Our FLOW

At the ConferenceNo matter what happens, everything seems to work out how it’s supposed to. It might not be perfect; there will be quirks to be remedied, but in the end it will all come together. We had to have this mentality before the conference because that was the reality: we didn’t know exactly how the conference was going to work.

I think I can speak for myself, as well as the group, when I say the whole trip (conference, RadioLab Live, touring…and especially the food) worked out great.

Standing by the cups we had made ourselves, waiting for a curious conference attendee to walk by, I thought about the work we put in to get to that point. All those hours were paying off, but it’s not the “thanks for being here” or the “great job” comments that makes me satisfied with what we did.

What I’m excited about is the fact that we are making people think about something powerful, something that many had never pondered before.

More than one person I’ve interviewed said that they hadn’t thought about the idea of flow, especially the why, the how, and the when. All of them said they are glad that this made them do so. We were able to make that connection because we were all sharing ceramics, OUR version of flow.

One thing that has been consistent across all my interviews, especially all the artists and theater-folk at the conference: people love describing their flow. They get lost in the moment. They become so animated that they might even forget where they are or what they’re doing because they are describing their passion.

After interviewing my grandparents last week, I asked how long they thought their interviews were (because they thought 3 minutes would be hard to reach). Both interviews were well over 5 minutes, and BOTH of them underestimated the time of their interviews. Just as we all lose track of time in our flow, we get lost in the moment of describing our moments because that’s simply the power of FLOW (woah…).

During on of my interviews at the conference, something happened that hadn’t happened up to that point: I was asked a question. Was ceramics my flow? At first I hesitated, not expecting the question, and I admit it caught me off guard. Simply, I answered “yes” and described how each person involved had some sort of flow through this project, but it was so much more…

After the conference, I read an article by Brian Johnson that summarizes Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s (“mee-high” “cheeks-SENT-me-high”) book FLOW, and realized why the project created flow. Flow is described as the place between boredom and anxiety, “when challenges are balanced with a person’s capacity to act.” This project pushed all of us with time, effort, and creativity, but we were all capable, and as Johnson puts it, “when skills match the challenge? Enter flow!”

People never expected to receive a free cup, but just as often people never expected to talk about a moment so special to them, and standing beside the table seeing all seven of us doing interviews, I could almost feel the FLOW around the room.

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That Special Moment

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Sir Ken Robinson signs a bowl made in our studio

I got to interview Sir Ken Robinson. I’ll let that sink in for a minute, because it was just as unexpected for me. Sir Ken Robinson, the man with the most-viewed TED Talk of all time.

It wasn’t just a coincidence, however. He came to speak at Malvern, and there was an opportunity to do something I could never do otherwise. For this project, we agreed to try for two ‘reach’ interviews, and needless to say I can cross one off my list.

This unique moment I had epitomizes my feelings for the interview process. At first, I wasn’t too sure about asking people for a five minute interview. It took as long to explain the project itself as to interview, so I wasn’t exactly jumping out of my seat to interview people. Last week I worked on getting a chunk of interviews done, and as the week went on my attitude changed. Each individual wasn’t just another interview out of the way, but a story. The interview gives me a chance to have a special conversation with people, some of whom I see everyday. I never knew that Luke B. loved scuba diving. Who could have known that seeing bubbles rising to the surface of the ocean gives him a calming feeling? The interview isn’t a burden to be carried, it has become my key into people’s lives, to peer in at a special moment that they have and share it with them.

From creative writing to riding motorcycles, the different moments of flow have come in all shapes and sizes (click over to interviews to hear more!). Do the ways we experience flow shape us, or do we choose our moments because of our own characteristics? This is just one interesting question I’ve thought about in the process, and hopefully by the end I will have an idea of an answer.

It was awesome to interview Sir Ken Robinson, but hearing every person’s moments of flow has been just as noteworthy, because of the chance to hear special moments in people’s lives.

-Dan