President’s Musings - October 2023
More Fragments… Stuff I think about…_
The Newsletter being late this month is fully my fault. I’ve had a really difficult time writing this month. Everything I start turns to the human disasters in Ukraine and Israel where both are faced with violent intent to eliminate a people, a culture and a country. So, this is a quick tour through my thoughts…
In such attrocites like this, I remember a meme from the Vietnam era, "I’ve seen the enemy, and it is us."
It reinforces exiting questions in my mental observations.
Where am I being autocratic? Where am I dismissing someone’s suffering and cry for help?
Buddha framed ethical, moral actions as Wholesome or Unwholesome. Not as good/bad, right/wrong. Wholesome actions are good for oneself and good for others. Unwholesome actions are harmful for oneself and/or harmful for others. It’s about the well-being of community.
Underneath all of this is… What’s my life about? What’s the central theme? What’s the organizing question I’m living my life into?
When I was young my dad taught me to look at things from multiple angles/points of view. He taught me about the Scientific Method.
In sixth grade I was sitting in school one day and realized everything around me, what I was being taught, the rules, language…All of it… was made up by humans—a mental construct. In that moment a question also arose, “Is there anything not made up by humans?”
In Junior High I realized that social conventions, social structures, and beliefs were among the “made up by humans”.
Somewhere along the way, the quest for something that is not a conceptual construct, turned into the questions, “What’s real? What’s true? What is this?”
A main branch of my inquiry became identifying beliefs and letting them go. A belief being “an acceptance that something exists or is true without verifiable data”.
About 20 years ago during couple-friend’s argument he asked her what she was up to in life? Was she up to something big enough that it was probably uncompletable or answerable? But, it was alluring enough to keep one engaged in the activity and inquiry.
He turned and asked me what I was up to. Another way of asking “what question I was living into”. Without thinking I said, “I what to know if it’s possible to be fully awake before I die.”
That’s the 40 year evolution of my 12-year-old question, “Is there anything that’s not made up by humans?” My inquiry as not to escape the human world. It’s to have a framework within which the Human Made, the conceptual construct is clearly knowable.
OK. That’s where the human disaster of Ukraine, Israel, Climate Change, etc. take me…
On to our Ceramic World.
If you don’t know the podcast, “For Flux Sake”, I recommend you check it out. It’s one of many wonderful Ceramic podcasts supported by the Archie Bray Foundation and the Brickyard Network.
For Flux Sake is good evidence based conversation on ceramic materials, clay bodies, glazes, firing, the mechanics of being a Ceramist, a human working with Clay.
A recent example of what you could call “ceramic myth busting”relates to what gets called rocket firing…
…glaze firing bisque pots at 600°F, an hour until 200°F before the shut down temperature. At 200°F before shutdown slow the kiln down to 60°F an hour. The reason to slow down at that point is that the melting and chemical reacting are taking place in that last 200°F.
And, our reasons for firing slow—I was taught to go about 200°F an hour in bisque and glaze firing are not really true. Turns out that quartz and cristobalite inversions, etc. that we were taught to be careful of are not an issue with well formulated clay bodies and one can actually “Rocket Fire” their kiln. Less time. Less fuel. Less wear on electric elements.
Test, test, test…
Wyn Matthews, VCPG President
50+ year potter