My Favorite Mistakes

I took a break from constructing my garden gate to attend the annual home studio sale of ceramicist Christina Cohn.

Christina started making plates, mugs, planters and jewelry a few years ago, using a kiln in her basement. It has been a delight to watch her work mature and to see her confidence grow along the way.

Christina sells her work across Nashville, including at USN’s Artclectic and MBA’s Endada, but my favorite way to shop Christina Cohn Ceramics is at the annual studio clearout and seconds sale, where Christina sells her imperceptibly imperfect products for pennies on the dollar. Over the years, I have filled out a collection of beloved plates, as well as procured many of the best wedding gifts I’ve ever given.

As I was leaving Christina’s basement this week, I paused to admire a row of oversized ceramic vases in various patterns. “Don’t touch,” Christina warned, as I was about to pat a blue-and-white glazed globe. “They’re all broken. They’ll cut your fingers.”

She explained that they were the results of failed experiments in firing large-form vessels. While they looked gorgeous, they were not structurally sound and would break upon impact.

“I learned a lot by making them,” Christina said, nodding to the outsized and deceptively fragile forms, whose hairline fractures were visible only upon intense scrutiny.

“I know what you mean,” I said. Then I launched into the travails of my garden gate, which has been a comical string of joinery fails. Toenailing screws into spindles is much harder than expected, but with every botched attempt, I have improved my technique.

Standing beside the shelf of cracked ceramic lamps and planters, Christina and I commiserated over our maker mishaps. Among our shared grievances: Mistakes are unsettling, when you’re used to getting things right the first time. Wasting materials is expensive. Failure is discouraging…. Finally, Christina said, “It can prevent people from finding their passion.”

That’s when we both said pretty much the same thing: If we want to continue to improve–Christina at her pottery and me at my woodworking–we’ve just got to keep diving into our creative work and messing it up.

Someday, I will fine-tune my crude joinery. And Christina will perfect her large-scale ceramics.

Until then, I’ll look forward to her annual seconds sale, where I’ll continue to collect Christina Cohn’s perfectly imperfect creations.

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