Ashtrays and Potholders

Deborah ArtStarting at about age five, I went to a summer day camp. We had many regimented activities, one of which was ARTS and CRAFTS. During this activity, we were often given the project of making ashtrays or other household items out of clay. Now, technically clay ashtrays are not a complicated project, but I remember the irritation and trepidation I felt when I imagined how mine would turn out; certainly not like the teacher’s. I was aimed and trained to please, so making something inferior that could be either ridiculed or loudly ignored was not an option. I remember thinking, “I wish the teacher would just make mine for me, then it would be perfect and I’d be done with the whole project.”

Potholders on the other hand, were a sure bet. We were given a metal frame and handfuls of small cotton loops and shown how to weave the loops under and over each other. With no room for error, and less for creativity, we were safe.

When I shared this memory with my friend Rachel, she wondered what it would have been like if the teacher had opened the activity by offering us two problems to think about and solve in our own ways. The first being, “while cooking on the stove, pots can become too hot to hold.” The other, “people need places in their homes to rest and to put out cigarettes.” “See what you can create”…..

I love visual arts but realistic drawing has never come easily to me, nor has it been encouraged. It requires immense concentration. Abstract image making, on the other hand, flows much more easily. In my twenties, I was given a book of Paul Klee’s art. Inside the cover, my friend wrote,” Happy Birthday, This is for all the times I saw you drawing Klee’s on your coffee cups.” I hold that memory close, partly because my friend associated me with Paul Klee, but also because she noticed my creative spirit, therefore, noticed me.

Are you making some kind of art? I love the idea that art is life and life is art, but still, there remains a gap. In our production driven society, making art, communally or individually, purely for the joy and balance it brings us, is generally not encouraged or highly valued. Maybe this is, along with the pressure to do all things well and to please, are some of the reasons my art supplies remain neatly stacked and out of view, under my kitchen table.

I’d love to hear from you on the subject of art making or anything this post inspired in you. Thanks and stay creative.