I’m an artist. I’ve been saying this since I was nine and now I’m 62 and I think I’m starting to believe it.
It’s been twenty years since I left teaching to pursue my work full time. twenty years of sitting quietly each morning in my studio, molding literally thousands of small faces and figures out of porcelain, smoothing each crease and mark with the same clay tool in my hand I’ve used for all of those years. It’s a soothing and meditative process to feel the clay move, taking shape, slowly emerging from something so simple as a ball of powdered sand and water. Porcelain is the finest of clays, pure, smooth and white, you can stretch it as thin as paper or mold it into the most minute of shapes. Its fragile beauty belies its strength. Its temperamental character challenges me, torments, confounds and fascinates me. It’s an old friend which comforts me in difficult times, the familiarity of the routine, of hands working in simple repetitive gestures they’ve known for so long, my mind and breathing focused only on coaxing life from it. It’s magic, really, to change something primitive and simple into permanence.
Seventeen years of being taught by the same teacher and still more to learn. Every morning, the same lesson, every morning a new lesson.
I cannot remember a time when making art wasn’t the center of who I am and not just what I do. It's been my mirror, my teacher, my solace. It's how I let you see me.
My early work in sculpture, 25 years ago, appears raw and intense, angry, sad -- a longing in them difficult for me to see when I look at them now. The eyes are closed, the mouth open, the gesture of their hands, the tilt of the head and rigid shoulders, the arms reaching out and up and feet set wide apart all convey an anguish. I didn't think about what I was doing. I didn't think about what the pieces were saying. I just kept moving my hands. It was fear, loneliness and grief that pushed me to that unconscious place, but it liberated me.
And it healed me.
Seven years past great loss… I'm completing a piece, one I fought with for weeks, now changed, now yes, right. It feels right. The mirror reflects more softly. The eyes are open, the head turned ever so slightly, the mouth relaxed, the shoulders sloped downward, the arms at the hips, the hands quiet. So subtle are the changes I didn't realize the when or how, which is how it should be. Don't think about it, just move your hands. It was stillness, simplicity and time that pushed me to that unconscious place, and it liberated me.