Worn and Broken: our human vulnerability

I left some clay rolled out in my class room yesterday whilst I went to a meeting. This was used clay which had been returned to a bag in balls. It had little bits in picked up from the tables. It had finger prints in it and will inevitably change during the firing process. It is likely to crack in unexpected places. There was a note attached welcoming anyone to get involved making impressions into it. 

When I came back the piece was covered in anonymous impressions. I asked my next class to continue this so that the impressions were weaving across each other. I then folded the clay – which looked like fabric – into the shape of a baby (my baby!) and carried it around for a few minutes; connecting with it as my work again. The weight of the clay was causing it to tear in different places and when I gently rolled it out again it was broken into distinct sections. Damaged and worn in places, I then crafted a few vessels. Adding legs to the largest of the vessels seemed to make sense to me. I loved the bottom of the pot ‘still standing’ and of making the vessel anthropomorphic. I wanted the clay to represent something of getting older, of being fragile, of our human vulnerability. 

Even the quirky cartoon-like legs seem to suit the vessel, although I was conflicted about whether to use my own lower leg and feet as a ceramic mould. This would require a larger base on the vessel but is certainly something to consider in the future. I might try this next week. 

Is it relevant that I have had a throat infection for this last week and have had to soldier on regardless? That I, the artist, feel weary? Or more that I was thinking about places and where we’re born into; and our human identity being woven with our national identity and everything that encompasses. That we are marked constantly by things said and unsaid and by the values our democratically elected political system appears to support. That I am marked by all my encounters and that I am only notionally part of anything. And that displacement makes these marks less – and more – distinct. A lot is being talked about in the media in relation to the refugee crisis. Recently I was watching a film about the extent of the problem and thinking about how each individual must feel torn, lost, sculpted by an identity they then feel forced to superimpose another on top of. I like the wear and tear of the materials I am using. The vessel is also symbolic of the people I work with at the Hospice: still standing metaphorically. I’m also loving the anonymity of the marks made and wonder whether this is effective because I was not hovering over them, making suggestions, yet they effectively became an intrinsic part of the process; and symbolic in the same way that each encounter we have becomes part of our textured blanket of experience….

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