January is my favorite month of the year, although I’m not a fan of winter temperatures or bleak landscapes. The appeal of the month is mostly psychological: after the excesses and over-stimulation of December, January comes as a sigh of relief. Where December is filled with indulgence, January calls for restraint. Where December carries all the baggage of the previous year, January offers a fresh start. It’s an opportunity to begin with a clean slate and a free spirit, a chance to eliminate unproductive endeavors and concentrate on new, more promising ones.1 Each year, I find that January provides me with renewed inspiration to let unfinished projects go without guilt and start in on new ideas that have been ruminating in my head—or that I’ve seen in my favorite how-to pottery magazine. Instead of holding onto half-done pieces I feel I should be committed to finishing, I recycle the clay and pat myself on the back for trying it in the first place.
Studio time before deadlines or sales can be exhausting—keeping ahead of a table full of clay objects threatening to dry out, loading kilns that are still warm from the last firing, and overdosing on news radio. Constantly minding that kind of schedule can squash creativity and prevent the desire to try new ideas that may jeopardize what we know to be successful. So, it’s in January that I like to adopt a line from an old Chinese poem: “To drift like clouds and flow like water.”2 I abandon old habits and allow myself to make without consequences. I build and decorate knowing that it’s all going in the recycle bin at the end of the day. I abandon the desire for a finished project and I simply enjoy making. This way, I’m often surprised and delighted by not only what transpires, but also the freedom and lightness I discover in the studio again.
This issue is filled with tips, talents, skills, and fresh ideas to reinvigorate your studio spirit in the new year. Claire Prenton offers her ideas on how to make ornate pieces look contemporary and Heesoo Lee teaches us how to be inspired by the landscape around us and translate that to the pots’ surfaces. Margaret Hayden shows us how to successfully integrate form with surface, while Lori Martin challenges us to remember our days in art school learning color theory—although her method is more fun! We can also learn about easy-to-make texture paddles, peeling-paint glazes, embellished handles, weight loss for teapots, and much more.
I encourage you to grab this issue and head into a clean studio this January to drift like clouds and flow like water.