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!