The cartoon below captures the important concept of having a growth mindset as an artist. So much of what I do as an artist, what I try to convey to my art students but also as an athlete depends on it! There are so many parallels in my pottery/triathlon journey that I thought I would share them and some lessons learned along the way.
(cartoon is by Stephen McCranie from Doodlealley.com)
The time and energy required to become a skilled artist does not happen overnight. I have been developing my skills as a portrait artist and hobby potter for years but something happened 5 months ago that changed everything. Just before Spring Break, I was forced into quarantine for two weeks due to the COVID 19 pandemic. I couldn’t leave the house but I had just recently started setting up a home pottery studio so I had plenty to do! I am normally very busy as a mom, a teacher and as a triathlete with several hours per week dedicated to training. During that 2 week period pottery became my entire world. Being stuck inside during my Spring Break was actually an unprecedented opportunity and by the end of the two weeks I was hooked…what had always been a hobby and a part of my job as a teacher became something more: it became a passion and a new challenge that brought me so much joy!
I have found it necessary to have an attitude of gratitude and a reflective lens in order to build up the resilience that is required to keep moving forward with a growth mindset in so many aspects of my life. As I began integrating time spent on pottery with my other passion for triathlon I couldn’t help but see the many parallels. Here are a few parallels I experience on a daily basis that help keep me grounded and moving forward when things get tough:
Patience and perseverance is necessary for growth. And “failures” or setbacks are a necessary part of the learning process. It is hard to accept sometimes, but we learn so much more when things go wrong! It is more important to have a “progress over perfection” attitude. I try to look for the lesson in every setback I have; learn from it and move on without dwelling on losses. In pottery there are a lot of losses! Things crack in the drying process, glazes can crawl and pinhole and make a piece unusable. Sometimes it is actually heartbreaking but I always remind myself it is all part of the learning process. Similar frustrations happen with triathlon training. Injuries, pool closures, fatigue, weather, a pandemic … there are so many things that can cause setbacks. In addition, there are no quick fixes, and there is no instant gratification in either of these pursuits! The rewards such as setting a new personal record (PR) or crossing a hard earned finish line take TIME! Completing a complex project (such as a teapot), creating inventory to sell …it all takes time. Having an attitude of gratitude helps to add perspective when things get frustrating.
Just this past weekend, I crossed the finish line of my very first Ironman 70.3 triathlon. A 70.3 includes 1900m Swim, a 90km bike followed by a 21.1km run. Just getting to the start line of this race was a big deal! It has taken me years of training and completing smaller events, daily practice and so many setbacks along the way. It was very challenging, but I was full of gratitude even as I persevered through the pain I felt at the end. I get to do this!
The hand built and carved dragonfly teapot pictured here took hours to complete… but it didn’t make it through the glazing process successfully. I was sad but I learned from the process and my next one was even better! The medal pictured is from last weekend’s race. The run at the end of that race was the hardest of my life due to dehydration and the heat. It was a setback but I finished the race, I’ve learned from it – and the next one will be even better!
Andrea RobinsonCalico Moon Pottery