I remember one of my first conversations with Nils Lou. I knew he had a vast amount of knowledge and experience in the ceramic world, and I wanted to elicit some invaluable advice. I was trying to explain to him what I wanted to do with my ceramic work. I wanted to do something fresh and new; I wanted to do things that hadn’t been done. This can be a difficult thing to achieve in an art form that has been around for so many thousands of years. At that point, I was unable to properly explain what I wanted to do with my work, and Nils thought that perhaps fame, or making a name for myself was what I wanted.
Time went on as I continued talking with Nils at whatever chance I had; and I caught wind of a new book that Nils had recently written entitled “The Art of Play”. I bought it as quick as I could, and within a few days had completed the book. As I read I fell more and more into the book, realizing that this was in fact (though perhaps an unintentional) the answer I was seeking to the question that I could not even properly formulate.
I’ll cut straight to the point. I had come to a place in ceramics where I could no longer ignore the line between work and play. I could make plenty of mugs, plates, or whatever, but it started to feel like work. I would think to myself, “I don’t want to make mugs right now”, and then that is exactly what I would do. I wanted to create my own work from a place within myself, and be concerned more with the act of creation than the end product.
“The Art of Play” speaks directly to this issue. Nils explains the importance of creative play, as well as how so many of us may have forgotten to do so. By focusing on the creative activity of play, we no longer become blocked by an end product we have already envisioned in our mind. We free ourselves from normal constraints we might carry into our creative lives. Nils is conveying a message that many of us may benefit from, myself certainly included.
This is of course, a meager attempt to summarize an inspirational concept Nils conveys. If you wish to get to the meat of “The Art of Play”, I suggest giving it a read. I also understand that as creative artists we cannot simply do away with making products that will be well accepted by the public, or by making series of mugs and so on. I suggest rather (and am still searching for), a balance between the two. A balance between creating a genuinely unique piece of art that is playful and functional. I suggest that we see the importance of taking some time to play while forgetting the rules and ideas of salesmanship, that we take a risk and start to make something that we have no idea of how it will turn out.
If it strikes your fancy, give it a try. It might be neat to see what happens, or even to share it with others.