My favorite question to ask someone I’m meeting for the first time is, “If you could choose any profession, regardless of personal talent or salary, what would it be?” Most people are taken aback; they stop and think and sometimes, even after thinking it over, they confess uncertainty. However I’ve known my answer for a while: I would work as a ceramics artist. Although I have no recollection of how or when I came to this conclusion, ever since I can remember, I’ve envisioned myself bent over a wheel, carefully molding a piece of clay into a (hopefully) recognizable object.
As a pre-med student and neuroscience major, this came as a surprise for most people that know me. In fact, it wasn’t until sometime during my sophomore year that I even stepped foot into CFA, let alone picked up a piece of clay. With a little under two terms before graduation, I decided that now was the time to indulge in this strange and unexplored passion of mine by enrolling in Ceramics I.
When most people think of the stereotypical artist, the image that likely comes to mind is that of a quirky and eccentric free spirit with a tendency to have their head in the clouds. Alternatively, the media depiction of a scientist seems to involve a highly introverted individual donning a white lab coat and thick glasses (think “Dexter’s Laboratory,” and you’ll understand what I mean). In fact, from elementary school onward, I’ve always been told that you’re either a “math” person or an “art” person. It comes as no surprise, then, that the bridge connecting science and art, for most people, is a long and winding one. However, this was not always the case.
Art and science seemed to go hand in hand during the Renaissance era. The phrase “Renaissance man” stems from Leonardo da Vinci, who was not only an accomplished painter, but also an engineer, architect and inventor. Yet when we think of such an individual nowadays, we are puzzled. Somewhere throughout time, we were told that we were meant to be one thing, and one thing only.
Although my main interest lies in medicine, I’ve grown to appreciate the not so subtle similarities between science and art. Both fields require first and foremost some level of planning. Next comes the formulation of a hypothesis, an initial attempt (oftentimes unsuccessful), a period of reflection, and a second (or third or fourth or fifth…) attempt.
There is also an element of surprise in both fields. Whether in the form of unexpected, non-reproducible results in a lab, or the slight curvature of your clay vase when you had thought you were building straight up, uncertainty makes up a substantial part of both fields. In terms of working environment, both fields emphasize collaboration, but also leave room for solitary work.
Finally, as a Knox student, the term “liberal arts” has been drilled into my head since my freshman year, but it wasn’t until recently that I got a true sense of the impact of these two words. Knox has challenged me in ways that I didn’t think possible, but the greatest lesson I learned is to notice and appreciate the interconnectedness of the Knox community. Our campus is full of people with diverse backgrounds; from biochemistry and music double majors to pre-med theatre majors, the possibilities seem endless. Although I’m not sure how long my journey with ceramics will be, I am grateful that I had the opportunity to explore a class that’s not so different from my own major.