Mud On My Hands

I spent the weekend playing with clay. It's something I haven't done in years, and it was a really fun change from glass. My friend, Deborah Rael-Buckley, is working on a large sculptural piece for a rapidly approaching show at the Parks Gallery, here in Taos, honoring the Daughters Of Juarez. Not the book, but the actual women, hundreds of them, who have been murdered there. Deborah's piece will be one of her large chair forms--which I really love--filled with a tangled, random pile of smaller chairs, representing bits of everyday life left behind by these women. Similar to the Holocaust Museum's photographs of huge piles of shoes, this will be a personal, haunting piece of sculpture, certain to have a powerful impact on those who see it.

With the November 1st opening coming up fast, Deborah mentioned the other evening that she could use some help making the small chairs. Maybe it was the martini talking, but I immediately volunteered. Sure I can make little chairs! My sculpting resume is pretty limited, but Deborah took me on anyway, and Rick too, who actually worked with clay quite a bit in college. My only real experience was way back in high school, and the only thing I remember making was a box that looked like a cheese burger. Not much to go by, but Deborah was desperate, so I got the gig.

On Saturday morning, Deborah brought over a big block of clay and a few tools. Her only instructions were to try not to trap air bubbles in the clay, and not to do any research on the Juarez murders. She didn't want us wrapped up in the story. Instead, we were to just make things that looked like they would come from someone's home. Pleasant little domestic bits of normal, simple lives.

So we set to it, working in my studio in the house, where there's still a large metal topped table. We loved every minute of it. I started timidly, with a tiny three-legged stool that amazingly looked exactly like a tiny three-legged stool. Before long I was making straight backed kitchen chairs, fluffy upholstered chairs, bar stools, and fan-backed butterfly chairs. Rick made a beautiful, cozy looking, overstuffed chair and a rocking chair, of all things, the big show off. So when I got to the point of adding the legs to my high chair, I handed it over to him to finish. Those spindly parts were just too intimidating for me, but he did it perfectly.

I made a few more chairs on Sunday, before Deborah came to pick them up. They still need to dry, and then be fired and glazed and assembled to fit the rest of the piece. Lining them up here on the table, it was like we'd made a tiny furniture show room. I'm really pleased, and I wanted to have pictures of them in this happy phase of their existence. I'm really honored to play my small part in getting this piece made, and I hope at least some of the chairs make the cut. I know when I see them in the finished piece, they'll have taken on a whole new, much sadder meaning. That's OK. At least I'll know, that like personal belongings of the women in Juarez, these started out as simple, mundane, everyday objects.

Maybe now I'll dig a little deeper into the story behind the sculpture. And maybe not. I only know a little bit, and maybe that's enough. It's so hard for me to deal with other people's pain, and with the insanity of the world. Maybe it's better if I don't know too much. I can't fix it by feeling the pain, but maybe I can help in some way if I'm able to shine my own little light, and add beauty to the world at every opportunity. I want the vibes I send out there to be of love and light, not sadness and fear. It might look like I'm hiding my head in the sand, but it's self-preservation, and it's better for all concerned. If I'm a mess, I'm no good to anybody. If I stop the daily download of bad news at just enough, I can better transform the information into inspiration. And that's how a block of mud becomes a table full of beautiful little chairs that will help carry a message to so many others.


  1. Wow, you and Rick are good at "chair", too. They are really cute :-). From what you implied, I am not too interested in following the story of the Women of Juarez, either. Martyrdom to me, in general, is too painful to entertain; and yet it is important that the truth of humans' less than kind attributes be put before the mirror as a sobering reminder. It's enough that other artists can do this. Norine

  2. These are lovely and probably, that's the way representation of everyday life should be. I play in clay everyday but perhaps without as much abandon as you folks have. I think I should give that a try.

    I hope you will be able to come back with photos of the final sculpture. And something of the story.

  3. I am ever in awe of your talent and creativity. I tried making something in clay once when I was in 5th or 6th grade. It was supposed to be an orange for my dad, he loved his orange trees. Who could mess us a round ball with no leaves? Me, that's who! It wasn't anywhere near round. I painted it grey and called it a rock/paperweight. My dad made the appropriate oohing and ahhing noises. Only I knew it was supposed to be an orange.
    - jo

  4. Wonderful creations. You are an inspiratiion Kim. I can't wait to meet you one day! I know what you mean about the usefulness of feeling pain and sadness. I try to keep some boundaries with that too. But not always successful. Take care. Can't wait to hear what's next.

  5. Thank you for bringing the message to us here. These are absolutely beautiful. <3 K

  6. Your chairs are firing in the kiln right now and tomorrow we can see the results. I loved the idea of letting someone helping me with the small chairs, because the nature of the narrative for the sculpture has to do with a community-things said and done in a community of people, and not just women. Also, not knowing who made which chair, refers to the anonymity of the women who were killed. Can't wait to get it finished! Thanks to you and to Rick for your help.

  7. I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE your little chairs!!!


Post a Comment

Thanks for your comment!

Popular posts from this blog

cats are not dogs, and how tangling string untangles frustration

where to buy what i make

soft spring scarf

yarn that speaks for itself

and what do you do?