What a "beginner's mindset" can mean to potters, new and old.

What a "beginner's mindset" can mean to potters, new and old.

There's a small, beautiful book by Shunryu Suzuki called Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind. The book's most often-quoted passage is probably this one:

In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few.

Whenever we try something new, we naturally come to it with a beginner's mindset. Yet ironically, at least in my own case, the truer it is that I'm a total rookie, the harder I try to pretend that I'm not one. So you'll usually find me attempting to play it cool on the outside, while inside my mind is rushing a million miles a minute, trying to latch on to and absorb every detail and bit of instruction. Yes, as a matter of fact, it is pretty exhausting!

When I Was a Kid...I didn't try many new things. I felt that I needed to be really good at something or else I shouldn't do it at all. I got to a certain age where I regretted not putting myself out there, so I've tried to catch up some. This makes me a perpetual ADULT BEGINNER. 

As For Pottery...When I sit down to do pottery, there are days when almost nothing goes the way I had hoped, aside from making the time to actually get to the wheel. Although I'm far, far from an expert, one "pro tip" I've learned on days like these is to just get up and go do something else for a while. Not bad advice, but also not the only way. 

Lately, instead of fighting with the clay, I do take a pause but I return more quickly and I come back with a beginner's mindset. I literally start doing the most basic things I learned in the first classes I ever took: wedging with intention, truly centering the clay, focusing on basics: cylinder, bowl...

I Think the Big Takeaway Is...that being a beginner can either be something we avoid or something we embrace. And, even when we've been doing a thing for so long that there's just no way to call ourselves beginners any longer, the beginner's mind is a gift to hold, foster, and come back to.

When Jo Ann and I Envisioned Mud Lily...this was an important guiding concept. We wanted to create a studio that welcomes people who have been curious about trying or returning to pottery and that also attracts ceramic artists who want to work where ego gets left at the door--at a place where there's only room inside for the many possibilities that flow from a beginner's mind.

PS...Come check out our copy of Shunryu Suzuki's Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind. It's at the front desk at Mud Lily!



Working at the studio.

Working at the studio.