By Camille Reid
I have entered an obsessive love affair with a mustard yellow mechanical beast named Brent. A pottery wheel has turned me from openly curious to possessed, mesmerized by its monotonous, counter clockwise spinning. My series of choice is a Brent model that has exceptional precision, a clay capacity of 225 lbs, and a quiet hum as it spins to top speed. A foot pedal placed on the ground is lightly controlled with my right foot to toggle between wheel speeds. Like leaving a red light, I use my toes to ease into the pedal, carefully monitoring my posture to begin centering my clay; my most successful multi-tasking to date. The matching mustard themed utility table surrounding the wheel head and splash pan is used to house an old Folger’s container for water, various trimming tools, two sponges, and a clay cutting tool that could decapitate an enemy with the right force. Unless you are a clean freak or have a new wheel, it’s usually splattered with dried clay shrapnel from previous throwing demonstrations representing a day of successful production or of utter failure; the dried bits tell a vague story.
After being introduced to the wheel, my creative style turned from simple to psychedelic as I started experimenting with hallucinogens. At 16 I was creating giant braided stem mushrooms with holes for incense smoke to flow, an oversized eyeball with lifelike cockroaches emerging from the pupil, and a gourd shaped vessel with types of mushrooms carved into the side, turning into flowers and leading to a naked Mother Nature perched at the opening. After this burst of unusual artistic motivation, I went on a five-year hiatus, allowing substance abuse to take over all of what was left of my natural creativity and stealing away any pleasure I used to feel from turning daydreams and wild thoughts into art. All attempts at reawakening my creative flow were overshadowed in false confidence brought on by amphetamine induced all-nighters, heroin afflicted forgotten tasks, and blackout phases that lasted months to years. My talent was only to return in an unclouded, sober state following immensely painful hard work.
I’ve experienced different levels of trauma that had previously set off my inevitable spiraling downfall, brushing insanity leading to rock bottom for most, but the most paralyzing of them all was brought on by the unexpected death of my father. Many friends have been taken from me because of their addiction, something I have naturally become numb to when I hear another one bites the dust. I was engaged in intense physical pain when I attempted heroin withdrawal and emotional turmoil when I decided offing myself would be better than how it felt to exist in my own skin. None of these things can hold a flame to the ongoing, heart wrenching, reaction my spirit has experienced following the loss of a parent at 25. When I decided I could venture out and be in public on my own, two weeks after the event, I went to the studio and laid my hands on a terribly uncentered chunk of clay. I let tears fall onto my medium with an empty gaze that felt like I had entered a blackhole, my ear canal was filled with cottony unbroken silence, my body was being held up by survival instinct. A usual platter typically takes me about 15 minutes to complete, on this day, I sat there molding for nearly an hour. My dad was a chef and I created a giant platter that was fit to accommodate one of his flawless dishes, perhaps a savory Steak au Poivre or delectable Chicken Cacciatore.
Returning to clay and embracing my time on the wheel has brought new levels of creativity I had never previously unlocked. Long hours of practice and creating some of the most hideous pieces ever seen, only built a stronger determination within me to grasp the foundational concepts that all great potters have mastered in their own time, at their own pace. Each session I set an intention to simply “do what feels good”, an underlying theme to stay true to my style, and a repetitious attitude of never getting too attached to a piece. My relationship with the Brent is one I’ll always work on because it is the one that has spun me through my most difficult chapters, always producing something beautiful on the other side.
Camille spent much of her teens and early twenties in active addiction that ran her life and clouded judgement in personal and professional relationships. The knowledge she gained through attempts at sobriety, asking for help, and finally reaching continuous long recovery from substances and harmful relationships has strengthened her as a young woman navigating life in a healthy and productive manner. By balancing supporting elements of creativity, nutrition, fitness, education, and giving back, Camille shares her hope and support with young women who are going down a familiar path with relationships or who have shared experience with attempts at long term sobriety. She now lives a life she and her family can be proud of and looks forward to being able to share her experience, strength and hope through recovery with any individual willing to listen.