Pottery Cycle, Rinse, Repeat

Once upon a time, in a duplex apartment, in a faraway land lived a girl who couldn’t hold a grudge. No matter how hard she tried, her pains and grievances were swiftly swept under the closest rug/towel/item of clothing in the corner of a room (she had become so skilled at this, even a sock would suffice) and were thrown in the laundry on her next ‘high functioning’ day. Rinse, repeat. The End.

Isn’t that a good thing? (You might ask) Why would someone advocate holding a grudge? And, why in the world would a ceramic artist talk about this in her first blog post??

Processing emotions is important for everyone (so I’ve been told), but it’s especially significant to creatives.

As an artist, a poet, a mother, etc. Processing emotions is imperative, for without facing my emotions, yes, even the yucky ones, I am a backed up drain, sputtering a murky sludge that obscures any light or insight. It makes me distant; it makes my work uninspired, and it chokes up my pen. (Substitute pen with voice/paintbrush/vision/empathy/REM cycle/productivity/clarity etc etc)

I bring this up now, because this morning I wanted to write a poem. I haven’t touched clay in a week, as I’m being a responsible entrepreneur and working around the clock listing the many pieces which still need to be added to my imminent website (which, if you’re reading this, has actually [finally] launched). The rewards – creating more art – will have to wait.

But a creative needs to create. (And making a Beef Wellington for my oldest son’s birthday just doesn’t cut it) Writing a poem wouldn’t demand as much time as ceramics.

 I turned to poetry several years ago, when physical health problems prevented me from pursuing the plastic arts (more on that another time). I love the challenge of verbalising nonverbal/semi-subconscious thoughts. I love free associating and wordplay. And I love the freedom to create in a form that I’m untrained in.

When I paint or sculpt, or even photograph, my muse can sometimes be drowned out by the whisperings of former professors and the weight of the Canon. A rabbit is never simply a rabbit. It automatically references the ghosts of represented rabbits past, and all that they symbolized (chime in, Albrecht Durer, Titian, Joseph Beuys, playboy…)

Though this has its place, I find it can interfere with my gut, my grit, my flow. I can get too cerebral, and the work can suffer – become too narrative, stiff.

But, with Poetry I am free, I don’t criticize or self-edit every step of the way.

I enjoy a similar freedom in pottery. Though I learned basic technique in throwing, hand building and sculpture during my fine art degree, for the most part, I’m unencumbered by academic training, and I’m left to explore and develop from within myself. And in my experience, when I relinquish a certain degree of control and allow my ‘body brain’ to steer, that’s where the magic happens.

But I digress. This morning, I wanted to write a poem. I could feel one forming somewhere beneath my breastbone at around 5 am, as I looked up from my screen. Instead of playing a round of Scrabble Go while on my second cup of coffee, I had a calling: “write a poem”.

But I couldn’t. Writer’s block has nothing to do with stationary.

The way I see it, Art – any true art – is successful when it forms a bridge between the subconscious and the conscious mind. It’s affective because it enables viewers a window into all that is brewing beneath the surface that might otherwise go unnoticed. In short, it accesses Truths. That’s one of the most potent things in the world – connecting to Truth.

But to do that, the artist needs to leave the door to their subconscious slightly ajar (no wonder artists and insanity are closely related).

When you repress your emotions, that doorway slams shut with a force.

And my heart feels like it’s stuck in a scene of The Shining.

So, I’m trying to hold a grudge. Trying not to shut out the painful emotions from the last round of metaphorical marital boxing (who knew that that was what the ring would come to symbolize).

This time, I don’t want to rationalize away how he hurt me, while pushing my emotions further and further underground. This time I want to confront it – it was seemingly intentional, it was unkind. I want to be angry (but don’t want every other emotion subsumed by that one). And, as the decision to divorce has been made, there really is no benefit to giving the benefit of the doubt.

I’m trying to learn to hold a grudge, so that I can open that doorway and create from the source, once again.

For now, I’ll leave you with an old poem of mine from another time. If it were a piece of pottery, I’d categorize it as a second, it certainly has its flaws. But some substance remains.

Write Romance on a Helium Balloon and Release the String

we couldn’t have known

never having been

airborne before

two skins sewn

into a diamond kite

the wind eventually dies

and the ground tugs

tethered to our cornerstone

raw flesh is so inviting to maggots

and we both need to feed our kids

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