~ writing is verbal clay ~

  • denise - The Mud Peddler

My Inner Demons

A couple years back, my potter’s guild held an exhibition meant to challenge the members to create work honoring face pots, those vessels with diabolic or frightening facial expressions that are part of our early American history.

My take on the challenge soon became a series of pieces that gave identities to what I call my ‘inner demons’. It became a cathartic experience in that I was able to, since then, work toward reigning in each of these character flaws. Don’t get me wrong. They are still in there, just not as much in control as they used to be!


Since childhood, I have always been slow to wake in the mornings. I even remember a late sixties orange felt banner hung in my room depicting a tired Snoopy on his doghouse with the quip printed “I think I am allergic to mornings.” My parents, who had gifted me with this wall decoration, had identified this flaw early in my life.

I am the person who hits the snooze button half a dozen times or just plain sleeps right through it. If there is a plane to catch or appointment to get to, at least two alarms are set and a cell phone with vibration alarm is placed under my pillow. The coffee maker is primed and dripping coffee by the time I shuffle to it, and I must have a minimum of one hour to sip the brew. I need that quiet time, usually in the company of my dogs and cats curled up beside or on me. Humans are welcome, if they do not speak or expect conversation. As the caffeine wakes the brain cells, thoughts stretch, yawn and line up to form something close to coherence. The day can finally begin.

As much as I love the docile creatures themselves, my sloth creation has evil eyes, sharp teeth and menacing claws. The extra-large stoneware mug holds almost six cups of coffee. It stands on three sets of claws, while the fourth appendage forms the handle, its claws holding the rim of the cup. Sloth’s snarly face mocks my morning lethargy.

How I tamed my demon Tarrydawdle: I forced myself to set the alarm(s) for 6am, whether I have an appointment or not. In essence, I do have an appointment. I have to punch in to work in the studio at 10am. No more lollying my gaggy in the mornings. I do still take at least an hour with coffee and waking slowly, but I now have a couple hours each morning to swat away whatever minor interruptions intrude.

In no way does this work every day. Yet. But I am getting closer to five days a week, even though it’s taken a couple years to get this far. My sloth is leashed.


The second piece I made for the Face Forward exhibition in 2016 was this squid like creature cup commemorating my innate ability to be distracted easily. I allow myself to get sidetracked from deadlines and goals by trying to do as much as possible. I want to write well, I want to sculpt better, so why not take workshops to learn new techniques? I want to see new places, organize a lifetime of photos, and kick a few things out of my bucket list.

In a sense, I feel I’ve reached that point in my life when I’m hearing of contemporaries failing health or deaths. Before I go into that big sleep, I want to explore more, create well, and enjoy life. In trying to do too much, I created this demon.

This multiarmed creature is a gaudy spectacle with an eye at the base of each suction cupped tentacle. A close cousin to procrastination, Salmagundi is distraction at its best, and it devours time. For a added measure of mayhem, I made this stoneware piece as a dribble cup, ready to stain the day and derail any schedule.

How I tamed my demon Salmagundi: I didn’t. But I’ve learned to recognize him instead of wondering where the days and time have gone. At best,