Friday, July 29, 2011

Thoughts On A Path Traveled Where Nothing Is Lost

Student Work in Ceramics Handbuilding
Many of you know that I returned to college when I turned 40 and earned second undergraduate degree, a BFA In Studio Arts.  I wrote about it in my first blog post that I re-posted this week.  What only a few of you know is that as a part of that degree I had a concentration in the area of Ceramics.  I didn't enter school thinking, "Wow, I think I will concentrate on a Ceramics degree."  I entered thinking, "I am going to get the art degree that I wanted to get 20 years ago.  I'm a painter."
Student work in Ceramics.

After a full year in the BFA program, I met a young ceramic artist who was working toward an MFA and was student teaching a sculpture class, Brian Somerville.  I enjoyed the class so much, that I decided to take Brian's Ceramics Handbuilding class the next semester.  Handbuilding is sculpture using clay as the medium.  Well....the clay got the best of me and I never left the department.  Don't get me wrong, I took all the other courses too....painting, printmaking, sculpture and others. But, my concentration was in Ceramics.  (I think that name of that degree needs to be changed because it conjures up the idea of a little 'paint your own pottery shop,' not the intense, time consuming and almost always frustrating art of making with clay.)

First home studio space.

I set up a studio in my home, complete with all the expensive equipment that a clay studio needs, then some.  I had three kilns, a wheel, a slab roller, several hundred pound of clay including porcelain, stoneware and terracotta.  I had the skills that I needed to make a go of it.  I worked in this studio for over a year, crafting piece after piece, firing them in my kilns and living under some of the most frustrating times of my life!
Glad I got an image.  This one blew up in the kiln.

You see, ceramics isn't easy.  It's time consuming and inherently has a ton of risk involved.  You can take weeks building a sculpture only to lose it in a kiln to some sort of unforeseen glitch in the firing cycle. A professor (not Brian) whom had been my primary instructor had done a number on my psyche and I couldn't seem to shake her from my studio work either.  (Just typing this still gives me anxiety!)   
I held onto the equipment for several years, starting and stopping.....starting and stopping. I thought that maybe my life was getting in the way of my art, until I realized that the clay was getting in front of my art!  Did that make sense?  

I realized that somewhere along the way, my fascination with clay that was sparked several years prior was a path that, although was wonderful while it lasted, was not the path that I needed to be continuing to walk down.  I decided to make a mass exodus, selling all my equipment and re-organizing my studio space.  I spent the next several months redeveloping my work, painting more and freeing up my mind for another endeavor. 
a painting in progress
I am still on that new path, wondering where it will take me.  My studio today has a painting in progress on the wall, a work table in the middle, Josh Groban singing Illuminations on the boom box, my doggies sitting by my side with my birdies chirping in the background.  I am writing my blog post, something that I have come to enjoy.  For the first time since graduating, everything about my progress as an artist feels right.  No longer does my former instructors criticisms haunt me.  No longer do I carry the guilt of spending years working in clay, only to come out the other end with little to show.  You see....every experience informs the next.  Nothing is lost.  It's the journey that matters...... 

(Brian Somerville has an amazing collection of work.  You can visit his web site at
-The End-

1 comment:

Deneen said...

We really are a lot alike! It's amazing!