When I’m not sitting at my desk, writing or editing or drawing a picture of edible scorpions impaled on pineapples, I’m in the ceramic studio making pots. Occasionally there are actually pots, little vessels meant to hold something, be it dried lentils, tiny seashells, or a jar’s worth of honey. Some will hold a handful of soil and a geranium cutting that’s been slowly rooting on my windowsill for a few weeks. Some, by mistake or design, are flatter and wider, like plates or bowls. Some are thrown on the wheel, others pinched or coiled into existence. Some aren’t vessels at all, like the ceramic juicer, or the sculptural lamp.
Despite their myriad shapes and functions, they share one common attribute: They all began as something shapeless. A lump of clay, inchoate and uninformed, but a physical object nonetheless. The experience of shaping it is a reminder that creativity—whether in writing, sculpting, or cooking—is seldom truly an act of creation. More accurately, it’s a transformation, a pushing and pulling, a concretization of something that was already there, something as ethereal as an idea or as tactile as cold, wet clay. I remember this lesson when I’m at my most uninspired, when I feel I have nothing worthwhile to say, or when my refrigerator is empty because I’ve spent too much time at work eating takeout. I remember that creativity is meant to be playful. And that most often, those feelings of creative gridlock can be assuaged by taking something shapeless and prodding and poking it until it starts to become something.
Which is where springtime comes in, with its cool, dreary days and a bounty of fresh produce awaiting transformation. In the SAVEUR offices lately we’ve nabbed fuzzy, crunchy, fresh green almonds, pairing them with ricotta and honeycomb. We’ve made rhubarb tea and rhubarb chutney and everything you can possibly imagine making with rhubarb. I started making an amaro with a variety of fresh and dried herbs, roots, and citrus peels. It may end up sublime, or it may end up entirely undrinkable. But I made it and it exists, regardless.