Inside the Artist’s Studio with Peter Pincus: Cracks in the Foundation

Last week I was visited by critic and blog writer Jason.  Sleep, In Spite of the Storm piqued Jason’s interest, so he traveled seven hours to see the show and get down to business.

Jason was able to find the all the technical flaws in my work, as if directly accessing my thoughts.  Some were obvious, though others were nearly invisible.  Jason was the first person to outwardly fixate on those sorts of details.  That fixation, which I celebrate for its clarity and honesty, prompted the following blog post.

The vase on the left leans.  Can you see it?  I do every time I look.

The vase on the left leans. Can you see it? I do every time I look.

An alternate view of the urns in the exhibition

Sorry for the re-post, but these urns also lean. I have to show them in this order, because if I flip them the lean becomes more obvious. I’ve since figured out how to avoid this problem in future works, but these will always remind me.

Makers suffer from the desire to do their best given their mental and physical potential.  Luckily, the mind and hand get better.  But in the wake of learning, there will always be concrete reminders of imperfections and failures in the objects produced.  Here-in lies the two most important questions to the longevity of an artistic career:  When is it appropriate to hold yourself accountable to your flaws?  When is it harmful to do so?

My work is usually misunderstood because of its relative visual refinement.  It is a celebration of color and composition as much as an autobiographical statement through the porcelain vessel, not a celebration of a flashy process or technique.  Having said that, I’ve developed a technique to make possible the aesthetic I’m after and that technique has its inherent limitations and flaws.  When I am alone in my studio, those flaws are the things that slowly eat away at my confidence, pride, and overall emotional stability.

White gold luster is such a pain for me.  It often drips on the raw porcelain and then takes a miracle to remove if I can.  Jason and I talked about this issue for a while

White gold luster is such a pain for me. It often drips on the raw porcelain and then takes a miracle to remove if I can. Jason and I talked about this issue for a while

Sometimes the seams between colors spread.  I assume it is a result of expansion and tension in the kiln.  It is only an eye sore, not a structural thing.  But it irritates me more than any other problem I have.  I stress about it every day.

Sometimes the seams between colors spread. I assume it is a result of expansion and tension in the kiln. It is only an eye sore, not a structural thing. But it irritates me more than any other problem I have. I stress about it every day.

And then the show happens.  All of the things that keep me up at night are not generally noticed.  I’m found enthusiastic but cautious, imagining that I had somehow escaped the public guillotine!!  The successes of the show walk out the door with the crowd and the failures remain with me.  This is unhealthy.

This post isn’t meant to stir depression.  Quite the opposite in fact.  Jason’s ability to personify my conscience gave me the ability to better define the meaning of artistic engagement.  It is not my job to be perfect.  That is the job of industry.  It is my job to engage the material as a soulful pursuit, and yes to achieve the goals I set, but not to drown in small details while missing the big picture.

All of this comes at a time when I announce my new job as Visiting Professor of Ceramics at RIT.  That appointment carries the responsibility of this type of honesty.  If you make things, I guarantee you’ve had the same feelings that are expressed above.  If you want to do this for a living, you must rise above them and enjoy what you do.  Because there is no such thing as a flawless piece of handmade work.  And if there is, would you really want to be it’s author?

Part One: Inside the Artist’s Studio: Introducing Peter Pincus
Part Two: Inside the Artist’s Studio with Peter Pincus: How Long is a Long Time?
Part Three: Inside the Artist’s Studio with Peter Pincus: Centerpiece

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