on ceramics

If you have seen my Instagram page then you already know that in June I started a short ceramics course and then I enjoyed it so much I enrolled again in October. I am back at TAFE! That cracks me up. I spent three years at TAFE in the 90s (doing photography). TAFE is great!

I started the course because I wasn’t working and needed a new thing to occupy my time. I was still taking photos, but was a bit bored by it, and actually turning on the computer to edit photos wasn’t really fun to me. I wanted something new and fun, that was not on a computer, and that involved other humans. I looked up the TAFE short courses, decided ceramics looked like fun, invited a friend to come with me, and enrolled. I had done ceramics at school and loved it, but that was a long time ago and I had mostly made sculptures, not anything functional like a bowl or plate. I liked the idea of making things I might use, or at least display around my house.

From the first week, when our teacher threw a ball of clay at each of us and said “make something by the end of the night, anything, it doesn’t matter what” I loved it. LOVED IT. I hadn’t done anything creatively fun in ages. I loved the routine of having a fixed thing to do every Tuesday night. I loved sitting at the table having a chat to the others. I loved knowing nothing about what I was doing, having no real expectations, being able to make mistakes – and, when things didn’t turn out the way I imagined I ended up enjoying working through that, getting over the disappointment and trying again. I loved having a teacher, someone who knows infinitely more than you and whose job it is to help you, to make suggestions and help fix your mistakes – how often do we get that as adults? How often do you get to say “errr, I seem to have entirely stuffed this up, is there a way to fix it?” and actually get an answer?!

Also, for ages, I’d been feeling like when you take photos you are not often left with a thing, an object. Especially with digital, all you get are pixels floating in space. I’d been wrestling with the idea of how to turn my photos into things – books? prints? – things I could touch, hold, display, give to people. Ceramics was suddenly the answer to that.  You start with a blob of clay and end up with a thing. A thing that wasn’t there before. A thing you made, and that you can see your fingerprints in. A thing that won’t go away if you accidentally delete it or if your memory card fails.

I’m at the end of my second term and feel strange about it ending. I’ve found the act of making things incredibly relaxing and purposeful. To decide in the morning that you might have a crack at an idea you’ve had, and then to do that is completely rewarding. It’s ended up, without me planning it, being the polar opposite of my day job where I never felt rewarded, never felt like anything got achieved or even finished, never saw a useful outcome of anything I did. If it sounds like a lot to get out of a short course at TAFE, I agree! It really has been an eye-opener and one of my best spontaneous decisions.

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