Artists produce artists by virtue of their generosity. Creative encouragement lifts the spirit and contributes artistic vitality to a community.
Sharing insights and information from one artist to another is a form of a mentorship. Whether knowledge is passed in a single sentence, an afternoon, or spanned over decades, that influence becomes a building block. Even one comment can provide enough fuel to launch an artist in a new direction.
In my own pursuit of art, well placed artistic nudges inspired me to practice and learn. Sitting at the potters wheel for an afternoon with my friend Madeline offered a new approach to throwing mugs.
“Think of the throwing process as head and heart,” Madeline said, bent over a spinning lump of clay. “ Your right hand is the head hand.” She pulled the clay into a perfect cylinder shape.“Your left hand is the heart hand. Gently push out, feeling the shape form.” Madeline’s skilled hands coaxed an elegant shape.
This is an example of skill flowing from one artist to another. Madeline learned this simple approach from another potter. She shared with me, and that little nudge remains. Each time I throw a mug on the wheel, I remember that my heart hand informs the shape.
Amy instructed pulling and attaching mug handles with lift. “ After you have made one hundred handles, it will come naturally,” she assured, watching me struggle with my early attempts.
Sieg and Louise Silver lived on a forty acre farm on the side of a mountain. Cows grazed in the pasture, fruit trees bordered the garden, and a pottery shop sat among the flowers. They invited me to share their studio.
Sieg taught me to throw pots, Louise to sculpt, glaze and fire the kiln. They accepted no money for their time or materials. Every Saturday, a group of artists joined Sieg and Louise. Potters, painters, and sculptors worked at their craft sometimes chatting, at other times in silence, deeply immersed in their own processes. We called ourselves The Group of Saturday, and met each week for twenty-two years.
Sometimes I helped Sieg and Louise with some non-artistic endeavors such as loading bales at haying time. At the end of a dusty afternoon, we retired to the farmhouse where Sieg made root beer floats to sooth our parched throats. We savored the breeze of the ceiling fan and visited well past dusk.
The generosity of these artists is staggering. Sieg and Louise have since passed away. But sharing is a way to honor them and those who have contributed their knowledge and friendship.
There is no need to worry that by sharing, an artist’s work would be copied. A glaze recipe finds different expression in the hands of each potter. A painting technique leads each painter into new territory.
Each of us has the ability to influence others in a positive way. Even a simple idea or statement can encourage someone to try new things. There are many people who have helped me learn my craft, and to those artists, I am most grateful. Sharing is a deep seated human trait and the cornerstone to human development. It is how we learn and grow. Whether through books, film, music or conversation, we can influence each other in a positive and lasting way.