storytelling technique — June 28, 2015 at 6:13 pm

Stories Told In Ceramics


My good friend and colleague George Billard recently completed a beautiful video portrait of potter Mirena Kim.

In my Storytelling Seminars I discuss artists like Ms. Kim, potters and other craftspeople whose work, though not verbal, can nonetheless be understood as telling a story and who often describe their art in terms of storytelling.

I then use this discussion to explore the question of what we mean by a “story.”

Let’s see how Mirena Kim’s work fits in.

Basic Storytelling Principles Expressed In Ceramics

In her work Miranda Kim is clearly telling a story. And it’s a story that embodies three central tenets of storytelling, principles that apply to stories in all media.

1)  It’s driven by a unifying idea

In this case it’s the exploration of a “vertical line that’s bowed.”

2)  There is a clear beginning, middle and end

The film begins with Kim explaining her initial insight. “I was trying to find this one piece that I was picturing in my head…I wasn’t seeing it anywhere so I decided to make it myself.”

In the middle we learn about the process of “taking away layers” to get to the “real idea.”

And Kim ends by broadening her perspective, offering a philosophical summation that unifies herself and her work:  “I’m part of the process. I have to bring to it a sense of calm, a sense of discipline, a sense of purpose.”

3) It has direction and rhythm

As you view Kim’s work your eye is guided. You move along a path. There is a quiet momentum.

Moreover, hers is an ongoing story. Not only does each of her ceramics tell its own narrative, but collectively they each contribute to a larger unified narrative that Mirena Kim has been telling over the course of her career.

Storytelling Within Storytelling

Added to this is Mr. Billard’s thoughtful filmmaking. The journey Kim expresses verbally is complemented with a visual story:  we watch the clay at the beginning become—through Miranda Kim’s art and craft—a finished piece at the end.  Following the physical process of creating the work adds to the film’s sense of direction and intent.

All in all, this is very successful and engaging storytelling.

Which once again underscores that no matter what medium you’re working in, whether it’s ceramics, film or a corporate presentation, basic storytelling principles are what make for a story that satisfies.

Become a better storyteller. Check out our storytelling seminars and workshops.

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