Clay

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Life continues steadily onward,…I’m a substitute art teacher, now, by the way. It’s funny how a series of events, once put in motion, can take you where you least expect to go. As it turns out, I really enjoy getting to know these kids. My favorite part is just having conversations with them, followed closely by giving them choices in their assignments that they can personalize to their own interests. From Anime to tattoos, Manga to interior design, cars to experimental chandeliers from pop cans, their interests are varied and very real.

I created an excel spreadsheet to keep track of it all, too. My apologies to those that have just fainted with disbelief.

One of the classes I teach is Advanced Ceramics, but they are teaching me. Literally. I had never sat at a potter’s wheel before in my life, and with my student’s help, my first attempt at a pot became a lovely turtle named George (because I will hug him and squeeze him and call him George,…one of the students even gets most of my obscure references). I have successfully thrown a pot and glazed it. Another pot remains to be tested in the kiln. I’m hoping it doesn’t explode. None of mine have exploded yet, and as it turns out, this is a very valid concern.

My favorite part of ceramics is making clay, though. Apparently, this is yet another way that I’m a little odd. Let me explain. When clay is being used and doesn’t go as planned (say a sound startles you and you rip the whole thing in two, for instance), the clay gets thrown into a trashcan full of water. We refer to this as the Agua Bucket (because the girls have an ongoing issue with calling it moist or saturated clay, don’t ask,…), and the discarded clay softens into a miry mush. When the time comes to make clay (because too much has accumulated and you’re running out of room in the bucket), you have to reach down and slop some onto the table. Disturbing the water causes a very singular aroma to rise from the depths. This is a scent that will linger, and permeate your clothes and hair.

Once the smelly blobs are on the table, you work dry clay powder (affectionately referred to as queso, or Parmesan) throughout, squeezing, kneading, and smacking the blob on the table until it’s the right consistency to be used again as clay. “Ew, it’s disgusting!” is commonly heard during this process, and that is a correct assessment. It is.

It’s also fun. Stinky, messy, disgusting fun. It’s oddly energizing to take a mess and make it ready to be molded into something usable. While squeezing and squishing, kneading and wringing, I like to think about what the clay could become once it is ready to be used. There’s a parallel to molding the students in there, but if I’m honest, the biggest parallel is to myself. I just have to trust that all this molding and shaping I’ve undergone will result in something useful. Better still, if I can be useful during the process.

Just some thoughts.

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