My muse has been whispering to me lately. A few days ago, I zoned out for a long time, staring intently at a ceramic fish mounted on my bathroom wall. The way the carved scales had been wiped so the glaze rests in the cracks between reminded me of my time as a clay sculptor. This morning, I remembered how satisfying it is to eat from a bowl I made by hand. In school, I made dozens of pinch-pots, loving the slow, meditative process and organic, imperfect shapes. My senior exhibit was a large scale installation of small vessels.
In the beginning of my comically long art student career, I studied painting, drawing, and printmaking. It was effortless skill and I was miserable. I over thought every project so that I either completely failed to finish it, or submitted a painting that read like a term paper. (Usually literally- the text that's usually present in my drawings began way back then.) Critiques, constant dissatisfaction with my art, and the ugly peak of my depression finally drove me to drop my classes and work full-time for a few years.
After mom died, I used my share of her life insurance to enroll back in school. It was a sudden decision that felt like a revelation. It was like waking up. During my three years at the women's clinic, I had made only one finished drawing. I was happier than I'd been in years, though. I'd clearly needed a break, and then just as clearly, it was time to revisit my real work.
I enrolled in a second level ceramics class, from a sense of play. Ceramics had been fun, and the instructor was a dear friend. In this course, something deep clicked. The therapeutic aspect of art was suddenly there- clay is so physical and technical that the sense of thinking too much, or getting lost in heavy content disappeared. It was a challenge to design and build sculptures, and I was absolutely in love. I spent four more semesters learning the craft and my last semester I executed a huge concept and was satisfied in a soul-deep way.
As soon as my sculptures either sold or were planted in my home with my new husband, I got pregnant. And then there were five years, which were spent writing and mothering and working and occasionally doodling. Now, I've been smacked down by the Universe into forced contemplation. Can't draw; sitting hurts. What I can do is think and plan and dream. What I'm dreaming is delightful dirt. Cool and smooth under my fingers, carefully carved with tools that are waiting patiently in my studio. A kiln dormant in storage. The only thing I've ever done that quiets a busy brain and comforts like a bowl of soup. It's soul soup, clay. I resolve to meet with my Dad, the electrician, to wire that kiln as soon as I'm healed after this surgery.
What's your Soul Soup? Do you knit, meditate? What quiets you and brings you peace?