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  • Writer's pictureKelly Marks

Pottery Class

When Madi went off to college I don’t know how many times we told her to never go anywhere alone after dark. We explained in grisly detail what could happen.

To be honest, UNC has a wonderful setup for transporting students after hours. There’s an after-hours bus, and after a certain time there is a setup similar to Uber but free, and the drivers are all vetted by the school. It’s been very impressive.

Back in the day, things were different. I remember walking across campus alone at two in the morning. (Please don’t tell my mom.) I was an art major and was taking a pottery class. The classes were large, and it was difficult to reserve time on a wheel to complete the assignments so a lot of times it was the middle of the night when we’d be working.

I really did love that class although I was not a natural. I don’t think anyone was to be honest. We would sit and throw a lump of clay into the middle of the wheel. Once the wheel was going fast enough, you would drizzle water on top and try to summon the arm strength of Arnold Schwarzenegger to center the lump and get it balanced.

That’s when the magic started. Pushing both thumbs into the center, you would create a well in the middle and start bringing the walls of the cylinder up to the height you desired.

Our assignment was to make 10 5-inch-tall cylinders and 10 10-inch-tall cylinders. If the magic was in the beginning, this is where the tricky part started. Picture this: the wheel is going faster than a runaway merry-go-round with little kids being flung off in all directions because of centrifugal force. That’s exactly what my pots looked like.

I vividly remember the running joke. We were “throwing pots,” “finishing the assignment” and a host of other ways to label it. When it suddenly went out of round, became asymmetrical or became impossibly wonky, we would all stop what we were doing, applaud the potter, and dub it Art. When it ceased to be what we were shooting for, it became Art with a capital A.

Scott Adams, the creator of the Dilbert cartoon said, “Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.”

When Madi was little she participated in a program called Kids’ Art, and I remember the instructor telling the kids not to worry if they made a mistake. “That’s where the fun starts.”

I think of how I react when things don’t go the way I want them to, or the way I have them pictured. I tighten up, get rigid, and start to worry. But maybe that’s where the fun and spontaneity start. Art is not just something to hang on the wall or sit on a shelf. There is art to everyday life if we choose to look for the beauty instead of focusing on the mistakes, the areas that are different from our expectations. What we view as a mistake, a misstep, less than perfection may be what adds beauty to our lives if we’ll just let it.

Based on this theory, there’s a good possibility that dinner tonight will be called ART.

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