Home » News and Musings » Being a Ceramic Artist » Why you should make “ugly” work

Why you should make “ugly” work

The Value of Quantity: Why Creating Abundantly Matters for Ceramic Artists

( above bee plate started good but I had problems with my glazing and it ended up with a bit of an uneven look)

Creating art, especially in ceramics, is a journey of exploration and growth. It’s easy to fixate on the pursuit of perfection, but the true essence of art often lies in the process and the lessons learned along the way.

I make a lot of really ugly work. I always have. I make work I hate. But I know it’s leading me somewhere.

Thing is, others might not see it as ugly but that’s not really important, the important thing is to make work, a lot of work. I want to explore the importance of making lots of work, even if it isn’t always deemed “good,” and how this practice can be transformative for ceramic artists or anyone who creates.

1. Skill Development

I set myself a challenge to make 100 bottles, I was using porcelain and I was new to ceramics and about two thirds of my bottles had cracks or the experiments of glazing looked awful or the bottle design just didn’t work. What it did do was improve my skills and give me great results on what glaze combinations did work. I made bottles that i knew weren’t nice just because i needed to keep making them for practice.

The Ceramic Process
  • Quantity begets quality. Creating a large volume of work allows you to hone your technical skills and refine your techniques. This is the main reason, lot’s of practice.

2. Creative Exploration

  • It encourages experimentation and the exploration of new ideas, styles, and forms without the pressure of perfection.

3. Overcoming Creative Blocks

  • Continuously making work keeps the creative juices flowing, helping you overcome creative blocks or periods of self-doubt.

4. Learning from Mistakes

  • Not every piece will be a masterpiece. Embracing “failed” attempts as learning experiences is essential for growth.

5. Discovering Your Voice

Through much experimentation i found my “signature” I used this blue and for a number of reasons I knew it was a style I wanted to explore further. I had always loved Tretchikof prints with his blue faced women and this Toulouse Lautrec painting. So once I saw the connection I then continued developing my language .

  • Through prolific creation, you have the chance to discover your unique artistic voice and develop a distinct style.

6. Building Resilience

  • Accepting imperfection and learning to move forward after setbacks builds resilience and a healthier mindset toward your art.

7. Developing a Body of Work

  • Consistently creating pieces, even if they’re not perfect, contributes to the development of a substantial body of work that showcases your artistic evolution.

8. Valuable Critique

  • Having a wealth of work allows for self-critique. You can assess your progress over time and pinpoint areas for improvement.

9. Tangible Progress

  • Quantity provides tangible evidence of your artistic journey, allowing you to track your growth and improvements.

10. Building Confidence – With each piece you create, you gain confidence in your abilities as an artist, even if the work doesn’t meet your initial expectations.

11. Sparking Inspiration – The act of creating generates inspiration. Often, new ideas emerge from the process of making, leading to breakthroughs in your art.

12. Finding Unexpected Beauty – Sometimes, pieces that you initially consider “less than perfect” may hold unexpected beauty and charm that you hadn’t noticed before. These cups below were just me practicing making and glazing and initially i didn’t like them or the blue glaze. But over time i started to appreciate their simple and unique hand made qualities. I haven’t kept these cups but I keep a few things that have flaws as a sort of visual diary to remind me of what I’ve made. Photos are not the same as looking at the actual object.

Making lots of work, regardless of whether every piece is a masterpiece, is a crucial aspect of an artist’s journey, especially for ceramic artists. It’s a testament to the dedication, perseverance, and willingness to learn that drives artistic growth. So, embrace the imperfect, relish the creative process, and remember that every piece contributes to your evolution as a ceramic artist. The act of creating is a journey in itself, and each step along the way is valuable.


Follow Janelle

Enter your email address below to receive news about Janelle and her latest creations.

Recent News