The Act of Breaking, Part II
Updated: Oct 21, 2020
There are places where you can go to break things. These places often known as break rooms or anger rooms are popping up all over the country. You pay for a certain amount of time or things to break and you just go for it. Breaking things is cathartic.The act of destruction can break you free from other things that may be weighing you down.
I call it breaking the bad.
Being a ceramic artist means there are always items that don't quite make the quality grade that must get discarded. In grad school I used this box as a fun bullseye practice game: now just the sound of that box breaking as it hits the bottom of the trashcan helps me hit a mental reset button. As a maker there is a fine line between making quality items and being overwhelmed by stock. I think it's important to purge every once and a while so you can progress in your work and not drown in it.
There is a strange stigma associated with breaking handmade pieces.
Oh no! What about the time and energy you put into it? I get that question a lot.
First of all, let me be clear, I'm not breaking a large portion of my work. However, cracks happen, warping happens, and I don't want those items out in the world with my name on them. I want to be proud of the work I make: I don't want to be tied to the idea that because I made it, then it it must be worth something. It is of course worth something. Every item I make brings experience and knowledge. Learning from the items I make, failed ones especially, is definitely a worth that cannot be broken down when the piece itself breaks. Finding that worth is an acquired skill, something that a maker learns through time and practice.
Lots of things that are made are just prototypes. You wouldn't want the first prototype of a rocket to be approved for human space travel, right? Testing is as important to growth for a ceramic artist as it is for an aeronautical engineer. In a way "breaking the bad" is also about breaking the stigma that every piece of handmade art should be treated as a valuable commodity. I like the idea that even when you've broken a subpar piece of ceramic, it can be used in a mosaic. There is life after destruction, you just need to know how to deal with the pieces in order to move forward.