How to Fail Well | Britt Thorp | Episode 660


Britt Thorp | Episode 660

How to Fail Well | Britt Thorp | Episode 660

Born is Sioux Falls, SD, Britton Thorp is a ceramic artist and chef. He received his BFA (2008) from Ohio University and is currently a Graduate candidate at Syracuse University. In between, he was a resident artist at The University of Arkansas and Michigan State University. Britton’s current studio practice includes functional pottery, virtual design, photogrammetry and curated dining experiences.


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Do you see failure as some that can be a propellant?

Yes, I think given the right mindset and framework it can fuel ya, you know. I forget who said it, it might have been Thomas Aquinas, I have a chalkboard right outside my studio and I put daily quotes on it and it was one I ran across and he said: Fail, fail again, fail better. That’s really what it comes down to, just fail better, you know, sometimes life is really tough and everyone’s got their stuff and everyone’s got their struggles and everybody’s got that thing that beat ’em up and you’ve got one of two options. You let it take you down or you don’t. The one thing I’ll say about that is with my personal stuff is, I surely didn’t do it on my own. As someone very close to me reminds me, almost on a daily basis, everything I have today really has really little to do with me. I just brought a little bit of willingness to ask for help, try something different, admit that I didn’t know everything and admit what I was doing wasn’t working and because of that my life has gotten better than I ever could have imagined.

So one of the things I hear you saying is that one of the ways to fail better is to try not to fail alone. Would you say that that’s accurate?

Absolutely. You gotta have a sounding board. You’ve gotta have at least one person in your life that you can be 100 percent yourself with. Right? If you don’t have that, go find it. You know what I mean? Some people are fortunate to have a few of them but if you’ve got one…there’s people that we can be 100 percent honest with and the stuff that we were so ashamed of that if we thought that if anyone else knew, that was it. It was over. If we get that out and we turn to helping others man, something really great happens. The stuff that we all hold onto, the bad, the ugly, the demons, whatever you want to call it, there comes a point where you get that out,  you flip your perspective and you  realize that all of that stuff that you thought was so awful is actually a gift because because of it I can help, I am uniquely qualified to help other people that have been through similar stuff.

How do you fail without being bitter?

I think in ceramics or anything, I think it really comes down to managing those expectations. If you don’t  those expectations are just a potential resentment. In my studio practice, for instance, you also got to know what you want. I have no desire to be in the blue chip gallery in New York City and to be in that world. I just want to make pots, man, and you know, if I can get a few people that follow me on Instagram and then I’ve got enough so when I unload a kiln they want to buy it, that’s awesome. And I found the last couple of years getting to teach this stuff it’s a pleasure. To get to teach something that is so specific that you spent your last twenty years learning to kids that are really jazzed about it, that are really gung-ho, that is just one of life’s ultimate pleasures. So you gotta be really honest with yourself first and realistic about what you want and how you are going to get it and manage those expectations and don’t let them get away from you.

It sounds like you don’t want failure to become final. It’s not a dead end but it may be a cul-de-sac. 

Yeah, I think that’s a great way of saying it. Failure is…nothing’s permanent. If that door closes you can find a window. Just keep pushing. Failure is just to throw your hands up and say, well that didn’t work, we’re stuck. Because you are never stuck. You gotta keep moving.

So it can be the poop that turns into soil.

You keep moving because…you know, motivation is  a funny thing. It can come from a lot of different avenues. The normal is you just want to get better. That’s how fear can be, talking about a double-edged sword, fear can be a heck of a motivator as well. At thirty-six, part of it is I’ve got this ticking clock mentality and I lost my way for a lot of years and I lost a lot of years where I didn’t feel like I was moving and I didn’t feel like was progressing and moving towards a goal. I think part of this mentality is catching up for lost time.

What’s your dream job?

That’s a tough one. Like I said, I would be really content if I can get into a University that is small enough that it allows me to continue to make, that’s pretty ideal. But I tell you, on the back burner, I’ve always got this idea of opening up my own residency where the culinary world and the ceramic world could collide. Where you could have chefs on one side and potters on the other and they get to collaborate on  these kind of dining experiences, for I guess, lack of a better term. And do a ceramic culinary residency. I think that would be really cool.


The Invisible Dragon by Dave Hickey


Instagram: @brittonthorpceramics

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