A Tooth for a Tooth / by Amanda Gentry


Dear Dr. Marcus,

I realized when I arrived at my last appointment that I had not yet sat down to email you the background on the piece I gifted you last year. For the record, these are the official details, with the story below:

Don't Get Too Discouraged, 2015, 9.25" x 12.5" x 6.5", Salt glazed porcelain.

This piece signifies some breakthroughs for me as an artist. This is the first piece that was not what I set out to make. I generally have a tight sketch or idea that I intend to realize. This piece originally was going to be oriented the other way (what is bottom was to be top). It was going to have a rocking, convex bottom with the two extentions coming to points twice the length they currently are. I realized as I was making this that I would need to rotate it and refine the bottom (now top) as I would not be able to do so once the two points were put on it. Upon rotating it and looking at it upside down I realized that it was perfect—that it needed to have the orientation it now has. It was the first time I had looked at a work from a different perspective and allowed myself to change my plans. It was the first time I truly listened to the work.

I had high hopes for this piece when I put it in the kiln. When it came out with cracks I felt defeated. I brought it back to my studio and tucked it away in my shelves. I was certain I would take a hammer to it in six months time. A few months passed and an artist rep came for a studio visit. I had pulled all of my "good" work out onto the tables for her to see. After looking at everything she asked if she could look in my shelves. She pulled out my disappointment and said, "Oooh. Tell me about this one!" I promptly apologized for the cracks and she said, "Are you kidding me?! They follow the movement of this piece. They're perfect." I left the piece out on my studio bookcase and started to see it with new eyes. She was right. The cracks made the piece. And the piece then became beautiful to me. This perspective has changed the way I see my work now. The kiln always has the last word. And often times that comes in the form of cracks or spots I had not intended. I realize now that they are the birthmarks of the work. They are kisses from the kiln goddess.

As such, I named the piece after one of my favorite lines from my favorite movie ever, Harold & Maude. (If you haven't seen it, you must.) At one point Maude hot-wires a priest's car and takes it for a joy ride. Upon returning it she sees the priest. He says, "Hey, are you the woman who stole my car?" She says, "I suppose I am! Did you like what I did to the St. Christopher medal that was hanging from the mirror?" With a scowl he says, "I absolutely did not!". She says, "Aww. Don't get too discouraged. For aesthetic appreciation, always a little time!"

This past summer, when I tried my luck at cheaper dentistry, I quickly became discouraged. When you so willingly agreed to re-do what had been poorly done I wanted to return the kindness by giving you something of value to me. I found it rather uncanny that the piece, titled well before my dental fiasco, kind of looked like a tooth. And, that it was made of porcelain, like my crown, made it clear to me that it belonged to you.

I pulled the piece from the gallery that represents me where they had it priced at $1200—the value of which cannot compare to the kindness and generosity I have received. I cannot thank you enough. For your integrity and the high regard with which you hold your profession. And most of all, for reminding me of the goodness that we are all capable of.

With gratitude,