Playing with Clay

It’s open clay studio and I make my way to the Dow Visual Arts Building to participate in an Interlochen offering, for the first time, as a student. I met this summer’s ceramics instructor at the faculty dinner and, as with most professional potters, it took us about 10 seconds to name at least six people that we both knew personally in the clay world. Although this open studio is for the students, he’s in charge and he invited me. “The more people playing with clay, the better,” he said.
We start with the slab roller, then he gives me brief instruction on adding texture. It’s been 10 years since I’ve made anything with clay, but I remember some of the basics. I’m trying to make a ceramic clipboard. A little nutty, but I like the nod toward functionality paired with the obvious attention the object will call to itself. I work alongside a high school student from Shanghai, China and another from East Lansing, Michigan. The Beatles play through someone’s iPod as a few other students drift in and out.
My approach to the clay is somewhere between reckless and playful. The few prior experience I’ve had with clay involved a meticulous, perfectionist approach—one that quickly wore me out. After years away from the medium but literally thousands of words written about clay and ceramic artists, I’m curious to see how I’ve changed.

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