I have a window in my room that is… rustic. It keeps out the drafts alright, it seems to be in every way functional but the wind just wedges its way into the cracks, creating a howling, chattering chorus every day the wind is over about 15mph, which is not uncommon in New Mexico, I would say it’s a good 50% of days. It always sounds like something is trying to get in my room. I am used to it now, I even enjoy it, like I have a pet ghost. Whenever the topic of replacing windows comes up I downplay the need. It’s my room and that’s my sound effect, the wailing of the wind is my connection to the outside, to nature and when the jet streams bows far to the south and brings unseasonable snow. It is that impulse to connection with the outside that has me sculpting animals and playing with mud.
It’s fair to say I have always sculpted, some of my oldest memories are playing with mud and wading in mud. I got in trouble for how much I enjoyed being dirty. When I was five Ms. May showed her class how to make animals out of aluminum foil and I was hooked. Even into my teen years I would sneak a square of foil into my bedroom and make increasingly more complicated horses complete with flying manes. By that time I had free reign of the unused art studio at my High School (even in the 1980s the arts were increasingly unfunded until just one class was offered) and was making my first clay sculpture.
I could have chosen Fine Art as my path at university. There were a few reasons I didn’t go that route – first that I was going through a lot of family shit by the time I was ready to leave home and secondly I have a second love. I absolutely adore the biological sciences, from the get go my heroes have been Jane Goodall and Linus Pauling, I watched the first run of Cosmos and caught the reruns whenever I could. My childhood was full of seeking out everything on birds at the county library, reading all the natural history at the high school library even though my fellow students were less than cool about that. Of course I enjoyed reading Science Fiction and Fantasy and all the more so whenever the stories included world building with descriptions of landscapes and nature (part of the reason I still love Tolkien is that the land is part of the story).
So I did sojourn awhile as a field biologist, first in the forests of the Pacific Northwest and then in the deserts of Southeast California. Those were strange years, years in which all of my belongings fit in a series of shitty cars. It was a career that drained me of hope and deprived me of company. Where I had thought I would find fellow warriors in the name of the environment I found greed and outright hatred of the resources that keep life on earth humming along. It made me feel like a hypocrite, a feeling that I still carry now. It’s hard to be in love with a planet and also understand that most people would rather not think about it. I think about it a lot and it hurts.
I came to ceramics later in life because I have a chronic disease that is fusing up my bones. I cannot work for many hours at a time, even at a desk job without needing a break. I live in a twilight land between feeling completely ok at times and other times feeling unable to function. Sometimes I need several days of rest and sometimes I will work without rest for a week and be ready for more. It makes me unemployable for “normal” jobs. On bad days I can just sleep through alarms. As it is now when I have farmer’s markets to attend I set three alarms to be sure I make it. Of course now I can just sleep whenever I want but I miss my markets since they gave my weeks a sense of structure, a beginning and end. Now I just listen to the wind howl and I know the world is out there and the planet keeps turning.