74: Stripping Away The Excess

Amateur potters like me tend to leave a lot of buffer for errors. Not daring enough to make mistakes, the clay walls and bases are left thick as a security blanket.

“Too thick and heavy”, sensei would always say to me when he inspects my work.

So I grit my teeth, steel my resolve and try to make deeper, bolder cuts. With each move, I gain a little confidence. And a little more. Until a hole appears! I turn to sensei in desperation and he gives me a not to worry look, swiftly patching up the wound from my clumsy wielding of the tool.

Soon, the holes just come and go and it becomes nothing to me anymore. I am no longer bothered by the mistakes and try to achieve the level of thickness that feels just right when held in my hands.

This is when I realize I have grown a little again. I am no longer that fearful of my mistakes, and I think it is because I am no longer taking ceramics as a one-off activity. I have become emotionally invested in this adventure, and allowing myself the liberty to make mistakes means that my mind and body are both beginning to accept that this is for the long term. Mistakes means I am learning. Restoration means I am moving on from the mistakes and getting nearer to my goals. Being less affected means I am getting closer to achieving a level of zen that I know I need to create beauty.

The spirit of the maker leaves its imprint ever so lightly in each piece of work. I want that spirit to be one which is calm; because only with that can the user also enjoy that same sense of peace and serenity. Which, in this hectic world, is what we all yearn for, isn’t it?

And in my life too, I want to remove what is in excess, what is not needed. For too long I had taken comfort in material things, in work and responsibilities, and I had unwittingly built around my soul all these unwieldy chunks of excess clay that gradually weighed me down and left me misshapen. Maybe it’s time to take something sharp, and then gently but firmly strip off what is not needed, until I am finally light, and pure, and naked, and beautiful.

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