Have you watched a potter at a wheel? From a lump of ordinary clay extraordinary cylinders, bowls, or mugs emerge. They make it look easy. It is not.
Hunching over the wheel, centering the clay, and getting it to rise into the vessel I envisioned — well, I had no idea how physical it would be. The clay does not prepare or center itself. If not balanced in the middle of the wheel, even a small lump of clay resists and bucks against your hands. It then morphs into a lopsided creation. Off kilter rim. Uneven sides. Like my early pinch pots.
Centering is key. Once the clay is centered, keeping the wall thickness even comes next. I was thrilled (can you tell?) when I made my first large piece, the bowl below.
Once the vessel is formed, it’s time to let it dry. Because I live in a warm climate, I covered this bowl loosely with a plastic bag to regulate dry time and avoid cracking. The next day I checked on it and found this:
Here’s what I learned about life while working with clay…
Centering is crucial.
It’s also a metaphor for a life that feels whole. I center by spending time right at the start of my day in silence. This may be walking on my own or sitting in my old pink easy chair with a book or my journal. Other ways I center: Heart-to-heart hugs with the fam. We hug long enough to get the oxytocin drip going. I sweep the kitchen floor or putter in the garden. Things I don’t have to overthink and that bring a sense of peace — these center me.
Control is an Illusion.
We show up, do our best, and anything can happen. This once drove me round the twist. Now it is a huge relief. Neither the world nor my reputation as a responsible, caring person depend on me being in control. I do what I can and release the outcome.
Or: To make art — any art — make lots of art. That first bowl taught me a lot! I determined early on to over-produce. For every two pots I began on the wheel, only one would make it through the final glaze fire as hoped. There are so many possibilities for failure in any creative process, but that doesn’t mean it’s a fool’s game. That means anyone can participate — write, garden, sing, dance, parent, bake, teach, learn, knit, paint — who has the heart to keep at it.
Here’s a bit of what I brought home from the studio after the final exam:
Over to You
Pictures make wonderful writing prompts. What small things have you learned from making? Look at the things you make — a meal, a quilt, an orderly cupboard, a new friend. Take a few pictures.
What is Photo Voice?
Photo Voice is a way to amplify and reflect on our very visual lives. And it’s simple:
- Look at your pictures. Those you have OR those you take today, this week. Make it super easy — I use my phone.
- Choose one: of something you made, or that thing/activity/place that centers you.
- Print it out and paste it in a notebook. Or put it in a fresh google document. Or create a digital album.
- Write 3-4 sentences (or more!) about it: the story it makes you think of (or think up), or why you love it, what it means to you, the metaphor it holds.
- Share it. Use Instagram, Pinterest, or Facebook (share with all your friends or just one), or keep it in your notebook to share with your future self.
Photo Voice is one way to access your creativity and through it your inner life. Creativity is the way we make (and find) meaning in life.
If we want to make meaning, we need to make art. Cook, write, draw, doodle, paint, scrapbook, take pictures, collage, knit, rebuild an engine, sculpt, dance, decorate, act, sing – it doesn’t matter. As long as we’re creating, we’re cultivating meaning.” ~ Brené Brown [emphasis mine]
Did this article speak to you? Let me know below. Would it speak to someone you love, let them know! Thank you ❤