inspired by buttons

A few days ago I went with a cou­ple of friends to the clay drop-in class at the Gar­diner Muse­um. Before that we also went to Let­tuce Knit, where I saw some incred­i­bly charm­ing ceram­ic but­tons for sale. The friend­ly woman who was look­ing after the shop at the time said that she had actu­al­ly made those but­tons at the drop-in class­es at the Gar­diner. So when I left the shop I was quite deter­mined to make but­tons in the class.

But when we got there I had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to use one of the few pot­tery wheels avail­able, so I made a split deci­sion to try my hands on the wheel instead. It was quite an expe­ri­ence but I did­n’t end up with any fin­ished prod­uct, because by the end of the 2‑hour class I was still try­ing to cen­tre the clay on the wheel (and fail­ing to do so after 4 attempts!). I was­n’t dis­ap­point­ed that I did­n’t have a mug or bowl to put into the kiln; I under­stand full well that throw­ing clay on a wheel takes a long time to mas­ter. But I think I would feel very hap­py in the end if I had stuck to my plan of mak­ing buttons!

So! After I got home I start­ed to gath­er inspi­ra­tions for the next time I vis­it the clay class.


I love this one, it is so sweet. (source)



My favourite shade of blue! (source)


Remind me to bring my col­lec­tion of pressed leaves from the sum­mer! (source)


Thumbprints. Love the organ­ic shapes and sub­tle­ty (source)


It would be fun to find sur­faces and tex­tures to make imprints with (source)


And this would be fun to glaze, no? (source)


AND! What about mak­ing ceram­ic neck­lace pen­dants? You know how much I love neck­laces… I’m so ready to have tons and tons of fun next time I go to the class! :D Now I just have to wait until school work slows down…

But that’s not to say that I came home from the last clay class emp­ty-hand­ed. While help­ing me cen­tre the clay on the quick­ly spin­ning wheel, the instruc­tor said some­thing that I thought was quite profound:

Don’t let the clay push you, you push the clay.

My mind real­ly hung onto those words for a while, and I have been try­ing to fig­ure out why.

I sup­pose they res­onate with cer­tain cir­cum­stances I find myself in late­ly. At first I thought it has to do with inter­per­son­al stuff. I cer­tain­ly get intim­i­dat­ed (i.e. pushed around) quite eas­i­ly. But then I thought push­ing oth­er peo­ple back isn’t an appro­pri­ate response nei­ther, is it?

Then I start­ed to think about the feel­ings around being intim­i­dat­ed. Anx­i­ety feels the most promi­nent to me. Maybe this is real­ly about rela­tion­ships, but not so much my rela­tion­ship with oth­er peo­ple but my rela­tion­ship with anxiety.

It’s very sim­ple: when I feel anx­ious, I try to make the anx­i­ety go away, and that makes me feel even more anxious. 

Like throw­ing clay on the wheel, the idea is not to fight against the clay, because the more I fight it to bring it back to the cen­tre the more it wob­bles about and wig­gles away. The idea is to find the right angle and the right pres­sure to move with the clay, and apply gen­tle pres­sure con­sis­tent­ly and per­sis­tent­ly, give it time, and it will even­tu­al­ly spin between my two palms in (near) per­fect symmetry. 

So how does that apply to anxiety?

It’s what I already know: sit with it. I know this from super­vi­sors who teach mind­ful­ness prac­tices. I know this from being in ther­a­py. I know this from being trained as a ther­a­pist. But I don’t do it myself. I give in to my nat­ur­al ten­den­cy, my auto­mat­ic response to fight the anx­i­ety as soon as I feel my heart rate increases.

So how did we move from but­tons to this ram­bling about anxiety?

Such is the pow­er of art to evoke sto­ries and metaphors and insight.


Wish­ing you a week of hap­py adven­tures and new discoveries!








3 thoughts on “inspired by buttons

  1. While I love your but­ton inspi­ra­tion, I hon­or you for nam­ing your anx­i­ety. As anoth­er with sim­i­lar issues, it’s impor­tant to share the strug­gle. I find that I, too, had to learn to “sit with it”.

    Some­times I fig­ure out that what’s both­er­ing me is beyond my con­trol to fix so I have to let it go. Oth­er times, I dis­cov­er that it’s some­thing not as bad as I feared and I can tack­le it. :) Oth­er times … well, some­times I just have to beat the anx­i­ety with a stick and hope it goes away! LOL

  2. Wow.… great post! I also strug­gle with anx­i­ety and have been tak­ing pot­tery class­es for awhile. I feel like we have had the same ‘moment’ with the wheel- such a tan­gi­ble way to expe­ri­ence that les­son of ‘work­ing with’ instead of ‘fight­ing against’

    Plus, I love the but­tons… I will def­i­nite­ly be giv­ing these a shot in my next class! ;o)

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