Chris Burch | Episode 656
Chris Burch found clay, albeit by accident, back in the fall of 2013. Chris’s mother used to do slip casting and always referred to her work as ceramics. When Chris enrolled in Ceramics I in college, he thought that’s what he’d be doing. To his utter surprise, Chris had actually registered for a wheel throwing class. It was all over once Chris had his hands in the clay!
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Why is it that ceramics can be healing?
Well, you can start with the tactile properties. For me it feels great in my hands. I throw on the hot side of hot water. So just the action of dipping my hands onto the bucket of water, placing them on the clay, feeling that molding in my hands in and of itself is therapeutic. But far deeper is a lifetime of self-worth issues for me. And when I started to put pieces out there that people actually said they wanted to buy, I finally found a place of worth, that I was contributing something. So in so many levels this experience with clay has healed me.
Why was a paycheck for your management skills and business skills, why was that not as deeply impacting as someone finding value in your creative skills.
Making spreadsheets and hiring employees and managing schedules came very naturally to me. So maybe that’s something I took for granted that I could do without really much thought. I guess putting so much effort to something and putting it out there for the world to judge and when that judgement came back it was something well received for instance. For me that was rewarding.
It sounds like there was also a vulnerability that came with working with clay because you had to put it out there for someone to be able to say, Wow I really like that. How important is that vulnerability in terms of healing?
Well, I can only speak for me, you know. To be accepted into a world where other people were creating art, or to be accepted by customers who were looking for something to purchase for a gift or I mean, it gets to the place for me where I would say that the thing that I make that gives me the most sense of closeness to someone, the most honor I ever have in making a piece of pottery is to make an urn. Because I know what they are going to be doing with that piece. You think of a coffee cup, I make more of those than anything else, a lot of potters do, and to many that have messaged me over the years say that it is still their favorite mug, but there is still something so much deeper in putting their loved ones ashes in a piece of my work. And I don’t put as much pressure on myself to make anything as I do when I make an urn.
You mentioned that it increased your self-esteem. Why was that important?
Well, the clay community and the art community as a whole has given me such a sense of belonging. I mean, of course, you get married and you have a family and you have that sense of belonging, that’s innate to the family. So I am not discounting that sense of belonging in anyway, but the far reaching effect of knowing that people out there accept you that may have never met you before and online they have messaged you, I want one of these for my husband, or I want one of these as a gift for my aunt or uncle or whatever. To know that you are accepted for me personally has been tremendous. The fact that doing something artistic could bring that, I never would have thought it. I guess I thought it was always going to be something I struggle with in my life and in the army we learned to kind of deal with it and move on with things. You accept it and adapt and overcome, was the mantra. I am just so thankful I don’t have to.
There’s an artist who said, Painting cheered up my brain. Do you feel like that is what clay has done for you, has it cheered up your brain?
It has cheered up my brain,Paul, but more than that it’s changed my heart. It has delivered me from many, many years of very difficult things. And I owe it to everyone who has brought me to this place even before ceramics and now going forward the more people I get to meet in the art world.