“Pottery is life. The finished product is just a reminder of the steps taken along the way.”
Growing up in Ann Arbor, Michigan, I was fortunate to have many art mediums in a community that valued it. My mediums were metal work and beading. Making jewelry was predictable: if I spent a few hours on a piece, I knew I would have the product I planned. When I first took ceramics in high school, I had the opposite experience.
i am hatred Pottery I’ll spend hours on the wheel, unable to center my ball of clay for an entire class period. When I finally had something like a cylinder, I removed it from the wheel. Once, I had a small cup that I was able to move completely to the shiny part. My uneven cup with an anemic yellow-gray glaze could barely hold 4 ounces of water. After the semester ended, I swore I would never do ceramics again.
I have always been interested in medicine but never pursued it. I didn’t naturally excel in science in English or my other language classes. How on earth do I become a good doctor? When I decided to go to medical school, something changed in me. Losing 15 pounds with Graves’ disease with a resting heart rate of 130, I was sick. When a doctor diagnosed me and started me on treatment, I finally started living again. At the same time, the desire to do more for my clients outside of my scope as an esthetician was building in the background.
Sitting on the fire escape stairs at my school in San Francisco’s Chinatown, I called my mom and told her I wanted to go to medical school. Wanting to bring the dream into being out loud, I knew I would do it no matter how hard it was. Just because I wasn’t naturally good doesn’t mean I never will be.
During my postgraduate studies, I needed to do something else – something meditative. Seeing my best friend’s creations from her ceramics class, I felt inspired to try pottery again. Even the bowls from her “reject pile” were beautiful to me. Maybe my little rejection would be nice.
I still took a few hours to center the clay pieces. I left the studio days empty-handed. But the feel of kneading the clay, the smell of it and the way it slipped between my fingers when I finally learned to pull it off was magical. When I finally learned to trim, watching the curls of clay fall around my piece as it spun hypnotically on the wheel put me in a trance that made me forget about my stress. My cup was far from perfect. They were “delivered” but I made them. When a piece would explode in the furnace, it was right. I could always make another cup and have another excuse to be in the studio – to be present. Unlike fixed metals, clay was malleable. Like my mindset, clay can grow.
Life goes through phases. It never went the way I expected, but for me the beauty is in the experience – the process. From making mistakes to learning from them and being okay with an outcome that wasn’t planned—pottery is life. The finished product is just a reminder of the steps taken along the way.
When it all explodes
Molecules are aligned
Centrifugal silica spinning
Pull up, hollow out
Dry in plastic
The skin is firm, ready for trimming
The clay coil falls
Fire, ready to shine
Gently dip the powder into the glass
Wipe with care below
The side piece is bursting
Caught in the crossfire
Shattered, shiny pieces
The shards lie helpless in the furnace
They couldn’t do it
Nothing to take home
But a lesson learned:
MX Mendello Fourth year medical student at University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville. They earned bachelor’s degrees in Romance Languages and Literature and International Studies from the University of Michigan and practiced as licensed estheticians before medical school. They hope to pursue Ob/Gyn and incorporate their love of psychiatry into their practice.