The first day was hell, I was in a strange room with no easy exit, no support person and everyone else appeared to know each other from a previous course. I just wanted to run away, but there was something about the feel of the clay in my hands, which made me stay. I later discovered there were other new women and they were just as shy as me!
I have now participated ingroups, using paint, mosaicsthree of Anne’s art and of course clay. Over time, I have realized that the art group is a place of security and comfort. We are all women who have been badly hurt in some way. Here I can feel safe knowing that I can relax my guard and enjoy working on something that I have created on my own.
For me, clay is magic, when I turn on my music and pick up the clay, my hands and thoughts join together and something emerges. Often Anne Riggs will talk about an artist or a piece of work, and suggest we might like to think about it. Sometimes my hands will follow her suggestion, but at other times my mind will take over and the clay becomes a way to express something that is too painful to talk about.
Frequently I will cry as I am working through a very difficult memory, but it does not matter, because no one minds, they don’t intrude, or tell me to “pull myself together”, we have a common bond. When I look at my work some of it is frightening, some gentle and positive, while other pieces appear to be just formless lumps of clay. These ones I will smash one day. A few are so painful that I cannot bear to look at them once they are fired; these hold memories that are still too painful to deal with.
As I have worked through all the art groups I have noticed a pattern slowly emerging in my work, now I realize the amorphous figure I continuously depict is actually me. Sometimes she is in a flashback scene, but at other times I will stroke her gently and give her the love I have always craved. Now with this realization, my work is changing again; I think I am reaching deeper into myself, trying to consciously, and visually, face the violence that was done to me. Without the freedom of my art I could not do any of this.
Now I photograph my work, and if I feel like it, show my counselor. Then we can confront the dragons together.