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The Tyranny of the Scrap

Sometimes, I set out to do something on purpose, and it works – like the Seussian series. These pieces look exactly as I envisioned them. It's nice when that happens.

Mostly, though, I fall prey to what a friend long ago dubbed "the tyranny of the scrap." As I'm rolling through scrap clay (for bead cores or whatever) there's often a section that is really pretty...too pretty to mush up.

Like this:

Or this:

Or this:

Typically, I end up with all these partial sheets, spread out all over my work surface, utilizing a fair bit of space. To sit there, and to wait. Patiently. Patiently. Patiently – did I mention that patience is not my strong suit? But I have to wait until these tyrannical scraps tell me what they want to be. I would like to think that I tell the clay, but more often, the clay tells me. My friend, the painter Bryan Jernigan, says this is a very abstract way of working.

(And he would know. Seriously, click over and check out his work. It's amazing.)

So perhaps my greatest talent with this medium is recognizing those bits of beauty among what would otherwise be filler. Does that mean that I actually rule the scrap, instead of the other way around? Or is it a chicken/egg type of thing?

My all-time favorite piece, the one that is absolutely not for sale, falls into the "scrap" category. I made a backing for something that I wanted to try, laminated it, and baked it. But it wasn't quite what I had envisioned, and it sat around for quite a while. It even got written on when I traced around something else. And it sat. One day, when I was digging through my toolbox, I noticed with fresh eyes that the side that was supposed to be the back was amazing, and the side that was supposed to be the front was meh. But what to do about that pen line? Well, carve it out and backfill it in a contrasting color, of course! (Wait – was that not obvious?)

No matter who ruled whom, the end result speaks for itself:

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