Sunday, March 18, 2007

Blind Spots

I am, and always have been, better at the big picture than the details. My husband conversely, spends his days carefully reviewing the fine points of contracts. He spends his days at work immersed in details. I would die in that job. It would be sheer torture for me. Yet he excels at it. There is nothing sexy or glamorous about the work he does. But it is work that has helped his company save millions of dollars. For that they are grateful. And when we have a detailed project to work on, I am grateful to have him around.

So it should not be surprising that it was a detail really that escaped my attention. Yet, details do matter. The details can create balance or disturb it. Small details can make a big difference. I was unconsciously just skimming over this detail. Not looking at the effect that it had on the finished piece.

When I began making my pear and apple vessels, I was focused on the process of creating an organic form that was also a vessel. I was focused on the surface design and technique. I was still learning a great deal about that process and making many choices and discoveries with each new piece. I was disciplining myself to really pay attention to finishing. The sanding. The line of the opening of the vessel. But the very last step, was one that I did not pay enough attention to. When it came to putting a stem on the vessel I did not explore many options. I just made a stem to look like a stem, and put it on the piece. My biggest struggle was in engineering the design of the stem to withstand the handling it received at a show.

Then, about five or six weeks ago, another artist shone some light on the stems. She observed something I had never even considered. The stems did not fit the rest of the piece. It was as if I did them as an afterthought. I had these pieces with this fantastical surface, and then a stem that was very ordinary. In her opinion it detracted from the rest of the work. Another person there agreed. Hmmm. This was something I had never even thought about. It was as if I was blind. I was spending many hours on the piece, and then at the very end, I just finished it without really thinking about the impact of my choice on the piece.
I began with the peppers. I started making some new stems for them using wire. I had to agree. It added a life and energy to the piece that the old stems subtracted. These pictures are not great for seeing the detail of the new stems, but I think you can get the general idea of how much the old stems were NOT working, and that the new stems are a definite improvement.
This week I was busy making some new vessels, and finally was faced with putting the stem on a new pear vessel. I had played around with a wire stem for an apple earlier, and it did not work as effectively as it had on the peppers. I decided I would stick with the approach I had with the rest of the piece. The shape would be literal in translation, but the color would not. It was like someone turned on the light in the room. Was I so focused on "being done" with the piece that I did not spend enough time thinking about this detail? Did I not want to think about it much because it was a detail? Whatever the reason, I now could see what Sara saw so clearly. I spent a little more than a day re-stemming vessels. And I have to say the more I did, the more I liked the outcome. Here is a picture for you to judge for yourself.
Doesn't that old stem just look out of place? There is something about the new stem that makes me want to create this whole new story about these vessels. They now look to me as if they were grown by Alice in Wonderland from seeds she brought back from the other side of the looking glass. Alice's Garden.
I am busy taking pictures, and will eventually update my website with the new images. And I am going to sign up for the critique sessions that were in the new catalog from the local museum school that just arrived in the mail. We all have blind spots. I may not be ready to acknowledge all of mine. But I am grateful to Sara that she shone a light on this one. Thanks Sara!


D.C. said...

Wow, your vessels are amazing. I love how you take such a simple form and make it anything but. I tend to get so consumed with the details that I stop thinking about the big picture when I'm working. Oh if only we could fine some magic formula to help us achieve balance when viewing our own work. :)

ps thanks for visiting my blog :)

Marla Frankenberg said...

You're right; the new stem is a much better fit, a complement.

It was lovely before; now it's magical.

Judy said...

Thank you Marla and D.C. It is funny how such a little detail can transform a piece. It has been a real learning experience for me.