Ripped Pots and Ripped Lives

ripped pot

I, by nature, have an analytical mind. I like solving mysteries. I like figuring out how things work. I like building things and that usually involves sitting down and drawing out plans to an exact measurement. Imprecise things drive me crazy unless it’s something like pottery where part of the charm of a pot may be its variables.

I used to make ripped pots. I have no idea how many of them I’ve made, but it was a lot. Unfortunately, I gave them all away and I no longer have access to the artist who used to let me play in his shop and make them.

As soon as you take the pot out of the mold, you trace your pattern into the clay. You need to channel it deep enough to hold a line of glaze very precisely. The bands are measured out and cut with a stylus mounted on an adjustable instrument that cuts into the pots as it goes around on a turntable. Once the bands are cut, you cut the other designs. They are usually geometric, so they need to be planned out carefully.

Sometimes I did figures. On one, I did three races horses heading bunched together and facing out as if they were running toward the viewed. The horses were done in a shaded silhouette effect which was surprisingly detailed.

Contrasting that precision is the rough, jagged edges that can’t really be planned. To do this, you have to work with the pot while it’s still quite wet and simply cut off the top, leaving part of it near the original height and cutting deep into the pot for the remainder.

I always kept the tops to glaze to match the pots and voila, you had a candle holder.

To make the “rips” you dip your fingers in water and pull the clay, twisting as you do so. The secret to making the really pretty, rough rips is to vary your pressure so some pieces actually pull off in your fingers. These edges are very sharp and very fragile when they’re fired. Some people do this like they’re fluting the edge on a pie crust. I don’t like it and won’t waste my money on ceramics done that way.

It takes a bit of practice, but it can be learned. Bill Siegenthaller, the man who taught me to make ripped pots used to let me practice on tops he wasn’t going to use. It takes a certain feel and having someone there to tell you, “All right, watch your patterns so you vary your pulls,” as you are doing it reinforces it more than just playing with clay.

At any rate, all this came about because I loved Bill’s pots, but I really couldn’t afford them because they were art gallery quality and that’s actually who his customers were.

That’s how I learn most of the things I learn. Oh! I love those beaded earrings! Oops. No, I can’t afford to pay $65 for them, but I think I can learn to make them.

He took me in like a stray puppy and taught me. I, in return, spent all my money in his shop and at that time I was painting a lot of ceramics besides ripped pots.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, this split personality mind carries over into my writing. I love the wild, ragged places my stories go. I love the unpredictability of the ripped pots and ripped lives. This isn’t a bad thing until the journey is so scattered everyone is lost.

I’m not lost because I know exactly what has happened in my mind. Not all of that made it to the pages, though, and readers love some of the places they get to visit, but they have no idea how they got there or why they are there.

That’s where the dissecting came in and you would think this is easy for someone who likes to plan things out precisely. It wasn’t. I had to basically take every person who is noticed by the reader and examine their arc. Each one has to have some kind of closure or at least leave off at an acceptable place. Obviously, not all the questions are going to be answered in FAR RIDER, but enough are answered that the reader should be satisfied.

Four of my writing friends have been doing some brainstorming with me. Beth broke down Gen’s plot line into seven realms. There are seven layers that one character deals with and has to resolve. Seven goals and seven things or people trying to thwart her. That’s a lot of conflict. Conflict is good, but it also needs to unfurl in such a way that it makes sense.

Now that I finally have my head wrapped around this, the pieces of the puzzle are falling into place. Some characters are disappearing. Some conflicts are disappearing. Some conflicts are simplified. And, there are a few new conflicts that make other conflicts more understandable.

I’ve read Beth’s manuscript. It’s a remarkable story and I am always amazed at the little things that come together to make the whole. There are so many details and twists and yet, none of it is confusing. What’s even more remarkable is Beth doesn’t plan her stories out. I’m sure her brain does, but she doesn’t. She says she loses interest in a story if she knows what’s going to happen. Even though she doesn’t plan things out ahead of time, she does analyze the story and make sure the arcs are complete and have that pleasing cigar shape everyone wants.

I cannot say this enough. If you don’t have good partners, writing can be a very daunting task.

Writing is not for the faint of heart.


  1. Good writing partners are definitely important. Even if it’s just for encouragement and solidarity. God knows I’m not using you all for writing at the moment, though I should.

    But I will. Starting in November.

    And I’m pondering your plot lines. 🙂

  2. Tara, darling. (My best Zha Zha accent there) You have so much going on.

    Encouragement is so important and belief. As for FR, I’ll be glad when I get through this plot line mess. Everything seems to work in my head until I take all the pieces apart. Then I realize how many holes there are. *sadness*

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