A few weeks ago, Georgia invited me into her studio to capture some behind-the-scenes of her working. The room she works in has actually worn many hats. It was her nursery, then a playroom, her brother’s, and now her studio. Georgia’s brother was the initial thrower of the fam. But after playing around on the wheel, Georgia “completely fell in love with it.”
She is a ceramics major at Arkansas State now. The reality of an arts major is often that you don’t even touch your passion till you’ve covered gen-eds, and the basics of art. I love that she has a wheel and kiln at home, so it’s not years before she molds clay. She has been able to build her own business, called Georgia Mud. She actually got to reinvest last year’s profits in a bigger and stronger kiln.
Spending time watching Georgia on the wheel reminds me of the sheer bliss I feel behind the camera. The relaxed focus she had, while her hands were working and her mind wandering. She talked a lot about this room being a safe place she goes to when she is upset, stressed, or processing.
She started by cutting off clay from a large block. Then began pounding it. The process takes muscle as she beat out air bubbles and imperfections. In the Bible, Isaiah talks about God being a potter, us being clay. (Isaiah 64:8) And I’ve always compared it to the wheel and shaping part, but beating out the imperfections is something that resonates with me in my life. Before He can even start shaping us, there are sin habits and comforts that we must die to, and give up. Before that, he can’t even start.
What has the Lord taught you through this process of pottery?
“Every part of pottery points back to the gospel.”
“Reclaimed clay, everything that comes off my hands, this nastiness, it all goes in this bucket, and it smells bad. Yep. God knows we smell bad. So I take that clay, dry it out, and it goes through a purification process. Takes a lot of pressure, physical pressure. Then it turns into clay with some imperfections. And then more pressure. There are areas of imperfections all of us have, and it takes us going through so much pressure to pull those out.
Then after throwing and shaping, the drying process is days long. Parts literally die, crumble off; sometimes it cracks, and you have to start all over again. If it gets through that, it then goes into an actual fire…”
What’s your favorite part of pottery?
“My favorite part about pottery is how intimate it is. It’s all over you. Under my fingernails, arms, all over my hands. We are all over God. We stink, yet He has his hands all over us, making us beautiful, shaping us.
A lot of things in life are the cycle. Everything on the wheel is repetitive. All of pottery is this huge transformation. Just like life in Christ; it makes scripture real”
What’s one of the biggest misconceptions about pottery?
“That it all happens on the wheel. That’s just a step of it all, really. I love that part enough to do everything else.” Hearing about the sheer process one mug goes through is shocking. Days of drying, hours on hours of baking, so much dedication and energy.
My favorite part about Georgia’s studio is that everything is in reach of her chair. And her chair? It’s a dentist’s chair! It’s just so cool to see her space. There is something so special about your first place. How everything is where you need it, it’s messy, it’s quirky, make-shift, but it’s yours.
She made a makeshift table top to beat a large piece of clay. “If there are any air bubbles, it will explode. It’s only happened to me once when I was throwing something really big. It’s more likely to happen when it’s thick.”
There is, in fact, a method to beating. And that method creates spiral pattern in the clay. It’s beautiful!
I learned that the clay naturally wants to spin away from the wheel. So the faster you push the pedal, the harder it gets to keep it in. I just can’t help but pull analogies, too! We spend so much of our lives fighting the Potter, fighting His will. Trying to fling ourselves off the wheel. He’s patient, He’s gracious, as He hones us in, reminds us of His plan, continues to care and form- protecting us from the reality of being out of His will. The faster our lives become, the harder it is to spend close and intimate time with the Lord.
While on the wheel, molding a large piece, she explained, “It finds its shape for you. Did you see how it was wobbling around, and now that I made it tall and pulled it up, it’s happy spinning?”I freakin love that! I loved watching it happen. It was shaking, fighting her, and then it was dancing, happy. It is harder to throw large pieces. I could tell the skill and attention it took Georgia, going quiet at times to focus.
Being in such a hand-crafted art, it’s hard to price yourself. Each piece takes hours of dedication, care, and energy. When so much is factory made, sold cheaper in bulk, the unique pieces by local artists are seen as “expensive” and “overpriced”. Educating your customers is priority, helping them understand the process and value to your products. Don’t lose heart, don’t undersell yourself!
I was reading Share Your Work by Austin Kleon before hunkering down and writing this post. The chapter was called “It’s About the Process, Not the Product,” talking all about sharing pieces of your process. As humans we are interested in what other humans are doing, not just the end product. I value Georgia’s work even more, being able to step in and hear her heart and passion behind it, how much it freaking takes to get one piece made. I hope you do, too!
Georgia and I have a similar story. One of the biggest questions I wrestled with before pursuing photography full time was, “Is this what God really wants for me, or is it the easiest route?” Sometimes it feels wrong that it comes so easy, because so often his desires are so against our human nature that it takes force to be in His will. I learned that He gives passions for a reason though. Georgia was voicing my exact thoughts, “Does God want for me what I want? Honestly, it was all falling together so fast. Like, is this too easy? You know, like a lot of people don’t know what they want to do at our age, they aren’t able to be doing it already.” The Lord has blessed both of us with supportive families and available resources and natural passion to pursue a craft. I’m so thankful!
I’m so honored to have had the time in Georgia’s studio, to get to know her even more. I love hearing how she has grown in her art and walk with the Lord. She has a way of expressing herself on the wheel; I could tell she has a formed style and preference of throwing. I could feel the peace that was in that lamplit space. I left feeling energized, calm, and inspired. After our time, she called me about a question, and we ended up chatting for another half hour about growing in our business while protecting our creative processes.
ALL this to say: Support your local potter, friends! Please follow the links below to shop, hear, and learn more about Georgia Mud!
You can find her work sold at Old Town Hall & Cafe and Baumers Foot Wear in Memphis, TN.
Meet Georgia! SEPTEMBER 30th.: Go see Georgia’s work, live demonstrations, and other Memphis artists! Event at More Than Words in Germantown, Tn.
Left is one of her favorite pieces, right is the bucket of unclaimed clay.