Confessions of a Wannabe Ceramicist

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austin smith ceramicsFor me, ceramics bring ritual into everyday happenings. I’m not just having coffee in the morning, I’m communing with people I’ve never met and honoring living stories that are made permanent through fire and earth. My most cherished mug is from the ceramicist Austin Smith. I was fortunate enough to ask him what his favorite pieces were and why he chose the blue green glazes. He said that on the bottom of each mug there’s a decal of the coastal landscape of his home state, Maine, and that the seaside of his home formed, like waves eroding rock, his identity and his practice. So whenever I drink coffee from that particular mug and my fingers mold to its edges I think of a place I’ve never been to and memories I’ve never had. I’m a sucker for stories and even a bigger sucker for beautiful objects. So much so that, in lieu of being totally BANNED from buying more ceramics, I’ve been asked (not so gently) by most people I know to buy them more slowly. And as time wore on and I amassed more and more fired clay friends, a little voice in the back of my head began to whisper, “You can make that.”  

Well this year for my birthday my brother bought me a 6 week beginners wheel throwing course so I could finally learned to do just that. I was, of course, ecstatic to be FINALLY living my dream of quitting everything and running away to a small town in IDK Minnesota or some shit with just my dog and a kiln, selling a bunch of ceramics and wearing earthy tones. Obviously all I needed was this one beginner’s wheel throwing course to start living my dreams. DUH.

This all would have been great except, spoiler alert, I hated every second of that shit.

My lil bowls never stood a chance.Throwing on the wheel was so dirty and it took all of my concentration and core strength I do NOT have and made use of my already shot hand-eye coordination. I did NOT find it relaxing (no matter how many people told me I would). Instead, it just felt like a bunch of micro-movements that I was constantly fucking up.

So, a month into the course as I dragged my ass to the studio, not wanting to spend my Saturday morning failing at something I thought I loved so very dearly, I was gripped by the sinking feeling of good old imposter syndrome. This icky feeling that said that I didn’t get to love ceramics anymore because I wasn’t good at them. This horrible feeling is no stranger. All my life, I have had this feeling that I wasn’t the perfect English major because I wasn’t good at creative writing or that I couldn’t love Reggaeton because I’m not good at speaking Spanish or all that shit I said about classical musical? It doesn’t mean nothin’ because I don’t know jack shit about reading notes. Maybe it’s my perfectionist impulse or perhaps it’s the all too familiar feeling that I don’t deserve the good in my life, but I’ve felt at times a bit of a fraud.

Then, midway through the class, throwing yet another lopsided bowl, sweating, feeling like a goddamn con, and internally (and probs also externally) cursing, it dawned on me: I don’t have to be good at ceramics in order to love them. I realized, holding another person’s story and eventually making it my own — THAT makes me happy. Also, I don’t have to MAKE the things I love. I tried ceramics and gave it my all — good job, Raquel — but that’s it. I’m done.

And now as I Iook around my room, my misshapen bowls here and ring dishes here, large plates tucked away in corners, succulent planters EVERYWHERE, more mugs than I know what to do with, I’m thinking that I’ll just keep buying that shit. (Sorry not sorry friends.)

Objects are stories. And this was mine.  

besos, Raquel