This anguished face came to me in my dream, and seemed to exemplify centuries of pain and isolation. His drumbeat reverberated through the earth in olden times.
Step into a sculptor/potter’s studio and you are surrounded with the “home-again” smell of wet clay. Delicious in its earthiness, for who of us has not dabbled our hands and our toes in mud as a child of summer? The other earth smells of glaze materials, iron, copper, tin, magnesium, plus the thick powdery odor of dry plaster fill your nostrils. Odious perhaps if this is not your venue of choice, and as singular as the “divine” fragrance of oil paint and turps to the painter. If you have been obliged to be away from these smells as I have for the past year, it is a treat to visit a fellow potter’s studio and smell the familiar odors of creative art being made.
People have been making things out of clay for longer than anyone can know. Food utensils, ornaments, and images of people and animals are found all over the earth, and the art is as fresh as when it was made by these ancient hands.
The same skills are used today in building a pot or a sculpture as was used so long ago. We recently visited an exhibit of the Terracotta Army from China at the Asian Museum in San Francisco, and I marveled at the enormous clay warriors and horses all made by the same coiled clay method used today by the potters of the Southwest.
This strong connection with ancient potters fills me with peace and a longing for something indefinable. My own connection only goes back for a couple of hundred years to England and then to Canada, where my ancestors had potteries. I have a glaze recipe which was used for Royal Doulton pottery, which calls for enough material to keep several artisans supplied for a lifetime!
I have worked in clay, wax and bronze, molding the clay and wax into recognizable shapes for most of my life, and clay has given me the most sublime pleasure. Your hands are your implements to create what your mind sees, much as writing in that respect. Both are solitary endeavors, demanding focus of thought. Working with clay, I feel I am connected in a small way to something timeless yet ongoing.