Ceramics: “throwing” my stress away

Kyra Kwok

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When I was in ninth grade, I began taking ceramics as a way to fulfill my arts requirement. Back then, new to the school and scared by the intense environment,  I was more focused on not getting my clothes dirty than making art that I even brought a change of clothes. Looking back, it’s funny to think I had such a dispassionate attitude towards one of the activities I now enjoy the most.

What I did learn throughout that first year, however, was that clay is a beautiful and calming medium through which one can express themself. You can hand clay to a five year old and they’ll press their fingertips into it, squeeze it and watch it ooze out. You don’t teach a connection to clay, it’s already programmed into everyone. In the midst of classes, homework, and assessments, I look forward to connecting to the cooling clay, its comforting weight in my hands, and its potential to become anything.

Fast forward three years, and now you can find me in the studio every day. Clay has become an essential part of my life, to the point where if I don’t get into the studio, I start to go a little crazy. Ceramics is my wellness because it allows me to disconnect and center myself amidst the swirling tides of everything else going on. The feeling I get after moving ten pounds of clay or wheel-throwing a mug that sits perfectly in my hands is unbeatable. Every piece I make reminds me to be proud of myself and to celebrate the small imperfections that make my pieces feel alive.

Attending an intense school means that sometimes I need to stop and find a place to breathe. For me, 401F is that place. I know that the moment I enter, no matter how bad my day might be, getting my hands on clay will help. My feelings emerge through my art, which can mean a variety of things. Sometimes after a bad test or quiz I wheel-throw a new mug that I can look forward to using or gifting. Sometimes the day after making an error in a game, I make a really fantastic bowl to remind myself of what I’m capable of. Sometimes I shatter one of my pieces on the floor (and then clean it up, of course) or cut up a mug and draw funny faces on it. Through clay, I can express myself. Having a way to process and convey my emotions, good or bad, is a huge part of my wellness.

If you haven’t gotten yourself into the ceramics studio before, I recommend you try it out. As someone who never felt a connection to making art before, ceramics opened my eyes and has become an outlet for me – maybe it will for you too!