We recently lost a long term member of our clay community to cancer. Don had been at the college since before I started taking classes there almost fourteen years ago and he was the driving force behind the wood kiln. I would often joke with him that I didn't know what I would do without him there to help out with the wood. Many times I would be struggling to get the kiln to fire properly and he would walk up and have it firing beautifully in ten minutes. I think she (the kiln) had a special affinity for Don. Appropriately, my boss is planning on dedicating the kiln to his memory this spring. A piece of him will be in every firing just as it has been since the beginning.
It's been difficult saying goodbye to another member of the ACC clay community, especially since he's the forth person we've lost in the last two years. I guess that's just part of working with an older population, but each of them have a special place in my heart, even our former resident curmudgeon. Three of the four people who are now gone had been at the college since before I started and have had a marked impact on the evolution of my work. I remember the curmudgeon asking me repeatedly what my ceramic sculptures were for when I first started making them. It would have been easy to just brush off her question as being silly because they were sculptures and they didn't need to have a purpose. At the same time, this was a question that I had secretly been asking myself about these new forms. It's easy to justify making a cup, but less so filling a wall with "pretty things." I've come to terms with what I make now, and enjoy it much more than I did making cups and bowls, but I certainly enjoyed the mental challenge of trying to answer Lillian's question.
Perhaps the hardest part of saying goodbye to these key studio members is that I know that my turn to leave is coming soon as I approach the end of my MFA program. This studio has been a critical part of my life for quite some time and these people are my extended family (complete with crazy uncle!). I am lucky to have had these people in my life, that's for sure.