“Ceramics” or “College Meets My Happy Place”

NaNoWriMo 2013 marked the first time I’ve written a brand new novel since… *checks records* …oh, gross, has it really been that long?? Since NaNo 2012, for pity’s sake!

Sure, there’s been no dearth of wordsmithing in the year in between. Blog posts, short stories, even the completion of a novel that, in one sense, I’ve been working on since I was a preteen. Not to mention, of course, hours spent revising Wilderhark Tales, “A Morrow More”, and “Inspired” in prep for publication. And that kind of thing’s all very well and important – even enjoyable, often enough. But for me, nothing compares to getting lost in the first-drafting of a full-length story.

Actually, that’s not true. I did come up with a comparison for it. Hence this blog piece.

Back in my college days, I took a variety of classes in the pursuit of my little degree in general arts. Some were stressful (psychology, sociology, microeconomics…). Some were tedious (English composition, mythology and fairytales, music theory…). Some were refreshingly fun-ish (oceanography, logic, quantitative literacy… Doggone it, how in the world did these left-brained courses out-fun English, mythology and fairytales, and music?? I guess once you take a thing I love and place it in the context of classroom lectures, homework, and midterms, it sucks out all the joy. My phenomenal grades notwithstanding, I’m really not cut out for academia). But the one class I looked forward to like I never did any other was my introduction to “the art or process of making articles (as earthenware, porcelain, or brick) made essentially from a nonmetallic mineral (as clay) by firing at a high temperature)”.

Why did I love my ceramics class? Because it was all about getting into the creative zone. About rolling the soft clay into coils, or flattening it into sheets, or throwing it on the wheel, and fashioning it with fingers and sponges and little metal tools toward the forms I envisioned.

Within the parameters of any given assignment, I could make anything at all. Cups crafted to resemble the Chimera faced by Bellerophon, or the cherubim described in the book of Ezekiel. A sculpture meant to evoke the dark brokenness of a fallen angel. Even a vase in the shape of a book.

Seriously. It’s like I saw this NaNo analogy coming.
Seriously. It’s like I saw this NaNo analogy coming.

Apart from the teacher’s occasional instruction – the NaNo pep talks of this metaphor, if you will – there was proportionately little I needed to devote brainpower to apart from simply putting the time, the trial and error, and the heart into the work I created, every piece like a chapter in the greater story of the semester.

As in a National Novel Writing Month, there were some participants who fell short of the goal. (It’s college. Not everybody shows up to do the work.) As in NaNo, there were some days where a scene just didn’t seem to want to come out right – and by “a scene”, I mean the first several cups I tried to make on the pottery wheel, so much more challenging for me than, say, casting a plate on a mold. As in NaNo this year, there was a lot of ugly coughing – rampant clay dust the culprit, then, as opposed to my recent, inconveniently-timed chest cold. And in the end, I got to look back over all the art I’d produced, and be heck-a proud, and start missing the creative process pretty much the minute it was all over.

A shame there’s not a free NaCeramMaMo (National Ceramics Making Month) I can turn to each year. It’s been too darn long since my hands (and apron, and face, and lungs) have been covered in clay. But at least now I can say it’s not been too long since I last dove into a new novel. What say I don’t wait a whole year until the next one, okay, Self?

8 thoughts on ““Ceramics” or “College Meets My Happy Place”

    • From ceramics class? There was a little cup (which I think I made on the wheel, after much wheel-throwing failure) with a glaze design that looks like wheat on a dark blue background. I’m quite fond of that one. Also a trio of vases in the shapes of chubby torsos; those were fun to shape.

    • Oh, I’ve no doubt it’s very hard to reach the point where a piece comes out more or less exactly the way you want it. But if you can appreciate the sort of wonky, charming failures that are the best a beginner can do, then I’d say it’s definitely worth giving it a try. (:

  1. I didn’t win NaNo but I felt like I learned a lot. Your ceramic piece is beautiful…coming up with a book…wow that is creative considering I would only think of making pots and bowls. Yes having a goal and structure helps get a lot done…but you also have to want it…that’s what I learned. Thanks for sharing:)

    • Wanting it helps a great deal, yes indeed. And thank you; coming up with new, outside-the-box ideas for the assigned plates, cups, and vases was a treat for me. A lot of my pieces probably aren’t very functional (I have a hard time seeing anyone wanting to drink out of that Chimera cup!), but as a creative exercise, I view them as successes — just as a NaNo in which you have fun or glean some other takeaway from it can be viewed as its own sort of success, with or without an official win. (:

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