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I was pleasantly surprised to find this fragment of a saying a former ceramics teacher once used, on more than one occasion. She was and is a strict, by-the-book potter, of Japanese descent but American by birthplace. She runs her studio like a well organized auto repair shop, everything in its place, as clean as a working clay studio can be.

Scrap buckets, slip in labeled jars, glazes written down, exact measurements used, test tiles and more test tiles. Work stations orderly and floors mopped. Electric potters' wheels and kickwheels spaced apart so the hum and silence can co-exist. Shelves with greenware drying, shelves with glazed bisque pieces, separated. Kilns and cones, all with rules and warnings posted.

The captain of her ship and I the renegade sailor, who preferred hand-building non-functional clay pieces. Oh, the fights we had! But to this day, we remain in touch. Each year she holds an open studio sale; I purchase a pot or two, we reminisce. The one slightly non-predictable thing she does is Raku firing, although she still tries to control as much as she can.

She once told me her father had been a high ranking officer during World War II in the U.S. Army, but because he had been born in Japan, the whole family was put in an internment camp for the duration of the war. I wonder now if that experience shaped her need to create from essentially earth and minerals, staying within boundaries, like fences, within rules.

I tried for hours online to locate the source of her philosophy; the closest I came was a quote on someone's blog, "Maybe it's like the artist said--don't try to throw one perfect pot. Throw a hundred pots. Throw a thousand. Perfection will take care of itself." Now, I'm not normally a blog reader and this particular entry was from August 2009, but I contacted the writer and asked what artist she was referring to. She replied she didn't know the source or even if she had quoted it correctly.

What my teacher said was vastly different, however. What she said was, "Throw a thousand pots before you fire one. Don't become attached to everything you make. Let most of it go." I think the true answer lies somewhere in the middle, from the mind to the hands to the clay to the fire.

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