Epic Art Fails

I know, probably the first rule of marketing is to present your work in the best possible light; don’t expose your weaknesses. But this is a blog about process, and art is definitely a process fraught with stumbles, errors and epic fails. Art is human.

I am most definitely human; subject to all sorts of weaknesses…brought nicely home to me this weekend by a whammy of a cold. I thought I could nip it in the bud with a good dose of oregano oil and rest, but oh ho no, this bugger needs to run it’s full and brutal course. Lying on my couch, wearing the same grubby outfit I’ve had on all weekend, a sea of spent tissues around me, my hair on end like a scrap of furry road-kill, I started to think about my art. More specifically, the failed art.

Wait. Wait, you say. How can you fail at art? It’s self-expression, it’s a piece of you, it can’t be an entire failure. Well, I beg to differ. Just as I can fail at health, I can fail at art. The stuff on canvas, those epic fails can be taken care of with a few layers of gesso. A lovely under-painting that hopefully no one will every discover (though in my wild imaginings, it’s a hundred years later and they’re examining my work with those x-ray things and they discover the fail beneath the win and they are all greatly disappointed).

No, the fails that are most evident are the ceramic ones. No gesso will make that lump of stoneware disappear. When I’m dead and gone, those pieces, even if broken to bits, could still be discovered by some future anthropologist who might extrapolate from their find that people of this time were none to intelligent.

And how do I ultimately know that my work has failed? My hubby gently and inconspicuously sets it aside, either on the floor beside the table I set it on or in a cupboard out of sight. Message received.

Exhibit  A:  A butter dish.

Intelligent Design: small birds on bottom half to help lid stay on.

Fail: Under high kiln temps, birds flex and the end result is this:

New Life as:   Shades rest and plant prop.

Exhibit B:  Two tea pots

Intelligent Design: built in tea leaf strainer in spout

Cute, right?:


While I did manage to side-step that age old problem of the all too Phalic spout…








The Fail: Glaze will ruin those carefully crafted strainer holes:














Exhibit C: Square Tissue Box Holder

Intelligent Design: The tissue comes out of the monsters mouth.

Fail: No it doesn’t, because the tissue box doesn’t fit!

I’m not a precision artist, especially where math comes in. There can be a 20% shrinkage rate from wet clay to twice fired clay(depending on many factors). I did use a ruler and calculated approximate shrinkage, I swear!  Mostly I go with my gut instincts on designs and it usually works. This time was no different. My gut instinct said this probably would be a fail. I was right.

While oh so sweet looking, the sides of the box flexed under the heat, just enough so that a square tissue box does not fit in a not so square monster. I don’t have a tissue box to demonstrate it for you, because I’ve used all the available tissue on my bottomless snot producing sinuses.

So there you have it. The epic fails.

But failure is a good thing. Just as failing to remain healthy gave me an awesome excuse to do nothing and just rejuvinate, fails in art inform the process and ensure a win the next time round.

For a look at a true ceramic artist’ work, whose fails always still look like wins to me, please visit my friend Aislinn’s site:  www.aislinncaron.ca

Adios fellow process-ers!

One thought on “Epic Art Fails

  1. One of my favourite quote comes from a book I read a long time ago… Henderson the Rain King by Saul Bellows.

    After some disastrous experiences that led to significant insights… the main character of the story came to the conclusion… “Truth comes in blows”

    Definitely had my share of “art fails” as well… a great many of which did lead to significant insights but there were those that simply became most useful as door stops.

    🙂 Bob

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