Monday, October 3, 2011

Destruction: The Sledgehammer that Cracks Opens Your Creative Process

Raku piece, 22 x 24 inches, ©2011 Mary A. Gravelle
Cracked and broken (destroyed?) during the firing process.

This past weekend I fired a large Raku piece -- glazed it on Friday, fired it on Saturday, and cleaned it up on Sunday.

I had built the 22 x 24-inch piece a year ago during my Raku class. I had measured it from side to side and top to bottom to insure it would fit into the Raku kiln. I failed to consider the diagonal measurement, however. My piece did not fit lying down in the kiln, so I had to stand it up. I fired the kiln slowly warming it to prevent breaking and cracking. But maybe the fire was too hot in the center of the piece due to it standing up because that is where the flame enters the kiln. I really do not know. I’ll talk it over with my clay professor, Curtis Dinwiddie, tomorrow during class. Hopefully, he will be able to shed some light on the cause of breakage and cracking.

With the destruction of this piece, my mind has opened to see new possibilities in this process. As for this particular piece, my friends tell me to go ahead and hang it as is and call it art. I think that the small piece on the right could hang by itself. That makes me think along the lines of diptychs and triptychs; making artworks from a collection of smaller pieces. Or maybe just make smaller pieces. Also, I wonder how I could achieve this look in the cone 10-kiln without having to fire it in the Raku kiln. My mind and imagination are lit up now as a result of the destructive turn of this art piece.

I have always thought of destruction as an integral part of the creative process. With this experience, I have a newfound respect for it. I wrote and published a paper on this subject in 1999. Here is an excerpt:

 “Destruction or death is a natural part of life and the creation process. We cannot keep everything as is. Life moves on with or without us…. Sometimes we need to break our mold, break our patterns before we can move onto new ways of thinking. I like to call it shattered thinking. Think of a stained glass piece of art. It is made up of shattered glass pieces. Sometimes they are meticulously cut into pre-designed pieces. This is all part of the creation process. We can plan the pieces from a whole…the glasscutter might start out with a new sheet of colored glass, [then breaks] it down into several pieces. [Sometimes] we destroy our original creation in order to create something new. This is the hardest stage of the process.” Excerpted from: THE THREE STAGES OF THE CREATION CYCLE AND THE SCRUNCH IT!® PAINTING PROCESS , Mary Gravelle, Creativity Consultant. This article was written for the Innovation Network as part of a pre-conference workshop.

How has destruction helped your own creative process?


  1. I don't know if I can say that destruction helped me directly in my creative process, but it has been indirectly linked to and responsible for it for sure. My previous marriage was quite destructive. Surviving it and somehow by picking up the pieces - literally (Chess Pieces) gave me a rather unique perspective of life as a Chessboard that I now explore in my Paintings. Our strange relationship started out on a Chessboard and ended as a Checkmate. My relationship with my Art Instructor is another example of how destruction has helped me recreate myself akin to a Borg (in Star Trek). Her commitment to destroy and demoralize me helped me rise above and beyond as a Painter for I became defiant and determined to achieve that much needed confidence I would not have otherwise. Oddly I must confess, that even helped me find myself and my style. I find it very amusing how you have credited destruction paving the road for creative breakthrough and you definitely are on to something here.

    1. Roopla... thank you for taking time to write a response to this post. And thanks for following my blog.

      Your description of how destruction has played out in your life and art helps me understand your art better. I never was a chess player so I never related to your chess pieces. The way you describe it makes so much sense.

      I'm glad that you have been able to pick up the pieces and realize that you are the better in the end for it.

      Destruction on some levels can be fun, and it also can be very painful on others.