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Last Saturday we went to a workshop on barro negro (black clay) with an artist from San Bartolo de Coyotepec. Incredibly, the method is pure pinch pot: building it up with one’s hands, without coils (for the most part), slabs, or pottery wheel. I really liked the vase I made, but the bottom is much too thick and has developed cracks that would break it right apart in the firing. So I am going to dissolve it back into clay and start over–now that I’ve documented what it looks like.

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Then, yesterday, we went to Burro Press and got a lesson in linocuts, called suelografía in Spanish, to my amusement–suelo means floor. Here’s the first proof of my first linocut, and the placa (what’s it called in English? plate?) below.

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There are two changes I’ll make now that I can see how it’s come out, and one change I wish I could make but can’t. I will make the sky and the area around the door more purely white, and I wish I could change the cross-hatching on the left-hand building (left-hand in the print, that is, not the plate). I wanted it to look lighter in color than the building to its right, but I think it is too busy. If I had it to do over again, I would use the same technique of vertical white lines, but make them denser.

And I will have it to do over again, because I’m taking a class in woodcut and linocut at the Casa de la Cultura Oaxaqueña starting in two weeks. (I won’t really re-do this piece, though. I have other plans.)

Joy & Munchkin made beautiful pieces in both media, and we’ll be picking up their fired barro negro later today.

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In my struggles with procrastination, I’ve tried inner appeals to duty and responsibility, organizational systems, you name it. I’ve gotten better over the years but it’s still hard. Then, some months ago, I had an insight that seems to be helping.

I was in a hurry to leave, and grabbed my sneakers out of the closet. I often pull my sneakers off without untying them, a minor but real act of procrastination that means that the next time I wear them, I have to undo the double knots before I can put them on my feet. But this time I found the laces untied and ready to go. It was as if someone had left me a small, thoughtful present. That someone was myself.

When I took my shoes off later that day, I remembered that feeling. I wanted to give a gift to my future self. I’d give her sneakers that were ready to wear. So instead of saving my current self a few seconds by pulling the shoes off still tied, I untied them.

I’ve been remembering this and building it up to more significant acts of just-do-it-now, for lack of a better antonym for procrastination. I dislike the task of putting my clothes away each evening, but my future self is grateful not to have a pile to sort through after ten days. I have a goal of finishing the first draft of three sections of a writing project before the end of the weekend (i.e., tonight); last night, even though I was disinclined to work on it, I did a chunk rather than leave it all for today. The feeling of having received a gift that eases my way is a better motivator than duty or any other I’ve tried.

Have you struggled with procrastinating? What has helped you?

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