One of the downsides of being a working potter is there's little time to play and experiment with new techniques and forms. While working on orders and being in the midst of market season, it's all I can do to stay (mostly) on track and on deadline.
But experimenting is important for several reasons. For one, you don't want to get burnt out or bored. I love making my birch pieces, but since I am looking at the birch and practicing the same techniques over and over, it can get a little mind-numbing. Also, without mixing things up, it is more difficult to grow and improve. The birch texture came about because I had the time and opportunity to try something new. When I first tried it, I had no idea it would explode the way it did. But it's not just about texture. Over the years, my mugs have evolved, and that's because I listened to feedback and took time to try different things. If you bought a mug 3 years ago, and buy another today, I can guarantee they will look and feel different. The size changed, the grip changed, and somewhere along the lines the thumbprint appeared, all from playing with the process.
The other day I started rolling out coils and making a small pot. I don't know where I'm going with the piece, but working with clay coils is not something I do. The hand movements are different from soft slab work. I honestly don't know what I'm doing or if the piece is even being made "correctly" whatever that means. But it's challenging my understanding of how to work with clay. I'm grabbing tools out of my box that have fallen to the bottom and haven't seen light in years. It's exciting because it's unfamiliar. Much like when I first started the birch pieces, I don't know if this will just be a short break from my normal process or the start of a new body of work.
I read a quote that has stuck with me... "Don't think, just do." So I'm working on this piece without any judgment or worries about what it's going to be. I'm playing and experimenting and hopefully learning some new things along the way. I know from experience, I'll adopt some parts of the process into my studio practice and it will most likely help my work evolve. The changes may not be perceptible by anyone other than myself, and that's ok, it helps keeps things in the studio interesting and ever-changing. It feels good to be trying something different. It supports that I am an artist and have creative ideas and not just a mug making machine.
If you every wanted to try something new, take the time and "don't think, just do."