a shino mug with white glaze where thicker and reddish-brown where thinner. horizontal ridges are accentuated by glaze breaks.

On Work and Play

This year I'm experimenting with a new way of working. I'll be alternating cycles of work (pay equity mugs) and play(whatever I feel like making!). Here's why.

I make pots both to create change in the world, and to create change within myself—to heal. Some healing happens through talking about pay, and some happens when I rest from that work.

Talking about my experiences is deeply meaningful. For one thing, I can't keep all of the trauma and grief in my body. I need to get it out. And for another, when friends tell me they got salary info they didn't have before thanks to my encouragement, or when fellow whistleblowers attribute their more successful trajectories to having insight into the challenges I faced, I appreciate that my wisdom here matters. Besides, when I create mugs about pay equity, they sell quickly. So why wouldn't I want to make as many of them as humanly possible, and stay in that lane?

Because activist burnout is real. Catalyzing the worst things that have happened to you into social progress is heavy. It shifts your identity from what you wanted to be doing (your job) and toward work someone else handed you (just trying to get paid the same as your peers). The part of me that could imagine creating the life I wanted got very small in this process.

If there’s one thing I learned from talking salary with those peers—many of whom were fully remote so they had both more money and more time—it’s that I should never have had to give either up in the first place. I will never again accept a job that underpays me. Equally important, I will never again accept a job that precludes ample time to play and rest.

I heal when I recover my joy, my curiosity, my lightness. I heal when I buzz with anticipation for two days before opening a kiln full of experiments. I heal when I take risks and can laugh about a failure. I heal when I'm proud of making something I couldn't have made before. I heal when weird stuff bubbles out that I had no idea was inside. I heal when I play.

I've been learning a lot about the roles of play and rest in healing from Black women. In How We Heal, Alex Elle writes:

“You don't always have to be in a place of profound processing. Welcome the slow and restful moments of healing that don't require heavy lifting.”

And In Rest is Resistance, Tricia Hersey explains how imagination helps us envision a future where our current problems are solved:

“This is imagination work. A portal opens up when we slow down. You can rest.”

These audiobooks, read by the authors, have been in my ears as I drive across town to my studio, where I both work and play. Last month I played with handmade stamps another potter had gifted me, and with commercial shino glazes. As the pottery I make for play shifts over time, I see more and more evidence of my imagination returning. I would love for these artifacts of that healing to find their way into your hands and homes, if you need a reminder that healing is activism too.

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