The pressure to create pedestal-worthy work stalls me more often than I’d like to admit. To alleviate perfection stress, I start my studio day with a warm-up piece and a cup of tea. I’ll grab a palmful of clay and either explore aspects related to an existing piece or freehand pinch until an intriguing detail emerges and follow it from there. Whether the piece becomes scrap or reference material, I always gain something applicable to my teaching or art practice. 

Set a timer (5 songs or 1 podcast, your choice) and work with no intention of keeping anything—this is for play, not an assignment or exhibition. Treat the piece as a sketch, aiming for ideas requiring minimal prep and materials—you can elaborate further or start fresh tomorrow. Try drafting a miniature replica of a form you’re struggling with or test how many texture variations you can make in 10 minutes. Generate a medley of ideas by alternating between deliberate and spontaneous session prompts. Take notes and pictures. Discoveries can range from, “this technique is a dud,” to, “why have I never tried this shape before?” 

1 Cake Fork, 1¾ in. (4 cm) in height, stoneware and underglaze, 2022. 2 Bookworm, 1¾ in. (4 cm) in height, stoneware, underglaze, 2022. 3 Brassica, 1½ in. (4 cm) in height, stoneware, underglaze, 2022. 4 Night Cream, 2¼ in. (6 cm) in height, stoneware, underglaze, 2022.

This habit helps to minimize uncertainties and calibrate your thoughts before shifting focus to your studio agenda. Designating time to make without expectations invites less hesitation and more adaptive moments in my studio and classroom projects. As you pursue new and ongoing interests in your work, make time for warm-up sessions—you’ll collect breadcrumbs of insight that add up and apply themselves in unexpected ways.

I refine select shapes that beg for color—these finished forms (1–4) began as rough warm-up pieces.