These days, I can not seem to get my hands out of the mud. The spaces between my fingers and nails are constantly grubby and I think I’ve now managed to place an old toothbrush near every sink in our house in hopes that I might somehow get ahead of the dirt. I can’t really say that it’s helped, but it does give me hope, and who can’t use a little bit more of that in their life?
Starting a few weeks back, I’ve dedicated one night a week to an open studio at the local art center. It has been years since I’ve pushed around clay, but it’s been a welcome return.
Way back in the day, waaaaay back—actually, it hurts to realize how long ago it was when really it only feels like yesterday—I finished the work required to receive a BFA in Art. I’m not sure that I was ever meant to be a studio artist… actually, I know without a shadow of a doubt that I am not. The program I completed was a commitment that required a singularly-focused and intense dedication that was beyond my interests, possibly my abilities. I did not eat, sleep, and breathe creation as did some of my talented colleagues. In fact, I was quite in awe and a touch envious of their drive. I loved the thinking, and the exposure to new ideas, the production methods, the community itself, but I had so many other interests that I wanted to pursue in those limited years between the freedom of adolescence and the responsibilities of adulthood. Early on It was clear I was on a different path than the one I was supposed to be pursuing, one that would keep me in my studio until the wee hours pulling and pushing and making and exploring, one that would introduce me to the pressures of producing for gallery shows and commissions and grants.
There have been times in my life when I look back to the years I spent in the art school and think they were wasted, that my energies would have been better matched in another program, possibly in the design school where I eventually worked for my Masters and then taught for a few years. Those are the bad days, and thankfully, those thoughts return less frequently as time progresses. My life took a departure from the original internal script I repeatedly so religiously, the script that led me to a certain number of decisions, which created experiences that helped to redefine the story and shape the person I am now. Isn’t it true for all of us, that the life we lead now is quite different somehow—richer, more subtle, maybe more meaningful, possibly even painful—than the life we originally imagined?
One of my professors patiently explained to us once that we will never again have the unrestricted time and unfettered access to materials and talent than we did while we were in college. Although I’ve always remembered his words, it has taken me years to understand exactly how true they really were. Of course it’s not as if that time didn’t carry its own set of pressures, and the resources we had then are not ones that are readily accessible now. But I’m happy to discover, even though the time and energy is different, there is a focus I have now that wasn’t present back when the world was seemingly wide open and limitless. Maybe that’s part of what it means to be a grown-up; recognizing the ideas and thoughts as the opportunities and distractions they are, and limiting yourself, by the choices you make, in order to progress.
This post as I originally wrote in my head was supposed to be about how fun it was to get back in the studio and get my hands dirty. But once again, I found a metaphor in the work and words that I wasn’t aware of until I began writing and it ran away with my attention. Another step away from the plan as I envisioned, only to come back to the task at hand with fresh insight and a different energy. Just as the studio called to me after all those years, as I’ve worked through the wee sma’s with the drive I used to miss… I’ve circled back.
It’s funny, isn’t it, that what we consider a departure is also a return.