For years I’ve wanted to take a ceramics class. I remember the satisfying feel of clay in my hands as a kid. And while I’m no Demi Moore, I could envision losing myself in art at a potter’s wheel. So my daughter and I headed out last weekend for an afternoon adventure with Clay, the owner of a studio/school. (Yes, that really is his name; clearly he was born to do this work.)
I anticipated the beautiful pieces I would create. I also anticipated hearing something in the instructions that would trigger lyrical metaphors for life and leadership. There should have been a lot of good ‘material’ there in terms of:
- Vision – Transforming nothing into something based upon the image and ideas in one’s mind.
- Branding – Differentiating a completely generic mass of clay into a unique one-of-a-kind output.
- Simplification – Michelangelo reported ‘finding’ David in the marble by just removing anything that wasn’t David.
- Creativity… Patience… Focus…
But none of these uplifting, motivational (and potentially over-used) metaphors surfaced. You know why? Because I became quite obsessed with pottery step #1: wedging.
Wedging is the process by which one kneads clay in preparation for working with it on the wheel. It softens the clay for use and removes any bubbles. This is critically important because air pockets can cause ceramic pieces to explode when fired at high temperatures in the kiln.
This is what my mind grabbed hold and wouldn’t let go of: Air bubbles in clay are a lot like the vulnerabilities and flaws that we as human beings all have. They might be subtle and rarely seen… until the heat is turned up. Until things go wrong. Expectations grow. Workload increases. Time or budget pressures impinge. Then, BAM, we blow up.
Reverend Charles Clark, a dear family friend who is in his 90’s, is famous for sharing his wisdom on this topic. He explains that contrary to popular belief, people don’t mellow with age; they just become more and more of who they have been… the good and the bad. For years, he has strongly advocated addressing personality flaws and shortcomings while one is young to avoid seeing them grow and exaggerate over time. Although he didn’t use the terms, this sounds a lot like personal wedging and kneading of the psyche to me.
We all have ‘bubbles’ lurking in our ‘clay’ that under fire can cause problems. Small vulnerabilities that we experience today can become problematic if they grow and grow over time. We can begin wedging within ourselves to live happier and more fulfilled lives.
We can all create some beautiful human art. It starts with step #1: Making a pledge to wedge.
What about you? Where are your bubbles? What could you pledge to wedge?