I joined Michael Citrino’s art night at school this spring and made my very first bowls from clay. I loved being able to go on Thursday evenings and immerse myself in an activity that is so completely tangible and yet so fully engages the mind at the same time. There is something wholly wonderful and restorative about letting go into the experience.
Julia Cameron in Walking in This World: The Practical Art of Creativity, says, “The human being, by definition, is a creative being. We are to make things and, in the old phrase, to “make something of ourselves.” When we lose interest in ourselves and our lives, when we tell ourselves dreams don’t matter or that they are impossible, we are denying our spiritual heritage…We become depressed and drained, even physically ill. We become snappish, irritable, high-strung. We call ourselves neurotic – this is not the case. We are not neurotic, we are miserable – miserable because have stifled our creative selves. Those selves are well—and too large for the cage we have put them in, the cage we call “normal.” (57)
Making a clay bowl is a long process and there are many different skills involved, from how to roll out the clay and get the bubbles out of it, to shaping the clay, to painting the under glaze on in a pleasing way and shape that communicates what you intend, then there is all the knowledge needed for how to fire a kiln and how to let it cool. Each part of the process requires a separate bank of knowledge. Making a piece of pottery takes a lot of patience. If you rush the process, there’s a much higher chance that it won’t turn out. At the same time, there are many variables along the way which can make your piece not turn out so well that are not really under your control–such as what will happen in the kiln once you finish the smoothing. It’s wonderful having the final product of the finished bowl, but there is something equally valuable about being involved in the state of making.
I was inspired by the Italian Majolica pottery, and wanted to make a pomegranate and a lemon bowl because I love the rich colors in the Majolica designs. Since I never had an art class in school, it was challenging to draw the shape of the fruit, and painting with a glaze color is not like painting with the color the object will be after it is fired. You can’t be too tied up in the end product because there are so many variables that could go wrong along the way. Like many creative endeavors, what the end product would actually turn out like was a bit of a mystery, and I looked forward to discovering what that would be. Yesterday evening, the pomegranate bowls I made were “born.” Below is one of the results. I am happy.