Grace is NOT an Artist

By Chelsea Martin

With $313.56 in my bank account, and no plans of acquiring any new money in the foreseeable future, I spent $84 enrolling in a 6-week ceramics class, clay and tools included.

I thought I needed a hobby separate from myself from my “real” art practice. I wanted to see what else my hands could do. I wanted to listen to the elderly women who enrolled in the class casually talk about estrogen. I wanted to arrive late rudely and unapologetically each session so that the elderly students, and the elderly woman who was teaching the course, would know I was a total badass. I wanted to make small coil pots.

I made 60+ coil pots. I spent $24 on a blue speckled glaze and $11 on a pale yellow glaze. I carved my last name into the bottom of my coil pots before firing them, imagining some stranger in the distant future picking up and looking at the bottom of my coil pot, seeing my name, and then remarking to themselves that they had no real reason for picking up and looking at the bottom of a handmade coil pot, but that they had felt an inexplicable urge to do so, and decided then and there that they wanted to do scientific research about that specific urge. “Maybe all humans have such an urge,” they would think, changing the course of their life in that moment, “Maybe it means something about humanity.”

The person would embark on a years-long research project involving test groups and placebos and fancy metal equipment unimaginable to me because this would all be happening so far in the future. Ultimately the project would lose its funding and the researcher, who had discarded my small coil pot long before this moment, would admit to himself that it was not a very good idea for a research project to begin with, but that he was appreciative of the time spent working through his ideas about it anyway, because that’s the kind of person he was; always finding a way to be thankful for dumb shit. 

An elderly woman named Grace was the star of our class. She threw thin, even pots on the wheel and glazed them with care and precision, if not much originality. She was well loved by the students in our class, who sat at tables near the potter’s wheels and watched her work. 

“She has nice craftsmanship but she is NOT an artist,” I thought to myself, smoothing the rim on what would end up being a blue speckled intentionally-lopsided highbrow Q-Tip holder for my shared bathroom, “I take artistic risks with my small coil pots that Grace or any of the other women in this class will never know how to appreciate.”

Originally published at Shabby Doll House.