Rhino-sized Inspiration

May 1st is Save The Rhino Day, a reminder of the importance of protecting these fascinating creatures. As animal lovers who have “adopted” several animals to support conservation efforts, my wife and I recently visited Safari West, where we saw some white rhinos up close and personal. It was an incredible experience, but also heartbreaking to know that the species is currently classified as “Near Threatened” due to habitat loss and illegal poaching of their horns.

(Sidebar: A Rhino Baby is Born!)

From Horns to Hands: Trying Something New

On that note, I want to share with you my latest art experiment, inspired by that visit to Safari West. Recently, I worked up the nerve to try working with clay for the first time since high school. As someone with focal dystonia, a condition that affects the function of my hand, my only goal was to play around, let go of any expectations of the final product, enjoy the process and see what my hand might be capable of after a year of therapy.

I definitely struggled to make the shapes in my sketch, and there is surprisingly a bit of engineering involved in creating a sculpture that can survive the high temperatures in the kiln. Also, I quickly realized that working with clay required a different set of motor skills than what I was used to with drawing. Unlike the hand and wrist movements that move together when drawing, fingers tend to work more individually when molding the clay. Super awkward for me, but a great opportunity for my brain to make some new pathways.

Embracing Imperfection in the Creative Process

With the help of a wonderful teacher, I was able to adapt my hand movements and tools for the task. I embraced imperfection as part of the creative process and let go of any expectations. In the end, my rhino sculpt was imperfectly perfect, missing a set of ears.

As I eagerly anticipate the final firing of my rhino sculpt in the kiln, I find myself reflecting on the adventure of trying something new and the fun that comes with the creative process.

What should I do next?

How You Can Help the Rhinos Too!

Join the fight to save the rhinos and other endangered species by considering donating to great organizations like these:

Enjoy Clay Arts in the San Francisco Bay Area

Update: The final product

Side by side comparison of my original rhino sketch and the final clay sculpture.