Ceramics is a major part of my life. In my past life, before I found clay and became a mud-slinging pyromaniac, I made my living as a writer. This career, which spanned four decades, required me to come up with an unending stream of ideas for editors and publishers that counted on me. It taught me to think in a very organized and creative way, seeing inspiration in the most surprising places. Now, I’m obsessed with ceramics notebooks.
As a ceramic clay worker, I have found that my organized creativity serves me well. However, when you start seeing ideas everywhere, you have to corral them and remember them. As a woman of a certain age, keeping track of things is especially challenging. So I learned to have a sketchbook/notebook very nearby. Let me explain how that works. It’s fun and it can keep you from the throws of potters block. I never get blocked, and you needn’t either.
Where to Acquire a Sketchbook That Turns You On
Sometimes I buy them. If I’m in a bookstore, gift shop, art store, or resale shop I keep my eyes open for two types of things. I hunt down cool shapes to form and mold my clay in. I look for books with blank or even lined pages that I can make notes and drawings in. There are such wonderfully pretty cover patterns on these little gems. You can buy them in almost any size imaginable, sometimes for pennies. In my studio, I try to use books that have plasticized covers so I can wipe them off.
Sometimes I even make my sketchbooks. I might take a plain covered notebook or artist sketchbook and design a cover using any medium I feel like playing with. Once I have added tons of decoration to please myself, I cover the book in clear plastic.
I keep several books going at a time. In some, there are just lists. In some, just sketches. in some, a combination.
Usually, I also have a digital notebook or two going. My favorite program or application is Microsoft’s online OneNote program, though there are many others like
How to Make Notebooking Fun
I know you’re busy making stuff with clay in your ceramics studio. I know record keeping can be a chore. A drag. But it can also be one of your strongest tools.
If you choose a real paper notebook, get a fancy pen to keep with it. Or go for colors — markers, colored pens, etc. Now you have a pretty notebook and a real writing implement to record your thoughts and observations. It’s as delightful as writing a personal letter to your most favorite person.
It’s even more fun with a digital book. I don’t use a smartphone, so I’m not sure how notebook apps perform on a small screen. I do use both a laptop and several tablets. The process is simple and foolproof. Doesn’t even resemble a chore.
Most of us spend some time each day surfing the web. Any artist should. We really need the creative stimulation of exploring other makers’ works. Our work improves when we keep up with contemporary trends. Or study classic methods. Browse websites for ideas.
For sure, the pictures and notes on those sites are inspiring and interesting. Stowing them so you can easily browse your own notebook(s) at will is a piece of cake. There are several apps that allow you to clip and save everything from an entire page or illustration to a postage stamp-sized reminder.
One of those app is part of your Windows operating system. It’s called Snipping Tool. Find it in your programs. Be aware, though, that text clipped this way is not searchable.
Other clipping app tools:
Simple cut and paste. On a computer, the quickest way is highlight text, then control X to cut it or control c to copy it, then control P where you want to paste it. I know it’s possible to cut and paste on a tablet or phone, but dang, I can’t figure out how.
OneNote Webclipper, a very cool app
Some of the Stuff I Add to Ceramics Notebooks
- Images of other artists work. I don’t ever just remake someone’s piece, but I study their techniques and processes to figure how to improve my own work. Check the article on my series of head sculptures — there was a lot of picture snipping done before I went down those paths.
- Notes on conversations and ideas with fellow potters and art students.
- Notes from videos on clay work
- Photos I snap of interesting shapes, surface treatments and artwork that seems to want me to rework them into clay
- Glaze treatments and surface decorations
I hope by now you’re getting a rain full of ideas for your ceramics notebooks. Creativity is a never-ending process that wants to be fed a steady diet of inspiring material. The more you think about your work, the better your clay work becomes. The more you use your senses to gather data, the more ideas you come up with in your ceramics studio.
Last Notes on Ceramics Notebooks
Collect patterns and templates you make, borrow, or otherwise acquire. Copy them onto thin craft foam sheets
or roofing paper, since those materials are waterproof and durable for repeated use. Store them in a photo album type binder, slipped between the plastic sheets. You can add dividers for types of patterns — mugs, bowls, sculptures, etc
Keep another organized binder with photos of every single piece you make, whether you love the work or you don’t love that particular piece. Record the glazes, firing times, tools used to decorate, clay bodies, etc. This is incredibly handy when you decide you want to reuse a particular style or idea.
Feel free to leave a comment telling us about your idea keepers, ceramics notebooks, or inspiration processes!