Finding Center

Heavy lump of raw earth, patted round, slammed with a jolt onto the surface of the potter’s wheel, add water and speed and this inert ball of clay is a live pulse beneath my resting hands. Hands take hold in a mudra of strength and purpose and my whole body engages in the dialogue between Medium and Self – the creating of a steadiness within, enough to still that writhing, twisting knot of mineral potential. In the split of a single moment the clay has gone still, a perfectly calmed spinning orb. Now fingers dive into the center to open the depth and aperture of a vessel-to-be. Walls thin outward and upward and as if by magic, a form has appeared– holding space, holding intention, holding all my own inner turbulence – calmed and grounded back down to earth.

Finding Center: the dialogue is double-sided – the clay mirrors me, and I the clay. This practice of finding and re-finding center is a physical meditation – as well as a visceral and obvious metaphor for life.

Divining The Muse

From where does inspiration arise? From what well-spring does the seed of creative thought burgeon forth from the crusty surface as if by some irresistible and unrelenting siren’s call?   I am called back again and again to that inquiry.

For myself, it has almost always been the stepping off into the unknown – the call of the wild – the awkward thrusting of oneself out of the comfort zone and into the sometimes terrifying, but often lucid space of coming in contact not only with all that is new around you (culture, language, customs, social group, belief system, landscape, cuisine…), but also coming face to face with yourself.

Banking on this seed of inspiration has been the crux of faith in founding the Gaya Ceramic Arts Center in Sayan-Ubud. Offering workshops and residencies throughout the year, we write with full earnestness: “Why come half way around the world to improve your throwing skills or learn to fire a kiln? We believe setting is everything…” and that for many, many artists, the opportunity to immerse themselves in a different world – even for only a two-week stretch, encourages growth, self-reflection, and a willingness to take the next step in their own work. Even for those not physically traveling so far to get here, the Gaya CAC studio stands as a sanctuary for transformation: earth into Art; self into Self.

Those who play seriously in mud

Nowhere has it been more evident that catapulting one’s artistic self into an entirely new atmosphere foments intense creative inspiration than in the experiences of the Resident Artists (RA). Three to four times per year, Gaya CAC hosts professional ceramic artists from around the world for a two-month residency program. There is no prerequisite of what each should make or spend their time doing. It has been an incredible experience to witness each resident take in, digest and respond to all the new stimuli of Bali.   For some, inspiration taps most from the intricacies of a cultural philosophy so different from their own; for others, from the visual explosion of a tropical ambient; some are more self-probing and introspective about identity and place in the world; others simply allow the remove from their familiar to generate great emotion, welling up and surfacing through their works.

One RA recently commented: “It was as if I was just supposed to be here: one bit of visual information, one cue from the culture, one conversation just falling into place and leading me into the pieces I have created.” Another was shocked at her own proficiency: having come to Gaya with an intention to build rather abstract geometric forms, she gave in to an unexpectedly arisen urge to build figurative sculpture entirely dedicated to the pure emotion of parenting. It was the first extended journey she had ever made away from her early-teen children.

For each, creating in this oasis of newness amounts to a unique, and utterly inspired experience.

 Offering Bowls

Palms upturned and cupping space, this form holds everything: from a sip of water to a sip of hope.   Similar to many ceramic studios around the world, Gaya Ceramic has begun a tradition of making the simplest and humblest form of a bowl into a metaphor for giving and receiving. Throughout the year, hundreds of bowls are made by many people: production studio staff, resident artists, and studio community members alike put their hands and intentions together to create these simple, humble vessels. At the Empty Bowls event, held annually, by filling your bowl (with something delicious and rewarding like Gaya Gelato) whilst you fill another’s bowl with your donation, we all partake in the circle of giving and receiving. EMPTY BOWLS – FULL HEART

“It’s not the pots we are forming, it’s ourselves” MC Richards

By Hillary Kane