I had a friend recently tell me that she and our mutual friends were not at all surprised that I got pregnant this past year. She said something like, “You make pottery and babies. That is what you are supposed to do," as though I had fallen into my calling and it was as simple as that. Although initially flattered (and excited, because clay and babies are two things that make me very, very happy and are so good for my soul), I could not resist from retreating deep into my introvert zone and truly thinking about what she said because I have only been doing one of those things. My hands have not touched raw clay since last July. JULY. Although I truly believe that of the two creative acts my friend so graciously allocated to my spirit and bones, I have been doing the greater, I cannot help but be disappointed in myself for only pouring my energy into being pregnant.
I trust clay. I love clay. It listens to me, and I to it. We have a great working, patient, honest relationship. It is a material that, like me, changes reluctantly, but beautifully evolves with the right touch. It reaches a point, then, where it can move no more and becomes a firm, permanent statement. I love everything I have learned about clay from the deeply scientific to the aesthetic and sometimes abstract theories about its role and relevance in any one persons’ life. It has been a part of the human experience for millions of years, if not longer. How blessed am I that I should be linked to a material that is so deeply linked to our own flesh that it is most often used to decipher clues about how our ancestors have lived. Clay is the material of life!
And yet, I have been neglecting it. I have put it all in my basement. Pots and sculptures sit unfired, probably cracked within the wrappings that I had hoped would protect them on their journey from central to western Pennsylvania. Slips, washes and glazes sit unstirred and settled, their lids undisturbed for months. I have boxes of raw materials waiting to be inventoried and safely stored. Unsorted boxes of clay haphazardly line the hall to my studio, many of which are undoubtedly in need of some serious reconstituting. I have been running away from it all. The serious commitment of becoming a clay artist is terrifying. I know it all starts with little steps, but so does this life within me! I want to pour my energy into both, simultaneously, one hundred percent of the time! But it seems impossible when I regularly feel like I am running on half my energy just to stay awake. I know this feeling will pass, but then comes the exhaustion and full time job of motherhood. What am I to do?
I wrote a page to myself several months ago, and (meant to) tape it into my sketchbook to serve as a reminder of why I need to be active in my studio. It reminded me that it would be wrong to deny myself a passion simply because I wanted to be a better mother. Isn’t providing a sound example of diligence and perseverance part of parenting? It would be a disservice to my future child if I stayed out of the studio, thus ignoring his or her need for an example of hard work. This is where my guilt is born. I have been losing touch with my artistic self over the past half a year out of fright and exhaustion. I owe it to my self and this baby to keep up with my artwork, my instinct to move the earth. It is time to get back into the studio and do what my friends can so clearly see is a natural extension of me.