let’s go bowling

it is not the critic who counts

Theodore Roosevelt’s famous “Man in the Arena” excerpt from his “Citizen In A Republic” speech delivered at the Sorbonne in 1910 is one of my favorite quotes. The full text of the excerpt (it’s only two sentences, despite the length — they loved them some semicolons back in the day, y’know?):

Homeboy spoke softly and carried a big stick.   It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.


My latest ceramic creation is a cereal bowl on which I have hand-painted an abridged version of the Man in the Arena quote.

(click on photographs to embiggen)

This piece was harrowing to create. I did not know how much of the quote would fit on the bowl. I got a ruler, a tiny lettering stencil, and a pencil. I then proceeded to edit the quote on the fly, while I stenciled the letters. By some insane miracle, I managed to condense it so it fit perfectly, while keeping the spirit of the quote intact, on the first try.

It reads:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man in the arena; who at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and bitter souls who know neither victory nor defeat.

Or, condensed even further, it reads:

F#ck railbirds.


  I painted this bowl in two sessions and when I finished, the studio was just closing. I didn’t have time to paint my usual witticisms or bonus line drawings on the bottom. For lack of time and creativity, I signed one my nicknames (obscured in the photo via Photoshop, tee hee) and the date, September 18, 2011.
A self-important assclown who got all butt-hurt after I declined his “advice” inspired me to make this piece.

I had a neat idea for the interior of the bowl.

Let’s have some cereal.

In this case, my cereal was Frosted Mini Wheats and I had the unfortunate experience of having to listen to a long-winded coworker right after I poured the milk.

:-( :-/ :-| :-) :-D
(enjoy the hovertext)

I thought it’d be a cheering sight to see a bright sun in a blue sky (one of my favorite motifs) after you eat. The brightness of the painted sun does a nice job of lighting up the bowl with a golden glow in the last picture. 🙂


I’m happy with how this piece turned out.

Ceramic glazes are a light color when you are painting with them, but you don’t know how intense that color is until the piece is fired. When using translucent glazes, as I did here, it’s very important to keep track of how many layers you have painted as each layer builds up the color. The tonal variations you see are a result of this. If one section has two coats of glaze while another has three, the results are very noticeable. While mistakes made during stenciling might only have resulted in ginormous amounts of erasing and sanding, mistakes made during painting are permanent. There is no erasing after painting.

oh Mr. Sun, Sun, Mr. Golden Sun... (that's a song my little cousins used to sing, good memories)

There were so many ways this project could have gone wrong, but it came out all right, with one grammar error (not supposed to be a semi-colon after “arena”), and it didn’t explode in the kiln (that happened once and four mugs lost their lives).

I am very much looking forward to my bowl of inspiring ramen tonight.



Just send it!

11 Replies to “let’s go bowling”

  1. Great bowl. I used to do projects like this a few years ago. Theodore Roosevelt would be very honored to know you did this.

  2. Thank you all for your kind compliments! 🙂 I may make another one of this bowl for a future raffle.

  3. I love this piece and I love the message… especially just after a hard loss that I experienced in a tourney this last weekend.
    Thank you 🙂

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