Life has been so busy lately that I feel like I've been swallowed up in everything that's been going on. At work there is constant grading, lesson planning, collaborating, preparing for the day, the hour, the minute. Students who need this and want that, students who's attitudes keep me in a constant agitated state for the entire hour they inhabit my room. My nerves are starting to become a little fried and I think that Christmas break can't get here fast enough.
I get so overwhelmed sometimes that I just shut everything out. I quit producing, I quit writing, I quit working out. I lack the motivation to hop out of bed in the morning bright eyed and bushy tailed and ready to take on the day. Very often I drink around three cups of coffee just to feel like I can even handle the day.
Today after school instead of grading the last of the two point perspective houses that I've been putting off or creating a rubric for the optical illusions the kids are starting to finish, I grabbed a large lump of clay and squished it around in my hands.
You guys, there is just something about creating that makes me feel alive. I spend all my energy day in and day out teaching other people how to be creative and most of those people don't even care. Art is really looked down upon in society. "But I'll never use it," they say. "This isn't even relevant to what I want to do with my life." "Do I really have to do this?"
It's exhausting to answer those questions over and over again that yes, this is important. Yes you have to do this. You're in this class, so while you're here do the work. Art helps you creatively problem solve. It helps improve your hand-eye coordination. It teaches you how to express yourself in a way that you never could before. In essence, everything you produce in an art room is a reflection of who you are as a person.
But high schoolers really don't care about that kind of stuff, as a general rule.
So anyway, back to this clay that's in my hands. It's been so long since I just got to make something that I wanted to make with no teenagers around to distract my attention. I mean, I did make a coffee mug as an example of the relief technique, but it took me a while to get through it because wouldn't you know it, these students actually need someone to pay attention to them? Who would have thought.
I used my fingers and the palms of my hands to wedge the clay and form it into a log shape. Then I used the slab roller to flatten the log into a nice sheet. The room was so quiet; the only sound was the creaking of the heavy slab roller, back and forth over the clay.
Breathe in, breathe out.
It reminded me of what it was like to hang out in the print making lab at the university late, late at night when I was the only person in there. My life is very loud, the world is a pretty noisy place, and when I'm working by myself sometimes I like to keep the radio off. I like to hear myself think. I'm pretty sure this is a trait I learned from my mother.
After I finished using the slab roller I had two flat sheets of clay. One of them I used to cut a circular base for a vase and the other was the wall of the vase itself. I cut it into a rectangular shape and then placed a doily over top. I don't know if you know this, but doilies are super handy where clay is involved. They are great for adding texture to the surfaces of projects. Usually you use a rolling pin and imprint the clay with the doily design, but this time I didn't do that.
This particular design had quiet a few large gaps in it, so I decided to mark them with a dental tool and then cut them out. While this was happening, my favorite janitor came in to clean my room. We talked and laughed as I worked the clay with my hands.
I stood the rectangle shaped clay that I just cut holes in upright and wrapped it around the circular base, forming the shape of the vase. The clay was a little too moist, which made it kind of a battle to stand upright. With the help of a heat gun and good conversation I was able to make it work.
In some areas the clay got a little dry and cracked, so I came back in with slip on my fingertips to smooth out the design. Slip is just super wet clay and it's used to glue pieces of clay together or to add color or smooth out textures in pieces. It has the consistency of a mud puddle after some of the water has evaporated - you know the ones you step in and feel like you're maybe going to lose your shoe because they kind of suction you in? Mmmmm yes, it's delicious.
The janitor left while I was still smoothing down the outside and making sure that my design was staying intact. Watching this vase come together reminded me that I still know how to create things. It reminded me that I'm still an artist. It symbolized the fact that maybe I do know what I'm talking about after all. And that felt pretty darn good.
In the hustle and bustle of everything going on in life, not just mine but also the people around me, things just get messy. I get a little lost and I forget where I'm going or why I'm going or how I'm going to get there. But I tell you what, I was made to be an artist. It's where I belong. It's where I'm most comfortable.
I wasn't cut out to be a traditional teacher. I don't even know what that looks like. And if I was cut out for that, then somebody sowed me together wrong because all I know how to be is who I am and that is a Creator of Things. Maybe I just have a different approach to life, and maybe that's not so bad. And maybe also I just need to give myself time to create things more so that I'm motivated to do the things that maybe I don't want to do.
I miss being a student for the sheer fact that I miss having time set aside for the specific purpose of creating. I need that back. I need to have time for myself to create so that I can remember what it feels like. So that I can be better at teaching other people what it feels like to create and why creating is important. Because dudes, creating is so important.