Make It Your Own: What Pottery Taught Me


(Image courtesy of me)


A person's prefrontal cortex finishes developing at twenty-five. The prefrontal cortex regulates impulsivity and decision-making. The mature brain acts as a biological marker that separates young adults from "young" adults. But, self-development does not stop at 25. This article has taken me a year and a half to write. It tells the story of how I tried something new and how it recalibrated how I view self-worth. I hope you enjoy it.


(Image courtesy of me)


I used to be the person who measured my worth based on what I could produce. I was the person who not only wanted to impress my teachers but also viewed assignments as benchmarks of my academic and professional development. For example, I was elated when my Diplomacy paper discussing Cardinal Richelieu's political legacy received an A. I was devastated when I tried and failed to get into my undergraduate Advertising and Public Relations program three semesters in a row. But I was not the only person who thought like this. Many students subscribe to this belief, and unintentionally teachers promote this philosophy. Consequently, I was among the many recent graduates/young professionals who viewed output as the main factor in determining self-worth.



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I went into graduate school believing this idea. I remember talking with my mentor Heather about this philosophy. I asked her something to this effect, " Heather, how can a person measure themselves outside the context of what they could do?" I then told her how most people I know viewed their professional/academic output as the barometer of how they view themselves. As I went into my second semester of graduate school in Spring 2021, I wanted to find the answer to the question I posed to Heather.



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I found my answer in an unexpected place. Since January 2021, I have driven to a little pottery studio in the woods called Julie Berkowitz Ceramics. The 10-minute drive combines Walden pond greenery and John Hughes-like houses. When you go into the studio, you are transported into another world. In this world, I learned a valuable lesson.



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Before I continue, you need to understand why pottery is labor-intensive. When you create something in ceramics, it takes three steps. The first one is the most well-known, throwing. Throwing is when you take a piece of clay and make it into a bowl, cup, cylinder, etc. After throwing, you trim your piece. This part is probably the hardest. The clay must be leather dry instead of bone-dry. Leather dry means that the clay is dry enough to trim but still malleable. When clay is bone dry, any misstep can cause the piece to crack. The clay is then put in the bisque to become bisqeware. Bisqueware is the pottery a person can paint on. Typically, the potter will choose a color depending on the clay used, the texture, or the bisqueware's shape. After a further firing, your piece is out of the kiln and ready for use.



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Pottery requires patience, calmness, and quiet meditation. I am not known for my abundant patience or perpetually calm demeanor. Throughout my time in pottery, my various creations transformed from Frankensteinian cylinders to something a 9th-grader might produce. My pottery taught me how they are other factors to measure your worth rather than the result. Anyone who does pottery can tell there is a euphoric feeling when your art looks better than what you intended or when a bisqueware's glaze creates an unexpected pattern. As I finish my time in graduate school, I will continue my potter's journey where the only person I can compare myself to is me.




(Image courtesy of me)


Me on my first day of graduate school

Rachel Huss

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