A LESSON FROM CERAMICS’ LIFE
There are things in life that we would like to keep forever with us, unchanged and unchangeable. There are dreams that we would like to see fulfilled, we build them in our heads, we design them down to the smallest details, we prepare, study and then paf, we start working on it.
Other times we let dreams form in our hands, to let ourselves be surprised and create something beautiful, new.
So, in the first ceramic lesson in lock-down, through small small images of my students who appeared without smell and with a lot of noise in my cell phone, I said to them: “we close our eyes and let the ceramic speak to us. Let’s feel the temperature, the consistency, and, with our eyes closed, let’s see what comes out! “.
We closed our eyes, silence beyond the interference noises of the connections, each of us with their own piece of clay. How long did it last? A minute or an hour? I don’t know, I just have to say all the time we needed.
The first act of spontaneous creation had taken place, like the birth of something that has not yet taken shape but already has its character and soul. When we opened our eyes again, each of us looked at what we had in our hands. We welcomed it, we also laughed a bit, we observed it from a technical point of view and each of us chose how to continue.
A totem came out of it, the base of a lamp holder and a sculpture, of dolphins, perhaps, who would one day swim happily in a blue sea.
The ceramic tells us that after the creative act there is the proof of fire, what tells us if that object had reason to exist or not. We would always like all our dreams to come true, but it is not always destined to be like this. Every time I close the kiln and push the button to raise the temperature, I know that I am entrusting my object to a design bigger than my expectations. I can sometimes foresee that that object is at great risk, it depends on how I treated it before, it depends on the care I put in it, if it is too fine or too thick, and also on how much I am pushing the laws of chemistry and physics . It’s all there, locked up in those few square decimetres. When I open the kiln I will know what happened.
That should be the moment when I “let go”, when know I did my best and now it’s not up to me…. But but but … I can hardly do it. I continue to hope that everything is going well, that it will go well, even if I pulled the rope, even though I knew from the beginning that it could not go, even though I know it can be good and it can go wrong. I hope everything goes well and not everything goes as it should.
Still, how do I know which is the best? The best for what? For who?
“The best thing is that the statue comes out completely, idiot!” The impertinent voice in my head blasts. I don’t think about it, I started the kiln and then I left the room, as a sort of numbing out. I will think about it later, I will think about it tomorrow when it will be time to open and with always a bit of suspense in my heart, I will open asking myself: “did everything go well?”.
I opened it, that oven, and there was the statue of Sabine with the dolphins who instead of jumping happy had detached themselves from their future sea, from the imagination, from the hope of a first instinctive statue to be put on display in the hall at home he presented himself as yet another exercise to learn something.
“How do I fix it? How do I put it back together? ” it seemed to be today’s teaching. We talked about it, we tried to identify the causes, how we can do better next time. For this time we can try to put the pieces back together, we can try to build something different, but it will never be the same again, it will never be the way we imagined it.
What remains is that not everything is in our control and there comes a time when we have to learn to let go, the kiln, the idea of the statue or the life that we had in mind.
Let go because what we are facing now is a new possibility to learn from our experience: where do we have greater resistance? With what do we struggle most to let go of? and why? We can pretend that it is just a ceramic object, but if we look more deeply there are other situations in which we felt the same way, we wanted to recover the unrecoverable or we abandoned too soon.
It is different for everyone, as everyone’s life is different. What ceramic teaches us is to let go when we are ready to do it or when there is that feeling of abandonment in the belly that tells us: it went like this and I can accept it.
Thank you Sabine for the great conversation we had this morning about it!
13 May 2020