Getting My Hands Dirty

Like many expats, finding myself in a strange land with none of the same resources and friends has inspired me to try new things. I recently tried my hand at ceramics at Les Bidoux, an art studio near Riberac, something I hadn’t done since I was child of around 10.

I had no idea that it would be so rewarding. Just getting my hands in the cool, earthy clay was a very pleasing experience. Slapping the hell out of it wasn’t half bad either, a move required to get the air bubbles out. (Marvelously therapeutic! But I won’t tell you who or what I thought about in that process.)

Jessie Mooy is the artist that runs the studio. I count myself truly fortunate to have her in my neighborhood…well, near enough. She’s not only very knowledgeable and helpful, she’s also an inspiring artist and turned out to be a kindred spirit. When I was considering taking the course with her, it was once I saw her website and artwork that I became truly excited. Her pieces are amazing!

I spent a month of Tuesday mornings with Jessie and two other women in the studio, driving about an hour each way. It was totally worth it. We all got on well and enjoyed one another’s company and artistic process. Dutch, English and some French was spoken…mostly English, though. Jessie always treated us to a tea break in her garden too which was nice…especially as the weather was just turning warmer.

mugnpot 2 better I think I really wanted to make sculpture right off the bat, but the teacher suggested that there were some basic techniques I needed to learn first. So the first thing I made was the little blue cup by pushing my thumb into a ball of clay and then using a manual wheel to shape it. outside one1 (Medium)

Afterwards, I learned to coil which resulted in the mug pictured here with an unintentionally-but nonetheless-ergonomic handle just right for my hand. It is a small thrill to drink my morning tea out of something I made myself!

For my third piece, I jumped right into sculpture; that resulted in my little fairy and snail statue which now sits on my front steps. Are they perfect? No. Does it matter? No. The fact is, I had fun. And I even want to do it again.

My husband and I joke now about my 100 mug, but of course, I got a lot more out of the lessons than a mug. I got to meet some lovely fellow-students, got to feel in control of something at a time when my life was feeling completely unrecognizable, learned a bit of technique and more importantly, discovered I wasn’t all that bad at it.