Each time I set out to start some new work, I work on a group of pieces together, at the same time. Each series is a new attempt to further refine an idea, to find visual solutions to problems I haven’t solved yet, or technical solutions to problems I haven’t solved yet. Sometimes I go back a few stages to rework an idea I was never satisfied with.
Working on 5 – 7 pieces at one time has many advantages. I’m not totally invested in solving these problems in one piece. I can work with more freedom, creating different solutions and then seeing which ones are more successful.
My first drawing teacher in high school always said, “constant repetition with constant variation”, so many times I actually remember it. I think this goes back to looking and seeing. There are many good drawing books that refer to drawing as investigation, as seeing and discovering. For me this is the essence of working in a series. I am still discovering, looking and seeing.
In my work, I know that in some sense, the forms look better together too. The spaces between them become part of the work. The forms lean and dance a bit with one another. The repetition and variation show well within a group of pieces and contribute to their meaning.
I still can see new solutions to older pieces and better ways of resolving my forms and surfaces. My friends know how many pieces I have put in the dumpster. I have to try, but if it doesn’t work, I don’t keep it. Working in a series is the basis of that freedom – probably one of those pieces will work. If there was a piece I really liked but after glaze firing it just seems all wrong, I keep it around for a few months. I’m still learning from it.
All of this is at the service of evoking a feeling, an interpretation that inspires, energizes, makes curious, and gives heart and harmony to the viewer. The purpose of art is not to solve visual problems or technical problems, but to make sure those things are not in the way of expression.