ceramics is back in full swing. the clay is wedging, the wheel is spinning, and the pots are throwing. although tonight was mostly a bust (only a cup and saucer) because i spent most of my time wedging (think kneading/smooshing) some too old clay with super new clay to make funky uneven temperamental clay, my body feels great. back aches, shoulders ache, wrists ache (i need to do more manual jerking off to build those muscles back up), and the skin from finger tips to elbows is dry and itchy. wonderful.
i did not enter ceramics voluntarily. a year ago, my program at the university said i had taken too many sexuality courses. now, sexuality was my major. but i had to have electives. and my electives could have nothing to do with sex. at all. so i signed up for a ceramics course because it was an evening class and sounded like fun. i had taken some sculpture classes at my first school and missed art.
and as much as i resented being forced to broaden my studies, i was getting a little worried by my monochromatic life. at the time, i was studying sex, reading about sex, teaching sex, working with sex, doing sex work (two distinct occupations), and hanging out with sex people. in my spare time, i would go to sex parties or get laid by other means. so i had a resolution of sorts to expand my horizons.
so, ceramics started as a thing separate from sex. it was for me and me alone. sex was teaching. sex was activism. sex was exhausting. clay was insulating and mind-numbing (in the stop thinking so much zen meditative sense).
ceramics was not easy for me. i slopped things together, trying to find something that felt right. when i finally centered my first ball of clay on the wheel, i turned the fist-sized lump into an egg cup (smaller than a shot glass for the unsophisticated bunch). but i decided i would figure it out. i made a double batch of clay, about 50-75lbs. i would wedge ten fist-sized balls at a time. i would throw them until there was nothing left of the piece, then scrape up the slop and set it on a plaster bat to dry. i had a dozen balls being thrown and two dozen drying at all times. by the time i was throwing the fiftieth or sixtieth ball, i suddenly made a bowl. an off center, itty bitty, warped but lovely bowl. it was magical. it was also 11:30 at night and the security guards were kicking us out of the lab.
the next day i left on spring break to go to north carolina and tennesse. i rented a car, stayed at my dead grandfather's farm, and visited aunts, uncles, cousins, sisters, grandparents, and parents in various locales across the south east. i put about 1500 miles on the rental car. i fell in love with highway 64 between chattanooga and the okoee mountains. and i felt at home and at peace.
when i returned to the city, and to the ceramics lab, i could suddenly throw. i threw 20 bowls on my first saturday back. they weren't great, but they were getting better. soon i was throwing about five bowls an hour. i spent every spare moment in the ceramics lab.
during the final critique, my ceramics professor questioned the lack of social commentary in my bowls. i explained that the rest of my life was sexual activism. clay was the one place just for me. i did not feel obligated to force profound meaning upon pieces that represented comfort and peace for me.
that changed my second semester. i began working commentary into my thrown forms. i did an autobiographical series on my experiences as a sexual woman, and another series on the teenagers living with HIV i worked with over the summer. i also did a series of mugs (with slut, dyke, whore, and other fun terms cheerfully stamped on the side) on reclamation of sexually derogatory language. so by allowing it to be my escape, it integrated itself into the rest of my life.
clay is no longer separate from sex. one questions how the two experiences could have been divided. wet moist slapping pulling pushing forcing holes touch feel molding holding using the body to create.
my ceramics professor and i have many debates on feminism, sexuality, and womanhood. she has a wonderful show coming up this weekend. i recommend anyone in the new york area to check it out.
Shhhh... Secrets, Status, Society
February 24-March 22
June Kelly Gallery
reception Friday, Feb 25, 6-8pm