The adjustment to life as a full-time student is always a draining process, especially after a carefree summer with friends and a surplus of free time. I was woefully unprepared when junior year began. I placed the healthy routines and hobbies that I carefully cultivated during the summer on the back burner in favor of trying to keep up in class. Assignments never seemed to stop coming, and my breadth of understanding decreased with every lecture.
A month of focusing solely on school has left me exhausted. I began to think about ways to ground myself and relieve the overwhelming stress I was feeling. For me, I find that creating is a great source of comfort.
One of my most beloved memories at Hopkins involves painting ceramic pumpkins with friends in the now soon-to-be demolished Mattin Center. Sitting for several hours with the singular goal of painting a pumpkin provided me with a great deal of comfort. It took my mind off of the stress of adjusting to the onset of the semester, and redirected my energy into making simple decisions about whether to paint my pumpkin a traditional orange or neon green.
As a junior knee deep in work, I found myself wanting a similar creative outlet. After a simple Google search of art-related activities in Baltimore, I discovered Amazing Glaze. Amazing Glaze is a place where one can pay a small flat rate fee to go in and paint premade pottery.
The existence of a pottery painting shop like Amazing Glaze is a sure sign that you have driven far enough out of the city to make it to boring suburbia. However, while painting pottery may not sound particularly thrilling, the low stakes, slow-moving environment was exactly what I needed.
Through the speakers on the ceiling, a playlist consisting of songs like Corrine Bailey Rae’s “Put Your Records On” and Sara Bareilles’ entire discography played on loop. Large windows and white walls allowed for a bright, sunlit interior. The atmosphere was a welcome contrast to the palpable stress of Brody Learning Commons or a lecture hall filled to maximum occupancy. I was pleasantly surprised at the wide variety of things that could be painted.
I had come in expecting only a selection of mugs, plates and bowls. However, in addition to traditional pottery store fare, there were options such as animal figurines, a piggy bank shaped like a donut and a charmingly ugly mug emblazoned with a poop emoji. I settled for a ceramic succulent in the hopes of finally having a plant that wouldn’t die as a result of my negligence.
There were a wide variety of creatively named glazes provided so that you could make your creation as realistic or ridiculous as you pleased. I decided to be tame in my choice of color, never straying too far away from a neutral shade of green. In contrast, a boy at an adjacent table had already resolved to paint his ceramic dog a painful combination of two colors: “speckled hot tamale” and “papaya.”
In order for the true color of the glaze to show after being fired, three coats of glaze needed to be applied. The three-coat minimum made the task of painting challenging enough to be entertaining. In the case of my succulent, the numerous crevices and surfaces that needed to be covered provided a particular challenge. For a moment, I forgot about the homework problems I was unable to solve and instead basked in the gratifying feeling of making something that looked nice.
I’d encourage anyone to check out Amazing Glaze, regardless of age or artistic prowess. It is a great opportunity to exercise a different part of your mind in a comforting environment. Doing something as simple as painting a mug can be grounding for anyone feeling overwhelmed by the difficulties of a challenging curriculum.