The last couple of weeks at school were a blur of packing and openings. As graduates, we were allowed a couple extra weeks to vacate our studios and find somewhere to take all our craps. We quickly found out that we needed those extra weeks. Not only did we need to take several trips to and from the school with our stuff, but the buffer was important for our mental health. We needed to be removed slowly, at our own pace and take our time to decompress. After such a stimulating year, the studio was quiet and often empty. The time was needed to adjust to this change and prepare for a new beginning. Our final show was rightfully hosted in the Craft and Design gallery at Sheridan. The opening took place after the annual Tulip Ceremony, where the graduates are each presented a tulip and awards are given out to students in all years of the program.
I was asked to give the Valedictory address for the ceramics graduates at this year's Tulip Ceremony. When asked, I didn't know what to say. What can you say to eight people who have not only been your classmates, but your family? What wisdom did I have for the eight people who I have learned so much from and so much with? How could I begin to describe my love for these people, this program?
So I was sitting at my booth at the year-end Open House, and I was thinking about all of the shit I still had to move out of my studio. The stacks of books and papers, the pounds and pounds of clay, the buckets of reclaim and glazes. And while I was thinking, I started to think of everything else I was taking with me. And so I wrote my speech:
"We're moving out. I've moved out of the ceramics studio before, but it wasn't nearly as hard. In fact, it was a joyous occasion. The school year was over. We could take a four month break before returning in September. This time is different. We're not returning, and much to my parent's dismay, I have dozens of boxes that need more than a temporary home. They will be needing a permanent place, because their previous home is no longer.
There's a feeling of homelessness while we pack up our shards of broken experiments and try to organize all our glazes and materials. We collected boxes from the garbage outside Annie Smith because we didn't realise just how much stuff we have. The mass accumulates, we had the space and we filled it. We have finished pieces, half finished pieces and pieces we wished were finished but aren't yet. Some of us still have wet work that needs to be wrapped up like a baby in order to survive the car ride home. To wherever home is, because, at least for me, when I think of home, I think of my studio in the loft. I hear the drone of the clay mixer and the pounding of the glass studio's music. I feel the anxiety of deadlines in the air, like a layer of dust settling on us all. I can hear the laughter, the cursing, the crying and the consoling. For the past year, Sheridan has been our home. Our families and friends have seen little of us, but we've seen a lot of each other. I've spent more time in this building, with these people, than I have any other.
We are taking a lot with us when we leave. Boxes of clay, buckets of glaze and lots of dirty clothing are only the beginning. We are also taking learned techniques and practised experiences. We are taking souls full of wonder and curiosity, anticipation and dread. We are taking more than just what we have been taught and more than we have made. We are taking what we have lived and what we have learned. We have learned to hold THE BEST potlucks, and to enjoy eating the leftovers the next day. We have learned to use the kilns to heat up said leftovers, and keep them cold overnight. We learned that communal coffee breaks are the best medicine. We have learned that sleep is important, but by no means necessary. We are leaving with the knowledge that this job is hard, but it is rewarding. And above all, we have learned that you must always, always compress your clay.
We wouldn't be where we are today without such an amazing group of people supporting us the whole way. On behalf of the ceramic graduates I would like to thank Linda, our fearless leader, for pushing us to near exhaustion and teaching us that you can never work too hard. Thank you to Hugh, our fantastic technician, for making the impossible possible, for being the handiest of handy men and for gently reminding us when we are making stupid mistakes. Gord, your wisdom has been invaluable and your tenderness always appreciated. Thank you for it all. To our amazing faculty, Tony, Marc, Bruce, Win, Janet, Lindsay, Steve, we would not be here without your dedication, encouragement and reflections.
Some of us know what we're going to do when we stop coming to this place, but the majority of us don't. But whether it be further education, attending a residency, setting up a studio or decide "screw it, I'm going to be a fire-fighter", we will all be okay. We will make it, and we'll learn and grow along the way. There are many more shards of experiments in our future, in fact, I hope there will be. Because the most fulfilling part of this experience has been the acceptance of our vulnerability. We have learned to laugh at our own embarrassment, begin to conquer our insecurity and channel our pride. We have taken risks, we have set ourselves up for failure, we have lost and we have won. It has been one hell of a ride."
Farewell Sheridan, you will be missed.
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