our minds to have a spirituality that can help with our daily lives. I love that! His podcasts can be very lengthy and the guests have in depth conversations about lots of topics and the perspectives they give are very current and well thought out.

Hidden Brian is a podcast that is sometimes featured on NPR because it is produced by them. Using science and storytelling, Hidden Brain’s host Shankar Vedantam reveals the unconscious patterns that drive human behavior, the biases that shape our choices, and the triggers that direct the course of our relationships. Shankar has covered topics from the opioid crises to becoming the change that you want to see in the world.

I just discovered Every Little Thing. This fun podcast is hosted by Flora Lichtman who used to be on Science Friday with Ira Flatow on NPR. She is just delightful to listen to and has a great sense of humor. I binged on this one several days ago and found myself laughing out loud at the history of pirates and the puns that were in the dialogue. Facts are used as the basis for the stories and experts are brought in to help talk about each topic. I highly recommend this one but, if you are sensitive to language or don’t want children exposed to that use caution, but I guarantee that you will really enjoy the format for this one and the topics are so fun.

TED Radio Hour. This show is a spin off of the TED talk series. This is an actual show that is featured on my NPR station each week but the podcast can be a good way to not have the breaks that the station may put in. If you are not familiar with TED talks, it is also a good learning tool and an effective way to gain insight about how others have solved problems. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design, in case you were wondering. It isn’t from some guy named TED.

The One You Feed is the least favorite of the five suggestions but this one can sometimes be interesting as well.  This show bases it’s premise of meditation, primarily but, using the parable of the Good Wolf, Bad Wolf the show begins by the guest being asked how they use the Good Wolf, Bad Wolf concept in their lives. If you don’t know the parable, you can read it here. Topics on this podcast range from depression to procrastination and why we do it, to some pretty woo woo topics that tend to make me turn to something else but, I have heard some good authors here with some good information too so I haven’t completely given this one up just yet.

In addition to the five podcasts that are my base, I have listened to the lengthy podcast series S-Town and Serial. Both these are incredible and you really get drawn in as if you have someone in the house telling you a story that will capture your attention. And the  weekly NPR show This American Life has shows that run in three Acts, usually with a theme for the week.

So, if silence is too much, the news is worse, family problems can’t be fixed and you need an aversion, check out my options for a lighter mood to your day.

A Week of Handmade Work…

sculptural frog on the rim

Last friday I threw 10 mugs and 5 bowls. 15 pieces. Those pieces took most of that day to make. Over the next 7 days, those 15 pieces were brought to a finished level but only up to a point.

Pottery is a slow process. It is something that I am learning that I need to accept the slowness of the process and be patient. I am getting there but, after being in the corporate world for so long where presses were running at $1000 an hour and you were upstream of those presses, preparing the work so as to not have a mistake stop the presses causing that price to go up for the company or the customer. I have had to slow myself down and have a different set of expectations for how quickly things get made. I don’t have a customer waiting, at least not one that I can see just yet, I also want the work to be the best quality that I can make. There is no point in hurrying if the quality suffers. That is also something that was important in the corporate world. If the press had to wait, it was better to get the work done in the best quality as possible to avoid an additional stoppage or material waste.

My last post was of the trimming process of those items. I wanted to try and show that there are many steps that go into a handmade item. After the trimming was done, the handles were made and with each step the items are packed into a plastic box and wrapped with plastic to avoid them drying out before the next step can be completed. Another reason for the slow drying is to avoid attached pieces from separating from the piece. The moisture content of the handle and the cylinder that it is attached to will even out and putting them into a damp box or under plastic allows the moisture content in the entire piece to become consistent.

The decoration that I have chosen to add to my work is a time consuming process in that I add a white clay body slip over the brown clay and then either draw through that slip or add a stencil that holds the white clay back from the brown clay. Then some color is added and clean up of areas where the clay or color may have bled into an area where I don’t want it. Then I am adding the sculptural frogs and give each one a personality so that each piece is unique.

Handmade items are special. What makes them special is that they aren’t made with a machine, except for the wheel, and are given the attention that sets it apart from a mass produced item. That said, I’m not sure I will ever achieve the production potter status. I can see that I will use the production mindset but I don’t ever see having a set “line of work” and have items that I make for a while and then when I get bored with the pieces that I am making, I will create a new item to make for a while.

So these 15 pieces will then get fired when they reach a dry state. The firing will take about 8-10 hours, then an additional 12 hours to cool. Then each piece will be glazed and fired again, an additional 8-10 hours with the 12 hours to cool. Of those 15 pieces, there will be pieces that I will discard because they won’t be the quality that I want to be representative of my work. Some of those little “blips” will stay in because that is part of the “handmade quality” that I want to achieve.