My first experience of creating objects and figures with my hands was probably when I was much younger, maybe around 10 or so. For whatever reason, I liked to create people and animals out of blu-tack and leave them in public places for people to find. I was always secretly happy when I would return to the libraries, shops and museums to find that they were still intact, which to me suggested that people liked them enough to leave them alone rather than squishing them into oblivion. Clay, however, is something I had never truly played around with as an art medium before. Unfortunately now that I have, I fear I won’t want to use anything else.
As soon as I rolled my sleeves up and held the thick, moist clay in my hands, my brain automatically went to work. Suddenly, as if by magic, all of the negative thoughts or feelings that I’m often burdened with slowly melted away. We felt like a perfect match – I would speak with my fingertips and the clay would mould along with me, as if to respond back with kind concern. The class I attended was also one centred around individuals with mental health struggles, so it was nice to not be so concerned with hiding any scars on my arms for example. Magic notwithstanding, the process was pretty much as basic as you could get. There were no fancy equipment or machines to help me along the way (this was art on a budget, after all). However part of me preferred this, as I think it helped ensure I learned with my hands rather than focusing on secondary materials.
When I first sat down, I thought for a moment and knew that I wanted to try and create an elephant’s head. I’m still not sure where the idea really came from, but I suspect it was a mixture of not wanting to make a pot or plate like everyone else, and being inspired by the grey clay to create a characteristically grey animal. I’m aware that for my first time, I probably should have been less ambitious and opted for something more straight-forward instead. In fact the teacher herself suggested so too, looking over worryingly as I zoned out into my own clay-elephant world. But in typical Ruth fashion, acting much like I did in my art classes during my GCSEs, I had an idea and I wanted to stick to it – regardless of how much more difficult it may be. I have a terrible tendency to compare my work to others, however on this occasion I can say that I’m pretty happy and proud of the result – especially for my first try.
Overall I am really quite, dare I say it, excited about discovering my love for this medium. I still enjoy painting and sketching too, however I sometimes struggle to remain focused which often allows my more negative emotions to creep back in. I’m aware that this doesn’t necessarily mean I won’t experience the same thing when I’m using clay – I’m sure everyone does at some point, regardless of how much they enjoy what they’re doing. But whether it’s the physical aspect of constantly using my hands, or the sense of calm that it brings me, I’m very happy I attended the class. Before I had even finished my elephant piece, I decided my next one will be a lego figure. I can’t imagine many people use clay to create lego characters and blocks, so the fact that this was the first thing to come to mind means either one of two things: 1) I am much too childish to be using this medium of art, or 2) everyone else is boring. I prefer the latter conclusion.