If you asked me how I spent my summer vacation, I would talk about it for an hour nonstop. But I’m sure you could use that hour on something else.
As most of you know I have been an aspiring potter for over 20 years and have gained a certain expertise and quality to my work. In order to learn more technique and have the chance to talk to other potters, I spent a week at the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Gatlinburg, TN. It is an exceptionally good school and students come from all over the USA to attend.
To say I learned a lot would be an understatement, I think, and I hope the experience will change the direction of my work, the look and feel of what I make. Stay tuned.
But just as important, perhaps more importantly, I came away with a deeper appreciation for the nature of community and a sense of belonging to something larger than myself, larger than my own work. Spending a week with other potters and other art makers expanded my sense of forming community, even for a short time to explore a common language and passion for making art. Folks there knew what I meant when I said that I fire in a cone 6 oxidation and that I wanted to learn how to dart and alter my work. They got it, and I got them when they talked about underglazes, clay’s joys, its frustrations, risks, and rewards.
The point is that we all belong to something, someone, and someplace. Belonging is a complex but basic human need and desire. Belonging to someone or something gives us a place in the world. Belonging is a desire to be one with another, to bond, to bear one another’s burdens and share each other’s joys. It is shared meaning, shared language, and shared hope. It is crossing a boundary and finding a home.
Belonging is a fundamental human need and emotion, and in our present climate, belonging needs to extend to everyone, especially those who are different from ourselves. Belonging invites welcome, it is founded on acceptance. Belonging is rooted in the Gospel invitation of Jesus to make our home in Him. When we celebrate this gift, this invitation to make our home in God, then everyone belongs.
During the weeklong class the instructor, Kristen Kieffer, was a superb teacher eager to share her knowledge and experience. The other students, all accomplished in one form or another shared their experiences and yes, their failures. I found two friends Kelly and Carol, who shared the table with me for meals and we laughed about eating too much dessert and the sometimes quirky and unpredictable nature of clay.
The workshop ended with a show and tell of our own work that gave everyone an appreciation of each other’s way with clay. When I left Arrowmont, I felt like I belonged, not just for a week’s vacation/workshop, but to a beautiful community of art makers who readily shared what they have and who readily receive what I have to offer. Even if just for a week, potters form a community where everyone belongs. Differences are celebrated, failures are acknowledged and beauty feeds the soul.
Could it be that art will heal the world? Yes, I think so, at least a part of it.