When the coronavirus pandemic shut down the Claremont Colleges, The Ceramic Object and Food, a course taught at Pitzer College centered on the dual process of recipe and pottery creation, was just one of the many courses that struggled with an online format. But one student, Annabel Lind SC ’22, decided to bring just a bit more of the course home with her than her peers did.
“I came home and I felt not very grounded,” Lind said. “One of the things that I’ve done to ground myself was ceramics, so I ended up buying a pottery wheel and continued my ceramic practice at home.”
Although this ceramics class was not anything like it had been on campus, Lind found a sense of stability in working with clay and even used it as a way to connect with her local neighborhood and her far-flung college community.
In the weeks following her arrival back at home, Lind created an Instagram page, @annabel.ceramics, to share her ceramics practice with others. As her account grew, some followers began asking to purchase her pieces, and Lind has since begun doing commissions for and selling to interested patrons.
She didn’t start her page to generate income, even though she hopes to eventually turn her ceramics practice into a side business. “It’s more about the creative process and being able to do art,” Lind said of the Instagram account.
Ceramics did not always occupy such a presence in Lind’s life. Her first formal introduction to the art form was an introductory ceramics class at Scripps College during her first year. Lind fell in love with the art form, citing the influence of her first ceramics professor, Amy Santoferraro.
“She has a way of allowing people to think outside the boundaries,” Lind said. “Even within college art, there are so many expectations that are kind of subversive, and she was really good at allowing us to question those and letting us carve our own path with the material.”
Of course, getting used to the medium of clay was not easy. She faced long hours in the studio working on piece after piece, sometimes only to see them break after one wrong move or glitch in the firing process.
“You fail more than you succeed,” Lind said. “That’s a really hard thing when most of the time we’re used to thinking that our work correlates to our success.”
Confronting failure time and time again ultimately proved beneficial — not only in the way that her craftsmanship improved, but also in the way she understood the purpose of failure in the creative process.
“The accumulation of failures felt like it was for nothing, but it ultimately amounted to enough skill — minimal skill, I will say, at this point — to feel like I can make something, and that feels really gratifying,” Lind said.
Although many think of pottery as a demonstration of precision and symmetry, ceramics allows for and celebrates imperfection. Lind draws inspiration from wabi-sabi, a Japanese philosophy that recognizes the essential imperfections of the natural world and human creation.
Impermanence, along with imperfection, has been another fundamental aspect of learning ceramics. One of the posts on Lind’s Instagram page features a picture of her dog resting his head on one of Lind’s vases, which has broken into pieces.
She explained that her mother, who is Buddhist, taught her throughout her childhood to understand the world as an ever-changing place. As she began to do ceramics, Lind realized that this philosophy also applies to working with clay, which is fragile and can break at any part of the process.
As an environmental analysis major and ceramics minor, Lind has to find balance in the demands of each field. Fortunately, she has discovered ways of bringing these two fields together, modeling her pieces on organic forms and using her ceramics projects as an opportunity to explore locally sourced clay.
“I’ve always loved cooking,” Lind said. “So when it came to studying environmental analysis, I realized that my passion for food really related to my passion for the environment.”
In blending these passions of hers, Lind sought to create satisfying plant-based recipes from locally sourced foods all served in dishes that she herself created on the pottery wheel.
“I transferred this idea of looking at local food,” Lind said. “I went to my farmer’s market a bunch and got to know the vendors.”
Even though she manages schoolwork, internships, family, environmental activism and a now-budding business, Lind aspires to keep learning from ceramics for the rest of her life.
“I’ve noticed that ceramics is a really meditative process, and I think when things get busy especially, I need those moments to hone in on something and do something with my hands,” Lind said.
“Being creative is such an integral part of my life and my health and happiness that I hope I’ll always have it.”