Clay Charlotte

Good memories! I dug this picture out of an old scrapbook. Taken at my first juried student art show in college., I am standing next to the sculpture that has become the iconic symbol of my business, Clay Charlotte. At the time the picture was taken, I was brimming with pride, feeling I was truly an artist. But only months before, when I had started the sculpture, things were quite different.

I remember taking the ceramics class for “fun”, thinking it would be a nice break from my other studies as a mental health and human services major. Things were going well in the class until my professor announced that we were to create a life size figurative sculpture as our final project. The idea of creating something so large was terrifying. “The gigs up,” I thought, “they’re all going to see I’m not a real artist.” Not wanting my classmates to see my insecurities, I charged ahead, hoping I would produce something that would at least pass for sculpture. I set to work concentrating on the details of tree bark. Then it was getting the right look for toes and ankles. Next came creating the flowing folds of a skirt. While working on the sculpture, I seemed to slip into a space where everything just felt right. Not to say that everything was perfect. I struggled with sections and tore them out, starting over, but as each piece came together, I felt as though pieces of myself were coming together, too.

When I looked at the finished piece together with my classmates work on the day of the final critique, I was filled with amazement. “I made that,” I thought to myself, and “it’s pretty good.” It was that sculpture that finally pushed me down the path that my heart had been longing to go for many years. Some part of me had always known that I was designed to create, but I had spent most of my life listening to the wrong voices. The ones that tell us “we’re not good enough,” “we’d be stupid to think we can make a career out of being creative,” or “we need to do something more important than art.” At the end of that semester, I changed my major to Fine Arts.

Looking at the photograph now, I’m a little critical of how goofy the woman in the striped shirt and short hair looks, but that woman in clay is still amazing.   A classmate once made the comment that my sculpture looked like me. At first, I had been offended since my intentions had not been to make a self-portrait. But later I learned that are creations often embody the attributes of their creators.

Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures.
~Henry Ward Beecher

I look at that clay Charlotte now and smile when I see a glimpse of serenity in her features.  Just as her body creates the completed form of a whole tree, I am reminded how my own creativity continues to bring wholeness and growth to my life. I am proud to say she is “Clay Charlotte” now, as she stands as a testament that creativity endures and when given the challenge to stand tall it can produce amazing things.

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