Sunday, January 18, 2009

Shop Books and Journals

[As I have mentioned below, the bulk of my posts are from a collection written five years ago. Today, my kiln log sits at 986 firings. I'll probably send the kiln company a photo of the results from the one thousandth firing.]

23. Shop Books and Journals

Many beginning art classes urge or require students to keep journals. It can be a confusing assignment for students who have no experience with this sort of thing and honestly don’t know what sorts of things to put into a journal. Others, out of laziness as much as anything else, ignore the journal assignment until the end of the semester when they are forced to laboriously forge months’ worth of insights and observations in a gesture of creative desperation.
I can’t say that I ever was much of a student diarist. I mean really, so you saw some flowers today. Big deal. And yet since that time, over the years, I’ve managed to fill almost a dozen such shop books and journals. I’ve become addicted to them. I call them, “my brain on paper.”
Early on, I filled my journals with sketches of pots, glaze recipes, and the specific glaze histories of individual pots. Later, in graduate school, quotations, sketches of pots that might-have-been, brilliant tidbits from visiting artists, a system of science fiction calligraphy, and a smaller, quicker substitute for Chess.
After graduation, the journals evolved into shop books with sales figures, commission details, customers’ addresses and phone numbers, as well as brief chronicles of specific Fairs, journeys, and birthdays. Increasingly, sales totals, types of pots sold, and commission details began to dominate the record-keeping. With time, I started keeping a second, separate book for commissions, and a third just for the names and dates of people for whom I’ve made birthday bowls.
At the kiln I keep the latest in a series of kiln logs, documenting over six hundred and eighty (680) firings for this kiln alone. In the van, the mileage and expense log resides permanently.
All these books preserve numbers and ideas that I have found useful, even essential, months or years later. Memory alone can not meet this need. Further, I’ve even come across a time or two when I really wished I had a few sketches of flowers to refer to, just to get through a particular decorative crisis. You just never know what you’ll be needing further down the road.
Publishers have produced a wide variety of books to educate and improve ceramic artists. The journals you create through the years are the definitive textbooks on your own evolution and development as an artist. In times of doubt, re-read them carefully and you can not help but rediscover just who you are and what your art is really about.

No comments: