Variety is the Spice

“Describe how you’ve felt over the past 16 months in 16 words – one for each month of this pandemic.”

Concerned, Uncomfortable, Worried, Anxious, Scared, Angry, Sad, Impatient, Doubtful, Disappointed, Bored, Content, Hopeful, Optimistic, Expectant, Enthusiastic!

That is quite the variety of feelings. You might understand the first handful of emotions because maybe you experienced them yourself, but those last 3 – optimistic, expectant and enthusiastic? Yes! I have felt optimistic and lately I have felt especially enthusiastic about the new work that I am making.

How did I get there? Meditating helps a lot and is something that I have been practising for about 3 years. Other things that help me are spending time in nature and my garden, exercising, and practising positive self-talk. In terms of my career as a potter, I don’t have the broader view, so I don’t know what is coming as a result of this changing world. Thinking about how my future will look feels impossible to predict because there are so many moving parts to consider and that’s overwhelming. Thinking about the past and “how it used to be” isn’t helpful either. I’ve heard it said that “all your power is in the NOW” and I am beginning to understand what that means.

Me, meditating outside in the sounds of nature in the spring of 2021.

Meditation is certainly a useful tool for stress, and I’m sure collectively we have all been feeling stress for the past year and a half. Meditation quiets my mind and often times I have intuitive thoughts or get amazing ideas as a result of having quieted my mind. Sometimes I get these ideas while actually IN meditation or while doing another focused practice – yoga. These ideas get me excited about work and then feelings of optimism and enthusiasm for executing my new ideas follow.

Creating new work is common, usual, but now, more than ever, a necessity.

The process of making a large hand built carved mug.
1. Make a large flat slab. 2. Use a template to cut the clay into the size you want. 3. Form the cut piece into a cylinder and mend the seam. 4. Throw another slab for the bottoms of the mugs. 5. Attach bottoms and mend all seams well. 6. Carve the clay with desired tool to make a texture that can be seen and felt when handling the mug. 7. Finish rim and bottom of the mugs so it looks and feels purposeful. 8. Attach a handle and thumb rest.
The finished mugs, still very wet, each with a unique set of carved lines. Glaze will fill recesses and run differently than on a smooth vertical surface. These mugs are presently drying and will be available for sale once they are glazed and fired in the fall of 2021.

In April of 2020, the burning pain in my wrist turned into more. Tendonitis is pretty common in folks who do work with our hands making repetitive movements, and as a potter that is pretty much the job description. Nearly the entire time the pandemic put a halt to life as we knew it, I’ve been hurting.

In the beginning it was incredibly painful. Now it’s only painful when I do too much, and as all things go, if you think about life, we are using our hands all day long for every little thing. In the beginning it was painful to brush my teeth, pull up my pants, comb my hair, and vacuuming the house was definitely over the top! I had to rely on my left hand to wash the dishes, pull laundry out of the washing machine, use a dust rag and vacuum. I had to use my husband to cut vegetables and bread.

Presently my plan is to hand build everything, because using the potters’ wheel isn’t an option. I’m excited to discover new methods of construction, and new ways to use my tools. I’m eager to expand the textured designs I make on clay, and to experiment with new glazes. Hand building an entire collection is breathing new life into my work! Can you feel my enthusiasm?

Hand built “Fishy” mug. Made from a slab of clay that was stamped with a unique “underwater scene.”
Each Fishy mug is one-of-a-kind.

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4 Responses to Variety is the Spice

  1. Jean Hickok-Haley says:

    I have always loved your pottery. I’m glad you meditate. It can be so relaxing, and where you live amongst all of the beauty, it helps one big time.

    • says:

      Thank you for the compliment on my pottery. Some folks think my job is relaxing! When you turn something you love into a business sometimes you get a bit jaded with the business side of it. Meditation is definitely something that brings me back to what is really important and that is feeling good.

  2. elizabeth westcott says:

    I continue to be amazed at how many steps there are to the process and how hard you have to work to create your beautiful pieces.
    Have you ever gotten any physical therapy on your hand?
    I ask because one time I went for therapy and they actually had one woman that only worked on hands… I know nothing about it but wanted to pass that along. Not sure if it even would help with tendinitis.
    I think your list of emotions in the last 16 months exactly mirror mine.
    I just cannot understand why I kept keep letting my meditation practice laps. I love it so much when I do it and feel the beneficial effects but keep putting it at the bottom of my list. Please keep reminding me!
    I signed up for a new outdoor yoga class this past Tuesday nearby at 5 o’clock but My dear Meehan’s procedure that was supposed to take two hours took five hours and we didn’t get home from a long long day in the city at 4:30 so I had to cancel. Next week will be away but I told the woman I would be there as soon as I possibly could.
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.

    • says:

      Yes, it really is a long, drawn out process that few people really know about in depth. It’s also really weather dependant! If it is humid, the clay takes FOREVAH to dry! If there are thunderstorms or snow storms, that means there may be a power outage, so not a good time to fire pottery. If we are in a heat wave there is no way I’m firing the kiln because it heats up my studio to about 40 C and I share my space with an old deep freeze, and I don’t want to make grampa deep freeze work harder than he has to. SO MANY FACTORS to be considered!

      In answer to your question about a doctor – no, I haven’t made an appointment with my doctor to get an appointment to go see another doctor who will likely tell me in order to “fix” things I need an operation. My pal MJ is a doctor and pretty much told me that is what would happen. I’m not in so much pain that it is ruining my life or career, so my reluctance to see a professional remains. Physiotherapy may be helpful. I may look into that when mom is settled in her new place.

      Meditation works best if it is at the top of your list. My routine is to get up, wash my face, eat something then go meditate. The day turn out so much better if I do my meditation early in the day.

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