Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Joy of a Wonderful Teacher

I've blogged before about how I take a ceramics class.  Our wonderful teacher, Stephanie Young, is leaving after many years at the center to pursue other career options. 

In the past several years, Stephanie taught me more than the properties of clay, how to hand build and wheel throw, and how to trim, decorate, and glaze.  What she has taught me is the value of fearlessness.

I have never considered myself 'artistic.'  I was unable to draw in elementary school art class in a way my teachers were showing us.  So many of the other girls in class could sketch or paint representational art and I never got past stick figures and cartoonish drawings.

So I gave up, feeling like a failure at a very early age.  Though to be honest, not being able to draw or paint probably nudged me in the direction of writing sooner.  And how lucky I was that there wasn't a creative writing teacher in elementary school to dictate how and what I should be able to write.

My beginnings in creative writing were self-taught explorations of poetry and prose.  It wasn't until after I'd written most of a novel that I began to work with other writers and workshops.  For me, this was probably a good thing.  I never learned that there was any particular way to write, or a particular style I ought to be writing in.  I never learned that moving from one genre and POV in one novel, to a completely different genre with different POV for a second novel was hard/crazy/stupid.So I was free to let my creativity be my guide.

That is what Stephanie has done for me with ceramics.  In our class, there is never an authoritative voice that says something isn't right, or won't work.  Rather, Stephanie shows us what is possible with the medium and lets us make our own mistakes and creative journeys.  And at every step in the process, she finds a supportive way to nudge us a little further out of our comfort zones.

I have learned to laugh at my wonky mugs, or the death wobble in a pot on the wheel.

And you know what?  I feel like an artist.

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