Twisted clay


Photo courtesy Brittany Beezhold


Earthy, organic, the color of lightly roasted coffee beans.

Twisted through your fingers, molded slowly and attentively. Clay gets messy. Shoes splattered, dusted with ceramic fragments like a fine layer of cinnamon.

Hands stained a copper red, dry and cracked. Pants covered with a mixture of clay and glaze along the seams as a layered history of the past.

With a lump of clay placed firmly between your hands, applying adequate pressure in the correct places, the clay is transformed into a lovely set of tea bowls, neatly relating to each other in dimension and expression.

Demanding time and meditative repetition, hands coil pieces of clay, joining them together to create a tall pitcher with a braided rim. Blocks of ordinary clay are molded into something beautiful or profound.

Ceramic pieces are also expressions of the self. Engrained into each piece are the literal fingerprints or marks of the artist. Clay has the capacity to tell narratives, either fictional or drawn from personal life experiences. Each piece bears a story or lesson within its structural frame.

As a medium or process, of self-editing, of failures, clay is a lot like life. Life is messy and chaotic, spontaneous yet predictable. Creatures of habit, we are forced to move through adjustment periods constantly like the ebb of a tide.

Moving across the country, losing someone close to you, or the loss of a job are all rhythms of life. But while you’re in the season, it feels dark or different or uncomfortable. These seasons of life bring in their wake challenges and lessons that will mold and change us.

We have the decision to make that change positive or negative. As many people cope with the stress of upcoming finals or research papers or projects, a quiet reminder whispers the promise of completion, like a series of beautifully glazed mugs pulled out of the kiln.

Just as you mourn when life hands you too much sorrow or more than you can handle, an artist mourns when a piece collapses, cracks or slumps. When a piece illustrates the joys of an unexpected blend of glazes, you smile with a grateful heart.

Clay is a medium that is never fully mastered; there is always room for growth, for improvement, for refinement, for nuance. The same holds true for life. You never can comprehend the extent of what life could send your way, what lies in store for your future. But there will always be lessons to be learned and stories that must be told.

Life is a little bit like clay. Embrace the unexpected, mourn the losses and savor the joys.