Show and Tell: Zen Non-Attachment

July 21, 2008

For my first Show and Tell, I would like to present a pot that I made.

Unattached Pot

As you can see, it is broken. It was one of the nicest pieces I have ever made, until I dropped it on the floor. I had just taken it out of the kiln, and it looked great. I just needed to remove the lid, which had gotten stuck to the pot during firing. I’ve done this before, and it usually just requires a little yank. This time, I needed to pull harder. I pulled so hard that the bottom flew off, crashed on the concrete floor, and broke into the four pieces you see here. The next day, I started making a replacement. The replacement still isn’t finished, so I can’t Show and Tell that yet.

When I took up pottery as a hobby, I learned very quickly that you can’t get attached to anything. The process is very risky at so many points. I have ruined or destroyed pieces at every imaginable part of the process: each step of throwing, taking the thrown pot off of the wheel, trimming, the initial bisque firing, glazing, the second glaze fire, and even taking the completed pot home. You really can’t count on anything until you get it home. Even then, there is every possibility that you or someone else will break it in the course of daily use. Everyone who breaks something in my house, even something that I worked hard to create, is entirely forgiven. There is enough unhappiness in life without getting yelled at for breaking a plate.

Pottery for me is as much about the act of creating it as it is about the final product. If it weren’t, I would have given up a long time ago, considering that more pieces have been ruined than have made it to final product stage.

I once shared this realization with a friend of mine who is into Zen philosophy. He thought it was a perfect expression of Zen non-attachment, and that pottery seemed to have helped me grow as a person.

That being said, my skill at non-attachment does not apply to TTC. With baby-making, the final product is much more important than the act of creating (which itself can range from pleasant to a chore to arduous… and I’m only talking about the intervention-free kind of baby-making). I am deeply attached to each potential product, even when I am very unlikely to end up coming home with that particular finished product. But, having realized this, I have no will to change. Aren’t you supposed to be more attached to a human being than to a piece of clay? Even when that human being doesn’t yet exist?

14 Responses to “Show and Tell: Zen Non-Attachment”

  1. Martha Says:

    What a beautiful piece of pottery. Thank you for sharing how creating the pottery is as important as the final product, that’s wonderful. I also wish you all the best for your family.
    Here from ILCW, thanks again.

  2. Marie Says:

    This post means a great deal to me. I am not artistic and I can’t realy relate in that sense, but I can relate to the ttc and stress and agrivation over what should be great. I get so caught up in the end result that I don’t treasure the moments with my husband and the determination and desire that we have for the end result. THAT, is worth a treasure in itself. Thank you for reminding me of that. Have a great day!!

  3. Kate Says:

    Here from ICLW. I like the point you made and I’m sorry that you dropped it. It looked like a really nice piece.

  4. Tiffanie Says:

    hi, just stopping by from ICLW.
    good luck with your next IVF. i hope you kick IF’s ass!
    i love that you do pottery and have always wanted to get into that. maybe after grad school and ttc. we will be doing IVF #1 sometime next spring/summer after many yrs of ttc and all other IF treatments.

  5. BethH6703 Says:

    First off, Welcome to the Blogosphere! And Thanks (again) for the comment!

    I think your “non-attachment” to the pottery is pretty amazing. Something I would love to put to use in so many areas of life. Someday…

  6. Deborah Says:

    Welcome to blogging. I read through your posts so far and am sorry to hear about IVF #1.

    I agree that it is the final product that matters most when ttc. Once you get past all the babymaking sex and have to turn to OPKs, drugs, shots and all the other medical procedures, the fun is completely sucked out of the process. I am glad that you have found something that reminds you that creating can be fun and rewarding even if the final product never sees the light of day.

    I will be reading and listening. Take care.

  7. Amy Says:

    A beautiful piece of art, and a beautiful post. Thank you for both. Part of me wishes I could look at ttc with non-attachment, but there’s this other part of me that is so grateful to know that I can love that deeply, even if the “product” is not for keeps.

  8. Brandygirl Says:

    Hi, here from L&F.

    Sorry about IVF#1. Good luck with your next.

    what a beautiful piece of art… whenever i think of pottery, i think of that scene from that movie, Ghost with Demi Moore & Patrick Swayze! 🙂

  9. Kristine Says:

    I always loved doing pottery in school. I haven’t had my hands in clay like that since then. It always seems so therapeutic. The physicalness of having your hands in the clay, the creativity of it….even the mess.

    Maybe I need to go take a pottery class!

    Here from NCLW.

  10. bobbie Says:

    I can sort of relate to your experience. I have thrown a few pots while visiting my mother in law (who is a professional potter), and some never really come out the way I had planned.

    (Visiting for ICLW.)

  11. babysmiling Says:


    Because so many people have mentioned Ghost to me, I looked up the scene on YouTube — I hadn’t seen it since I saw the movie in the theaters, as a kid. Her technique isn’t bad, but the most unrealistic thing is that the husband comes over to the piece she’s working on and pushes it, and it collapses. Instead of yelling at him, they start going at it. Non-attachment or not, there is no room in pottery for deliberate sabotage. I ruin enough pieces myself without someone, much less my husband, coming over and smashing them.

    By the way, he is not a ghost yet when he ruins the pottery. He is still alive. I guess if he were a ghost I wouldn’t be as angry — maybe.

  12. Lianne Says:

    Happy new Blog, welcome.

  13. emilythehopeless Says:

    visiting from ICLW .. such a pretty pot 😦
    very interesting analogy.
    good luck!

  14. Anne Says:

    Infertility, pottery, philosophy, and beautiful writing. I will be back!

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