Saturday, May 9, 2015

Old, Hard, Stiff, Uncompromising Clay

Late in the afternoon on Thursday of this week, we were still so covered up in projects at the shop that I was just an overwhelmed wreck. So, with a less than stellar attitude, I made an abrupt decision that there wasn't enough time left in the day to either finish a project or begin a new one. After tidying the fit table I opened the closet (where precious Martha has graciously organized row after row of supplies) and after a few indecisive moments, pulled out some clay.

But that stupid shameless clay... it was old and harder than granite. The last time it had been used was when my daughter Ashley made a rabbit and gave it to my Father -- probably six or seven years ago. And naturally, all my clay tools and the mechanical roller used for kneading were at home...

So, with no tools except two rough and cut-up hands I started smashing and crushing that clay. It crumbled. I rolled it and squished it with a tiny wooden dowel rod. It stayed as hard as ever. I took an old Altoid box and clobbered it over and over and over and over. It became too thin in some areas while still rock hard in others and it stuck to the marble I was using as a work surface. I got mad at it and threw it at the floor but it just rolled around picking up dust. Finally, since it wouldn't relax and soften, I plied some of it apart and began working on it in sections. I rolled it. Tweaked it. Patted it. Pulled it. Stretched it. Tiny part by tiny part. And it softened. It yielded.

Oh my goodness. With it ripped into small and manageable sections, pretty quickly it was ready and I could put it all together into one lump and work it. What had been as hard as a rock was now pliable and easy to knead.

These little wings were fashioned in just a few minutes. What took the time was the preparation of the clay. Once it was ready for use, forming the tiny wings and laying out how they were to be sculpted was so simple. The work was in the preparation, not the sculpting.

Old. Hard. Stiff. Uncompromising.

All ripped and torn and crushed and smashed and dropped and then kneaded back together soft and useful.

Then quickly fashioned in the way I knew they'd be before I even retrieved the clay from the cabinet. So easy once the clay was willing.

Oh, to be willing clay.