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Between pieces


Guest DFogg

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I have just completed a cycle of work and am between pieces. This is an odd time, the juices are still flowing from the rush to finish the piece, but I am tired and drained. It is a familiar let down, an empty feeling.

 

I need to get started again, but as yet have nothing to say nor any real energy to work with. My usual way is to do those projects that I have put off. I built shelves and reorganized my space, worked on my tools tightening bolts and greasing gears, but I have to be careful too not to over do. The older I get, the more I am aware of my limitations.

 

It will come, it is inevitable. I just have to learn to like the quite and enjoy the rest. It is in the quiet that the real work gets done. The blossom has its own time.

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I'm also in that curious hang-time between letting go of the trapeze and catching the next one. It's uncomfortable for me because it challenges my work ethic about producing, but it's just as necessary to the process as anything. I am making some headway, but it's mostly a non verbal, internal sort of "defragging". I've been here often enough to know that the trolley is coming down the line and I'll soon be jumping on board.

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I was waiting for this topic to appear! It is such an integral part of our creative lives, unfortunately. The in between time is a luxury and a disablement if allowed to continue on. Many things in my life succeed with distracting me from the most necessary and enjoyable part of my life as an artist, carving. Seeking a balance is endless. A piece in progress tends to call to me during all parts of the day when I am not at the bench. No piece in progress is like being set adrift until the people in my life twitch the lines connecting me to them and the undone other tasks start jumping about clamoring for attention. Well, not quite as poetic as that, but it is easy to become distracted.

 

My current in between pieces time is being spent with some dried up old olive green Plasticine while I try to get a grip on a human figure, in a Yoga pose, balancing on one foot (for a client). This is not my territory, human figures. I have now five or six different (more really, changing each with more possibilities) figures, as well as sketches, with more time earlier spent photographing a model and altering in Photoshop to bring outlines and dehumanize the images a bit. I am getting somewhere, but everything is grotesque or inappropriate so far. I do have a belief that I will find the figure eventually. The hours are racking up and the days are passing without a carving started.

 

Normally a carving is not this difficult to start, but since I know who wants this piece, I want it to be right for both the client and myself. My explorations are exercising my brain, and perhaps more than one piece will emerge from the process, but the one I seek is not here yet.

 

You both are right, you will begin the next piece when the time is right for it. Until then, do what you need to do to regenerate that which drives you while carving or working on a piece.

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I like having several projects going at once. I'm often thinking about other projects as I carve or am doing those required tasks like making the stands or presentation boxes that usually accompany my work, and will start a new project if I’m enthusiastic about it. I get bored easily working on the same thing day after day, so I like having options about what I’m going to work on today.

 

Unfortunately, eventually all the projects end up being finished and then I enter that in between phase everybody has mentioned, and I get a little nervous (and occasionally a little desperate) waiting for that unpredictable muse. This muse sometimes goes walkabout and she doesn’t just always appear just at my beck and call.

 

Once in a while I use this down time to make something that isn’t a commercial potential, just for my own entertainment. I guess this multi-tasking thing is a relic from my Air Force days, where there were always more things to do than the time or resources to do them with.

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Well my trolley came in today after more than two weeks of false starts and internal struggle.

For years I've wanted to carve a large dessicated leaf in wood. Not sure why I haven't. It occured to me today that the time is now and I found the wood. Actually I found it yesterday going through my stock, but it didn't occur to me then what it would be for.

 

I'll post photos as it progresses.

 

I usually am working on more than one thing. Always designing in the head. I find it helpful to gain distance from a project by having something else happening. :)

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I have many different projects on my plate all the time (maybe that's why I have trouble sleeping). I do approach each one of them on their own time (I don't rush). I find myself not liking the pressure, strangely I do my best work when I'm flat out. I project hop alot but its a constant balance of progress and getting up to speed where I left off a week ago. This might sound really counter productive but it actually helps to see things differently I like the extra time for reflecting on an "unsure how to proceed" area on one project while I work on something another. I think I could easily become lost doing this if it weren't for the excitement of creating (sometimes when I go home for lunch I will skip eating just so I can play). I think I work this way because I've been functioning that way at my day job all these years. I guess I'm a hopeless cascading multi tasker.

 

Where I have trouble is when I accept orders. They are really hard to fit in. I need to some how figure this into my workflow.

 

anyway, good topic!

 

Rik

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Good news Jim! Glad that the idea and the wood are getting together. I too have made a decision and started trimming the mammoth tusk for the carving. The subject is not simple and it took a while to get the image to make sense. It is a complex pose a bit like the game where you knit your fingers together upside down with little fingers up, bringing the clasped hands toward your chest with thumb sides up and then forward. Now have someone point at a finger, not touching and try to move the finger being pointed at. That is how I have struggled with the arms and the wrapped around leg and foot. I am not a human figure carver, but am up for the challenge because I like the particular Yoga pose.

 

Now, one reason why I like only one project at a time is... in my day to day week to week life I wear these hats and not necessarily in this order and consider it a partial list: mother of teenage son, wife of a potter, photographer, computer specialist of the house, bookkeeper, advertising agent, web master, forum host, secretary and record keeper, family "limo" driver for a teenager and his friends, party hostess for teenager and his friends who get together every Friday, sometimes at our house, cook, maid, housekeeper, drill Sergeant, animal keeper of both house and studio zoos, whip cracker, nurse, advocate, and for fun I play saxophone and attend the great rehearsals with an amateur-nearly pro swing band that plays gigs about three times a year. Soon the spring pottery tour will be upon us and I become the mad cookie baker, producing on average 4,000 little cookies, bars and breads for the legions of pottery guests our Minnesota Pottery Tour attracts each Mother's Day weekend. So, one carving on the bench at a time is about all I can remain focused on, but it does not prevent me from daydreaming about new projects. Wish I had time to carve all of my ideas...sigh. My life is never boring! :lol:

 

This suggests anothe topic, how does anyone manage to remain focused on carving when life goes on around them? What keeps calling you back to the bench?

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how does anyone manage to remain focused on carving when life goes on around them? What keeps calling you back to the bench?

 

Getting back into the work after the world or with the world spinning outside the shop door, is always a dance. I learned the hard way that if you don't clear your mind and regain your focus, bad things will happen. I have ruined many hours of hard labor by jumping in before I was ready.

 

What works for me is ritual. Every morning when I go to work, I put my shop in order. I organize my tools, sweep up, and settle down. I find I can clear my mind as I clear my bench. I am conscious of this ritual as a transition period so I am watching my thoughts as they pop up and I try to dispel disruptive threads and find that calm space before I begin. Sometimes I am too riled up and for those times I reserve hard physical tasks. Around here there a long list of miserable jobs that need doing and I pick one and dive in.

 

I have a telephone in the shop, but found that incoming calls often broke my concentration and long after the call had ended, I was mulling it over in my mind. I choose when to answer now. I have an answering machine to pick them up and Caller ID to screen them. I have to protect my space, it is too special to leave to chance.

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Yes, its hard to stop down to take or pick my son up, a full time family is a wonderful thing. I enjoy it when my wife or son will spend time in the shop with me (sometimes even the Cat!). I set my son up the other night to play with the engraver, he really got into it while I was busy working. I think the shop is a Safe haven escape for me so its not a problem. But I also think if I was paying some of the bills with my efforts it would be a very different story, So I kinda don't fit into this discussion.

 

 

Does anyone listen to music when the work?

 

I listen when I can, I like it. I use an ipod but sometimes I worry about the cord. So alot of the time I have the TV on the History channel and I'm able to listen to it. I have friends that can't have any music or interruptions (like conversations) when they work you could hear a pin drop!

 

 

Rik

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This is a great discussion. For me, I've found that I usually pursue one carving at a time. While carving (and I'm one of those who likes the sound of a pin dropping- though sometimes I'll put on instrumental music - Indian ragas get me into the groove lately) my thoughts often wander to new ideas for new pieces, but I try to steer them back to the object in hand, or at least make a few notes for future examination once the current piece is done. I think we're all aware of a certain but difficult to express energy or vitality with our work. Our energy gets transferred to the art object as we work and when the piece is finished (especially if it is successful), it radiates that energy, and we're left out of gas. When I'm finished with a piece, there's always a bit of a depression or let-down that sinks in- I supose it's what parents feel when their kids first go off to school, or reach a developmental milestone- you're happy, but wistful all the same.

 

The in-between time people have been mentioning comes to me too. It's got to be something about needing to recharge internal batteries. The Japanese have a term, 'ma', which refers to this in-between phenomena present in many dichotomies. Ma is swinging on a swing and not quite going up, not quite yet going down. Ma is when we lie in bed and haven't fallen asleep, but we're not quite conscious either. Architecturally, ma can be thought of as a veranda- not outside, not inside. I think it's the glue that holds dualities together making them shades of a single concept rather than separate opposites.

 

After I'm over this phase, and inspired to begin a new piece, I clean my work area (something I rarely do when working on a piece) to a new pristine state- all tools back in the box, room dusted down,etc., and begin again.

 

-Doug

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  • 3 weeks later...

inbetween time... hear, hear. having that problem right now. Usually i can't sleep during my inbetween time. I will stay up for days on end, once exhaustion totally has me, I'll crash. I'll clean my shop, stare at bugs, take photographs while i work up a nervous twitch. I always have something on the bench, always. But sometimes i just can't bring myself to work on it, my artistic energy has been spent. So i chain smoke, eat, get a massage, spend some extra time with my girlfriend, write and work on my website. Eventually i go find some running water (a rare thing in southern california). A stream or a waterfall always helps to recharge me, removes stagnant energy and the life that surrounds it invariably reminds me of form and movement that I had forgotten existed. Then i find my way back to my bench.

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