I have been really enjoying my ceramics class. There is something very magic about the process, starting with a bag of clay and ending up with an amazing object of some kind. I love the feel of fresh clean clay, The feel of glazed fired earthenware in my hands. I find them very precious these little things, even simple little dishes made by people I’ve never met, there’s a kind of touch left in the clay that I feel, something human in how lovely and hard wearing and practical and fragile they are.

Last week I had my access plan to take in. This is the Tafe disability support process, how it works is you go in to see a counsellor or support services person, and talk to them about what you have and what support you need. You get paperwork filled out by your GP verifying everything, and you and the counsellor work up an access plan together. The plan doesn’t say what your condition is, it only says what supports or accommodations you may need. For instance in my case it mentions that my hands and wrists fatigue and I will need to rest them during long studio sessions. (among other things)

I wanted to hand the form over to my ceramics tutor today so that he would be aware that sometimes I may need breaks etc. As I walked down the stairs to the ceramics class, I passed a couple of Tafe staff talking to each other. I was trying not to listen in but they weren’t being particularly quiet. They were talking about someone else at Tafe, one of them said to the other “He’s gone nuts!” and the other replied “Yes, didn’t he say last year he has a mental illness?” I kept walking, head down.

It was really hard to pull out my access form and hand it over.

On the train home from the Voices Vic conference in Melbourne, I went up to the little cafe to buy a drink and the staff member there commented about how tired I looked. I mentioned I’d been at a conference and not had much sleep that week. When he asked what the conference was about I said Mental Health, and then added voice hearing. He went a little pale and pulled back, and I remembered that back in the rest of the world, this is scary and dangerous and not something people talk about. He was very courteous and we talked a little longer. I explained that many people hear voices that aren’t distressing or dangerous, and that one of the aims of the conference was to try and learn from them what can be done to support those who hear voices that are awful. Working in mental health is like constantly crossing cultural borders sometimes, between very different worlds where what is normal in one is taboo in another.

This week I am hoping to fire my little creations and then I will take photos to show you. We have been learning some basic clay work techniques called hand building, that is just working with our hands, not using a wheel. We had to make some small objects of our own choosing, I have made two pitted stone fruit halves and a fat luscious pomegranate. I bring along a hand cream because the clay draws all the moisture from your skin and I get eczema quickly under those circumstances, so ceramics class is becoming forever linked to the smell of rose hand cream for me. Sitting down there in the basement watching the rain on the pavement up in the high windows is very special. The studios are so beautiful and so well laid out, I always feel at peace in them. It’s so important for me to spend time being an artist and not let the peer work take over everything.  My own studio is not set up properly yet, just a start. The whole unit is in limbo a bit, I’m having a lot of trouble convincing myself that I’ll be able to stay living here. Things have been transient for a long time. It’s hard to move in properly when you think you’ll be leaving again shortly anyway. It’s taking time, taking time.

I’ve been sick, quite suddenly. After a couple of days resting I don’t think it’s physical exhaustion, the timing is wrong. My head is busy and my heart is busy with a lot of processing. Sometimes it’s hard with me to work out if the problem is more physical or psychological, and often a bit of both are going on. I feel full, I haven’t been able to digest the conference or the funding training and opportunities or the situation with Charlie and my neighbours or getting a home of my own. I keep going out the back door and being surprised to find a yard there, it’s bigger than I remembered and there’s a tree and a lawn. It’s all a bit surreal.

I was ill all morning, the TMJ flared and my pain level was high but I was out of painkillers and money. The joint pain was bad, I get a lot of inflammation in the tendons in my feet and my heels become really painful to walk on. My stomach has been upset for a couple of days now. I had to drag myself off to Radio Adelaide to do some homework due Monday night, it took a couple of hours which was a lot longer than I’d expected. Mostly it was because I was using Adobe Audition (on their computers) for the first time and the manual didn’t have any instructions. I kept having to look up help online to work out how to perform basic functions. I got there in the end, I have my first interview recorded and edited. I pulled it from 7 minutes down to 5 and removed a lot of ‘ummm’s from my interviewee. I’m proud of that effort and I managed not to throw up on the computer either. 🙂 Monday is a long day but I have all Tuesday off, just some homework to do and friends to catch up with, which I’m looking forward to. One foot in front of the other.

See my first ceramics creations here.

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