21 November 2006
When I was in Art School taking etching classes my teacher used to tell us that we should wipe the inked zinc plates “with the hands of a duchess.” That saying has stuck with me even though I am not making etchings and wiping zinc plates these days. Now days I am taking another class in which the hands are integral in the expression, Cuban Salsa dancing. My dance teacher is constantly reminding us how important it is for us to use our hands. He says “Ladies, your hands should be beautiful, like you just had a manicure.” Imagine me, just in from the ceramic studio, after a day, no week, month, okay, years of clay work, thinking of my hands as “manicured” I giggle like a sixth grader every time he says this. He must think I’m a bit nutty. I have a very deep relationship with my hands. They are, after all, the most important tools of my craft and livelihood. I am proud of my hands and what they are capable of. Though when I get into that dance class I feel like I have lobster claws for hands and I suddenly become very self-conscious of them. It is funny how changing the focus of their use brings out insecurities with something in most cases I am quite confident with. It has brought me to thinking about how it is good to think of my hands in a different way other than as the tools of my trade. In dance they are tools too, an extension of expression, in some ways so much more immediate than in the making of things. The skills we develop to train our hands to make things is different than the skills we learn using them in an expressive way. I am thoroughly enjoying this challenge. I think it is good to step out the comfort zone and learn to use things we may be familiar or comfortable with in different ways. I also like the fact that using my hands in this way feels so new and foreign to me. Like the first time I sat at a potters wheel with five pounds of clay spinning in front of me at high speed. Hands of a duchess, manicured hands, lobster claws, I say bring it on!