How Ceramics Recentered Both Life and Business
When I first started my design studies at Carnegie Mellon, we spent our entire freshman year drawing the figure, creating color studies with gauche and drafting type by hand. We didn’t touch a computer until our second year. While unfathomable now, the philosophy was to remove computer generated executions and lead only with our conceptual and hand/eye skills.
Almost 20 years later, I sit behind a desk with a mouse in hand instead of a pen and work for countless hours a day with the glow of the monitor ever-present. Something inside me was dying. I still loved design, but the digital process was killing me.
Many articles have been written about the long term effects the exposure to technology have on our eyes and brains. We literally have the attention span of fleas and it’s only getting worse. Doctors warn parents to limit screen time with their young children, but what are we supposed to do when our livelihood literally depends on it?
Almost four years ago, my husband gave me a gift certificate for a ceramics class after he noticed me admiring all the handcrafted wonders in the window. We didn’t know it then, but that class would set me on a path for healing in countless ways. Something internal happens when you remove yourself from a screen and create with your hands – time slows and attention increases. The earth element of clay on your hands is a grounding force.
When you sit in front of a spinning wheel, you must concentrate on the clay and only the clay, or it will own you. Centering only happens through stillness, both in mind and body. All outside thoughts must float away in order to stay in control. Deadlines, worries, failures and stresses dissolve. Patience and focus are the only way the process works. It is the antidote to working on dual screens with multiple documents and applications.
While I still enjoy solving design and marketing problems for clients, it’s freeing to create for the sake of creation. Unlike design, there is no brand manual to follow, no key performance metrics to meet or measures for success. Your only job is to simply make. Having this time away only recharges and strengthens the work we do for business.
In this way, ceramics have brought balance back to my work and life. It’s a moving meditation that has helped me in my darkest hours going through both day to day struggles and tremendous physical and emotional losses. I thank the warm, generous women at Mugi Pottery Studio led by Outi Putkonen and Sarah Camille Wilson at The School at Old Church for guiding me in these lessons.
I encourage my team to find anything that can pull them away from the computer to create. Our designer, Cayla Ferrante started talking about figure drawing classes and calligraphy tutorials. I can’t wait to see how these activities effect her work and life both in and out of the office.