I’ve come to the conclusion that if I slow down, so will my life. And my art is the key to slowing down.
My transition into a creative career is bringing home life lessons that I previously only understood on an intellectual level. I often run from one activity to the next without taking a break. I find myself trying to do more than one thing at the same time. There are never enough hours in the day and my life goes by way too fast. Sound familiar?
I didn’t intend to live this way. I grew up with two workaholic parents in the United States, where one’s career takes precedence over life. Hence I thought I could escape the same fate by moving to Spain. A place where people work to live, not live to work.
However, in my early thirties I was the Managing Editor for an online business magazine and helping out with some non-profits on the side. Ceramics was my favorite hobby and I went to the studio when I could find the time. That is, not very often.
Almost two years ago, I split ways with the magazine and decided to dedicate my time to what I loved most—creating with clay. That’s not to say that my new career path is less demanding. Starting out as an emerging ceramic artist requires grit, dedication and long hours at the studio. However, there is a clear difference in the way I’m spending those long hours.
The more time I spend with my art, clear life lessons start to emerge. I feel more grounded when I’m working with clay. My mind wanders less. I feel less anxious. The hours still fly by, but I don’t feel like they’re wasted, because I am present.
I have spent many years reading about mindfulness and living in the now. It all makes perfect sense on paper, but incorporating these practices into one’s day-to-day is harder than it sounds.
Ceramics is a slow art
There’s no rushing clay. If you try to rush it, push it, make it dry faster, the clay will rebel and collapse or crack. Firing clay is a complicated and unpredictable process. A piece may need to be fired multiple times before it’s presentable. There is an intricate progression for each piece. They can either take weeks or months from start to finish.
Today artists can purchase clay and glazes from the store, which speeds up the process. Traditional potters who find and dig their clay from the earth, process the clay, create their own glazes and fire in wood burning kilns are modern day heroes as far as I’m concerned.
There is beauty and satisfaction in the slow evolution of this work.
Acceptance of what is
There are numerous important lessons ceramics can teach us. Working with clay is a highly unpredictable process and pieces are very fragile before the final firing. Pieces break all the time.
Tara Daly said it beautifully in this month’s edition of Ceramics Monthly; “What few people outside of the clay community know is how hard we work to maintain a clay habit—the physical brutality, the mental accommodation for unpredictability, the habitual acceptance of loss.”
To be a ceramic artist you must learn patience, acceptance, adaptability and persistence. Fortunately, these skills also lead to a better quality of life. I’m happy to be learning, accepting and loving my new slow road.