by Sunshine Cobb
How often do you do this: think of a friend and say, “I should call them!” But then, your to-do list nags, “it’s gotta be later, you don't have time to talk.” We all do it! This past January, my New Year’s resolution was simple - when I think of friends… text them and let them know they are on my mind. New Year’s or not, I find consciously setting goals a big part of the path to change. I want to share with you one unexpected journey stemming from my small resolution earlier this year to stay a bit more connected.
Transitions are difficult! At the beginning of the year I found myself not excited about the months to come, weary and depleted from seemingly endless change. For the first time in 8 years, I wasn’t part of a school or residency, and I felt quite isolated realizing that most of my community and dear friends were scattered around the country. Even though I knew I wanted to connect, I found in my frustration that I was putting increased distance between my friends and me, which resulted in feeling worse than ever (kind of like a sick animal, snarling and licking its wounds). As I looked into the year ahead, I aimed to end the downward spiral and realized I needed to make a conscious effort to reach out to my community. As I started 2015 with this resolution in mind I found myself at Jason Burnett’s Surface Forum (Pentaculum) at Arrowmont School of Craft in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
This event (which was very hard to commit to as it was a financial challenge) ended up being an incredible eye opener for me as a ceramic professional. Jason brought together a crazy number of folks for the week: 28 ceramic artists, and close to 50 others from different disciplines, small metals, drawing, printmaking, photo, fibers. The studios were filled with people in all stages of their careers, from teachers and independent working artists, to up-and-coming students. Needless to say for anyone who knows me, I didn't get a lot of work made (mostly just enough for others to mess around with and play with developing surfaces). I am easily distracted by such a social event, and there were so many new people to meet and learn about their journey in the arts. I spent my week visiting, making work, and getting to know some amazing people, all while awaiting news of my nephew’s birth and celebrating my own birthday!
I have been through enough of these style events to know how fast friendships can either lead to longtime friends or distant memories of fun times. I’ll often wonder whatever happened to them or perhaps see someone at NCECA for about 3 minutes... The difference between an enduring friendship and fond memories truly being time, effort and setting that intention!
So, with my resolution in mind and a couple of my new Surface Forum friends, we picked a time to get together every week and chat using a video call. It started out as an experiment to see if we could continue to connect in real way despite being separated by lots of distance (I live in California, Rich in Ohio at the time, and Chase in Indiana). While we weren’t sure if it would stick at first, Thursday evenings have now become devoted to spending time with Rich and Chase and by extension their partners in life. We have had some fellow Pentactulam members join in the conversation on occasion, but it has largely been the commitment of the three of us to try to connect once a week that has kept this experiment going strong. If only I could explain the importance of this time with greater eloquence! Besides gaining two great new friends, this time forces me to sit-down and set aside a moment to actually be present in my friendship with these amazing people. While that sounds serious, most of the time we are goofing off and making dumb jokes, as with most friendships I am sure. But we are all at different stages of our careers and lives, and having each other as sounding boards for what we are going through has been a blessing at this point in my life.
Unbeknownst to my guys I have been taking screen shots or pictures every time we get together. On our six-month anniversary I put together a flip-a-gram and set it to a song that I thought was hysterical at first but later realized was entirely fitting! We all need cheerleaders in our lives, people we know are on our side and rooting for our success but will ride the bus home and console with us when we fail. At least that is what every teen movie I have ever watch has taught me!) Making time for these two spectacular people has changed my life in unexpected and delightful ways. It really does blow my mind that making one simple resolution for myself took me on such a surprising and fulfilling journey! I always look forward to our Thursday night chats, and the biggest thing they’ve helped me remember is that sometimes it’s the smallest changes that can make the biggest difference.