Today was a good day. Mary Hanson and a few other students were the first to arrive at the Seal Beach Pier for our “Plaster Casting / Sculpture Experience.” And I think Mary said something to me like,
I know you posted that whole step-by-step thing on the website, but the truth is I didn’t read it, so can you tell me what we’re doing today?
I did. Mary and her classmates made castings of their hands or feet. And then maybe 20 or so minutes later another batch of students arrived at the beach. They walked over to me and asked what they should do and I gestured over to Mary and replied,
See Mary, she’s your instructor today.
Mary never asked what I was talking about. Or complained that it was a hassle. Or worried that she didn’t really know what she was doing. She just taught the class. For the rest of the day. Students came, did projects, left. Mary stayed the whole day and helped everyone. She explained the concepts and techniques, and then gave them a hand executing the work. To this day she and I have never actually said a word about her helping out or teaching peeps plaster casting. It was just an offhand, probably smartass statement from me. I don’t know what I expected, probably nothing, but Mary took the moment and owned it. Like Sean Penn or Meryl Streep inhabiting a persona, she became the instructor.
Oh, and I think more peeps got amazing results today than when the guy who has the MFA in Sculpture teaches them how to do it! She thinks it might be her technique of putting 4 inches or so of damp sand at the bottom of the hole you dig so that your fingers or toes can “sink in” instead of trying to pour damp sand around all that fine detail. Whatever it was, no kidding, best results ever!
Before today Mary had never done anything with plaster in her life. In addition to an obvious willingness to be present in whatever moment she finds herself in, she also brings a lifetime of love and experience with the ocean, water, and so many living things. From her time on the CSULB Crew, to her study of whaling today, to her design of whale watching expeditions, I think she just has such an intuitive understanding of the ocean, the shore, organic life, and sculptural space that she’s able to help her students produce great work. Anyway, we’re very lucky to have her.
To everyone I got to see at the Seal Beach Pier on Thursday, thanks so much for coming down, it was awesome to spend a little time with you guys. And to everyone else doing this Challenge, have a great time at whatever beach and whatever day you go! And thanks again to our guest instructor Mary Hanson – you were totally awesome!