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Snake Coil

Cut coiled lowfire clay sculpture, by Chris Wayan, 2000.

I took a course in ceramic sculpture, just to have access to the kiln. My classmates used tools. I used fingers. They cut and assembled the shapes they chose. I teased and squeezed the way the clay wanted to go. They sculpted crisp, geometric, modern shapes. I made blobs.

At last I decided to try it their way. I made a flat disk, a truly flat disk with a rolling pin, instead of pounding a pancake with my fists. I got a sharp knife and cut a spiral into the disk, turning it into a neatly packed strip a yard long. Then I pulled the coil up into a helix...

An abstract ceramic snake made of a single clay disk cut in a spiral and lifted.
...and realized it wasn't abstract at all, but alive, a snake. I couldn't escape myself.

It was the rattlesnake I saw in dreams when I was a kid, the wary but courteous rattler at the control panel of my life.

Despite the Christian/Euro thing about snakes, a rattler is not a bad sort to have at your helm. A warner, not a biter, saving its firepower for those who don't listen or don't care. The sharp-hoofed tramplers.

Side view, abstract ceramic snake made of a single clay disk cut in a spiral and lifted.
I just can't do their thing: artist as master, art as product. Make one cut and it bursts into symbolism, into spirit-life. Shaman till I die.



LISTS AND LINKS: sculpture - snakes - conformity and individualism - creative process - a dream and an early sketch of the Rattler at the Controls - shamanic dreams

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