Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Thank you- Mrs. Prescott.

Mrs. Prescott was about the tiniest teacher I had ever known. I believe she weighed about 80lbs and perhaps stretched to about 4'10'' or so. She had big blond hair, I think she pushed it up high on her head to gain a little height. Her hands were tiny, almost doll like, I remember them moving quickly when she was demonstrating in the art room. For a little package this woman had a great deal of power. Mrs. Prescott had a thick accent. I will not insult her by venturing the origin of her home, only to say this sort of added to the mystique of this woman- a tiny little package with a big huge presence. Yep- you guessed it, I was afraid of her.

She wasn't the touchy feely type that seemed to be common with my other art teachers. She was about getting it done, holding students accountable and working on the next project. She had much to teach and only a limited time to teach it. She wanted to impart as much as possible as quickly as possible- just so we could move on to the next topic.

One of the subjects I took from Mrs. Prescott was ceramics. We were permitted to throw on the wheel as well as hand build. There were limited wheels, so I found myself really excited about hand building. This was a foundational course, however, it truly changed my life, my spirit. I owe much to Mrs. Prescott.

I was still trying to "find" myself in high school. I knew I loved art, being in the art room, music - singing especially (and guitar) and also, I enjoyed writing. Art was exciting to me, it was a way to express myself- I hadn't really developed a style as yet, but I loved playing with any media I could get my hands on. However in those days I was very much about pleasing my teachers and contemporaries. If they did not see value in what I was doing I would scrap it. I needed the constant feedback or I was pretty sure what I was doing was worthless.

Enter Mrs. Prescott. Miss- no mincing words or beating about the bush. She was direct and didn't really take time to pad her constructive criticism. She just put it all out there. Let the chips fall wherever they may. To someone like me, well, let's just say I didn't always handle that well. Typically I internalized it- but you know, it deeply affected me. Without sounding like a total wimp- I was afraid of her. I generally did what I was told and did not jump out of the box very often. (it was too scary!)

I really enjoyed hand building clay. In fact- that has been historically true throughout my entire life. It is so much more satisfying to me then throwing on a wheel. (please note the irony here as when I draw I nearly always draw inside of a circle- go figure!) It was my senior year and I was working on a few pieces for my portfolio- ( I wanted to have art as a major so I had to produce my "best" to present as sort of a final exam) when I asked the lovely Mrs. Prescott if I could make clay "balls". these were the precursor to my storybowls (tm) First, the fact that I actually asked and came up with what I thought was an original idea, was sort of stunning, secondly the hope that I anticipated that she'd think it was a great idea was perhaps naive. Mrs. Prescott stood there for a moment, with her arms crossed sort of pondering my question, and her response? "Susan, you can't do that- it won't work- it is just too difficult for you."


I was devastated. I felt like I should crawl inside my box and stay there never to show my face again.

Then... something changed, something happened- a little voice in me said, "Oh yeah? well WATCH ME!"

And for me- a little bit of a back bone started to grow.

Guess what? I not only created one, but three "clay spheres". Guess what else? Mrs. Prescott herself helped me create a glaze that would compliment and show the great detail in each of the pieces. They looked professional and down right fun, I must say. Guess what else? I went on to win some competitions with them- New York state Student art -. It was an amazing triumphant moment for me.

Thank you Mrs. Prescott- for sort of bating me into doing what you knew I could do, but didn't have the confidence to do. Thank you for making me get just a little upset with you in order to prove you wrong. Thank you for your no nonsense manner- your way of lifting me up without coddling me. You made a huge difference in my life, my art, my spirit.

Thank you.