It feels like it’s been forever since the last, last time I took an art class. It was Watercolor 101. I enjoyed almost every bit of it. I remember the last project I had. It greatly determined my overall grade. But with any other project, I was the last to finish. The result was a corner of the paper that looked like another person had finished it for me. I was so meticulous about every stroke that I never realized how much time had passed. The teacher however, was more than happy to grant me an “A” I felt I did not deserve. She gave me her business card and tried with sheer persuasion to prove to me that art was my calling, and she’d love it if I took another class with her the following semester. I received her card as soon as my words instantly closed the door of opportunity. I told her I was going to move to Las Vegas and take up nursing. She was so set on her words like an adamant mother to a child. But I was unyielding as well, and with my strong urge to please my parents, I sensed she knew they had a firm hold on me. I couldn’t let my mom down as she promised and bargained with me that her wage as a pharmacist in Sin City would take care of all my needs. I walked away believing what I had said and done pleased God. I had taken a pottery class prior to this and enjoyed it as well, only because my work was lazy and talking to friends was more interesting.
This year I did myself a favor by taking an art class again. I walked into a room of many students. Ceramics 212. I was told there was no more space. I discovered later on that a smaller class was much more suitable for me. The instructor said to come back in an hour, that I had better chances with a teacher by the name of Stark. I prayed about it and I’m glad she took me in. The first week was a flop. The teacher clearly told us she didn’t want to hear any self-deprecation, but sure enough I’d forget and critique my work the way my own father would if he were the instructor. Despite the discomforted and awkward looks I received, I kept rambling. To their surprise I finished my yapping with a mustard seed of faith. “But next week will be better.” The next four weeks, I had made friends with an ex-marine, a stripper, a horse breeder, an epileptic marijuana user, a very sweet nurse who looked like a China doll, a very quiet, curly-haired boy, a mother who called me “daughter”, a very talkative nursing assistant who vented all her problems to the class psychiatrist, and our very own instructor who intimidated me because of how nicely she treated me no matter how temperamental and deprecating I was. I learned many things I hadn’t when I first took up pottery.
By the second week, I had finally accustomed my ambidexterity and shifted over to the right side for good. I was no longer shifting left to right and right to left. I learned the art of centering my shapeless clay and patiently trusting the speed of motion beneath it. At times I would lose my patience and instead did what I knew best. I imagined this ball of mud as if it were a little boy who needed some straightening out. A picture of my little brother would instantly come to mind. And sooner than later this wedged piece of Nevada desert clay would now be more than willing to compromise. I steadied my breathing as I steadied my fingers, and often times I just couldn’t help but stop breathing altogether. I couldn’t keep to one station. Perhaps it was because I allowed superstition to creep into my mind, that I had better luck with certain wheels. I had judged these wheels on how well they could perform. This mindset began to work against me and I lost my peace on certain days. Some of my pieces were just not ones to show off. A friend threw a large pot just for me, so that later on I could trim it and call it my own. In my excitement, I unintentionally created one side to be thinner and weaker. The only thing to do next was punch it. Funny, no hole or tear was made, just my knuckles leaving an imprint. I never knew a trend would come out of it. It was passed around to be punched and autographed, and even our instructor joined in on the fun. We called it “The Class Punch Bowl”. Each day I worked with a different wheel and each day my pots told a different story. I couldn’t however, go beyond the basic shape of a cylinder. I feared that I would end up with a basic shape of failure. I was afraid to open up my vessels and to raise it up even taller than the size of a meager mug. It frustrated me so to find that four of my pieces were missing. There couldn’t have been any other explanation. Someone had stolen them. Everyday that I came to class was a battle in my mind, but I was determined grow.
Some days I would sit next to the pro of us all. Her name was Jacky and it was a pleasure to sit next to her because not only was she very talkative, and a great potter, she was more than willing to help me and teach me some techniques she learned in her ten years of experience. This was the same girl that would openly vent to our fellow classmate, the psychiatrist. Poor Scotty. She reminded me a lot of myself in the years before I gave my life to Christ. I felt her longing for something more out of this world. The third week came and I made some of the best pieces I had ever made. They were a set of three nesting bowls. The largest would be my most prized. With each wedged clay I centered, a centering of my heart, mind, soul, and body was to follow. Father’s Day was just around the corner and I made a deal with myself that if these pieces turned out exceptional, I wouldn’t keep them for myself, but that I’d present them to my dad. It was a wonderful idea because knowing that I was making them for someone else allowed for my hard work to be clearly seen, from the lip of each bowl down to the delicately, trimmed feet. I couldn’t have been any happier who these bowls were going to be given to. I anticipated the fourth week and learned how not to make it about myself or which wheel I would be using. However, I still maneuvered around for the joy of spending more time with another friend. Then the fifth week came along, but I sure didn’t anticipate it. I knew I would miss this class. We did however make the best out of it with a great potluck that could have well accommodated another class. We exchanged numbers amongst one another. This was no ordinary class. Every class of every week, we were like a family that would spend an entire day on the playground. We had a lot of fun and we had a lot to learn. We learned the basic instructions and lessons. We learned about each other and from each other. We learned things that could not be taught, such as patience and perseverance. As I became a prolific potter, I learned that my experiences in this class had a purpose behind it. God was the Potter and I was the clay. And so therefore, I enjoyed every bit of it.
By His Grace, Sheela