Earlier this week I took the piece down from the mantel, blew a thin layer of dust off, and carried it over to my office. Carefully. On the bottom, scripted in silver ink, Zada had written several years ago, “This took me 10,000 hours to make.” It was a joke of course, but not really. Back a few years everyone was talking about 10,000 hours, ten years, the time it takes to become really, really good at something. Ceramics. Baseball. The Piano. Golf. Chemistry. Writing.
The vase itself was raku fired, so it possesses a delicate lacework of black patterns across its surface, the by-product of the firing and cooling process. Burning sawdust is involved, tendrils of smoke trapped on the surface. It’s not perfect in its shape. Close observation reveals the slightest collapse inward on one side of the neck. Running fingers through the inside, the thickness varies and the clay feels like the finest emery paper. The vase is porous, won’t hold water.
As far as utilitarian purposes, it is not worth much. It might hold a few desiccated flowers, a few unsharpened #2 pencils, but I’ve never been tempted to use it in that way. I’m tempted to simply look at it. Raku, which is associated with Japanese Zen Buddhism, simply means “joy.” The purpose of these pieces lies in their beauty, the utilitarian value of the joy impossible to calculate.
I brought the piece over to my office for a couple of reasons. The aesthetic response it inspires is now more accessible. I can look up from my desk at any moment and see the vase, and so can others. The second reason is simply to be reminded of the creative journey and the process of growing into the creative self and the sparkling student moments like the vase, or an essay, or a song that we bump into along the way. There’s a collective inspiration to the creative process.
So bringing the vase over at the start of a new term just seemed right.
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Mike Henriques P'11, P'15
Proctor Academy Head of School