I have been known to overwork my pieces. We have all been down the road of overworking something in our life. Sometimes we overwork our machinery, our cars, our bodies, and artists often overwork artwork.
Clay too, can be overworked. When I overwork my clay the disinigration process usually starts with something small and seemingly fixable. Perhaps the tip of something will snap off or I will see a small fracture in a flat area. Small fractures soon turn into deep fissures and the more I try to fix a piece the more it falls apart. Sometimes it is fixable, but often times this is just the pieces way of saying goodbye.
This is where most people give up and drop their piece into the slop bucket. I never give up on a piece. In the words of Chad Steve, a graduate student in ceramics at University of Hawaii, "A piece doesn't give up on you, you give up on it."
I know that I am entering the stage of overworking a piece when my hands become more and more frantic, my breaths become shorter and faster and my thoughts about the final outcome of the piece seem to have set their foundations on quicksand. When this happens, I step back, take a deep breath and grab some food. Eating in front of a piece is the best way for me to calm down and think about how to fix the overworked piece. Then I sit back down and continue to overwork my piece. The secret to fixing an overworked piece is to re-overwork the piece, of over-overwork the piece.
Here are some pictures of pieces that had been overworked and after realizing that they were overworked, I stepped back, and relaxed and then continued to over-overwork the piece.
1st stopping point- This is a nice piece, but it still doesn't feel finished at this point.
To further my point, I will end with a quote from one of the toughest professional cyclist around, Jens Voigt. When asked what he does to deal with pain in his legs while cycling, he replied that he says "Shut up legs". Cycling and ceramics are two different things, but I beleive that we can over-overwork our pieces a little more often than we do. So, before you drop that piece into the slop bucket, try saying "Shut up piece!"