“Pottery is life. The finished product is just a reminder of the steps taken along the way.
Growing up in Ann Arbor, Michigan, I was fortunate enough to experience many art mediums in a community that appreciated it. My mediums were metalwork and beadwork. Making jewelry was predictable: if I spent hours on a piece, I knew I would have the finished product I had planned. When I first took ceramics in high school, I experienced the opposite.
I hated pottery. I spent hours behind the wheel, unable to center my ball of clay for an entire class period. When I finally had something that looked like a cylinder, I just messed it up by removing it from the wheel. Once I had a small mug which I managed to bring up to a fully enamelled room. My uneven mug with anemic yellow-gray icing could barely hold 4 ounces of water. After the semester ended, I swore I would never do ceramics again.
I have always been interested in medicine but never pursued it. I didn’t naturally excel in science like I did in English or my other language courses. How the hell would I be a good doctor? When I made the decision to go to medical school, something changed in me. Losing 15 pounds to Graves disease with a resting heart rate of 130, I was sick. When a doctor diagnosed me and started my treatment, I finally started living again. At the same time, the desire to do more for my clients beyond my skills as an esthetician was simmering in the background.
Sitting on the fire escape steps at my school in San Francisco’s Chinatown, I called my mom and told her I wanted to go to medical school. Wanting the dream to exist by saying it out loud, I knew I would do whatever it took, no matter how difficult. Just because I wasn’t naturally good at something doesn’t mean I could never be.
During my post-baccalaureate studies, I needed something else to do, something meditative. After seeing my best friend’s creations in his ceramics class, I felt inspired to try pottery again. Even the bowls in his “reject pile” looked good to me. Maybe my little suckers could be beautiful too.
I still took hours to center a piece of clay. I left studio days in a row empty-handed. But the feel of the clay kneading, the smell of it, and the way it slipped through my fingers as I finally learned to pull it was magical. When I finally learned to carve, watching the loops of clay fall around my piece as it spun hypnotically on the wheel put me in a trance that made me forget about my stressors. My cups were far from perfect. They were “rustic”, but I made them. When a piece exploded in the oven, it was fine. I could always make another cup and have another excuse to be in the studio – to be present. Unlike fixed metal, clay was flexible. Like my state of mind, clay could grow.
Life goes through stages. It never turned out the way I expected, but the beauty for me was in the experience, the process. Whether it’s making mistakes, learning from them, or agreeing with an outcome that wasn’t planned, pottery is life. The finished product is just a reminder of the steps taken along the way.
When everything explodes
Centered Silica Spinning
Pull up, dig in
Hard leather, ready to garnish
Clay drop coils
Fire, ready to freeze
Gently dipped in powdered glass
Carefully wiped bottom
The next room explodes
Caught in the crossfire
Broken and shiny coin
The shards lay helpless in the oven
They did not do it
Nothing to take home
But a lesson learned:
it will be fine
Mx Mendelow is a fourth-year medical student at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine in Greenville. They earned their Bachelor of Arts in Romance Languages and Literature and International Studies from the University of Michigan and practiced as a licensed esthetician before medical school. They hope to pursue studies in obstetrics and gynecology and incorporate their love of psychiatry into their practice.
#Explodes #Love #Letter #Pottery