The sound of breaking terra cotta pots, giggles and groans filled the art room at this year’s Teen Reach Adventure Camp, a three-day, girls-only camp designed especially for foster teens (ages 12 – 15) who have likely experienced abuse, abandonment or neglect.

Each girl and counselor was given a pot inside a brown paper lunch bag. Hammers were on the table. The metaphor was introduced. Like Joseph of the coat-of-many-colors fame who was thrown in a pit and sold into slavery by his jealous brothers, life sometimes breaks us into small pieces. Sometimes by the people we love. The girls could identify.

Before each took hammer to pot, they were encouraged to think about just how broken they wanted their pots of be. Multiple whacks. A lot of smashing. The fragments were spilled out on paper plates and each girl was invited to glue her pot together in some fashion – however the pot wanted to go together. Some tried rebuilding their pots to its original shape, but many realized their pots were too smashed. Some wanted to give up. Others perservered and began to create something new and unique out of the broken pieces.  Even those who wanted to quit began to see possibilites as they looked at what their friends were doing. Eventually those possibilites included tissue paper, glitter glue and sparkly confetti.

Images of hope began to emerge. One of our favorites is pictured above. A bottom-center fragment bears the work Life and beneath it the letters i, e, l and f. When she shared her piece, Jani said, “I mixed up the letters of Life because sometimes life gets all scrambled up. See the big piece on the top? That’s all the bad stuff that happens in life. But no matter how dark it seems, there’s always light shining through.”

Several girls wanted to know if they could throw away the fragments that represented broken aspects of their lives they didn’t want included in the pots representing renewed lives. Yes, they could. But they were encouraged to glue those fragments on another paper plate so they could be more purposefully discarded. Two girls in particular jumped at that idea. Expecting the pieces would be randomly glued, I was surprised when both girls created thoughtful images of what they intended to throw away. The image at left represents DeDe’s life that’s flowering before her. The image at right? “That’s my sad face. It represents the bad things I want to leave behind.”

Busted and rebuilt. Regardless of how each pot was reassembled, every pot tells a story. Often with great depth and insight. And most encouraging of all, they tell stories of young women who refuse to remain broken despite how life has shattered them in the past. They see  hope as a critical piece in rebuilding their lives.

Like the metaphor, at some point, has your life been busted like a broken pot? How did you go about putting your life back together? What’s it like to be still up to your elbows in glue, if you are? What have you learned about hope, healing, and transformation from your borken pot? 

Go ahead, take a risk. Smash a 4″ terra cotta pot and glue it back together as a metaphor of your life right now. What would it look like? Would it have something to tell you? Could it be an encouragement to others? Will you send me a picture?

I’ll look forward to your comments…and hopefully some photos.

PS – The names of the kids have been altered to protect their privacy. 


6 comments to Busted

  • Pat Allen

    Hi Lynne,
    Thanks for a wonderful post relevant to all of us, I think! My husband John and I recently took a mosaic class together. He was just shy of his 65th birthday and is facing the decision of whether or not to retire from a fulfilling second career. I am facing giving up my Chicago teaching job to spend more time in California. We may be discovering how to be together but not always int he same place. Somehow I missed the instructions to bring pots or plates to break. We were both then handed hammers and a box of the instructors old tiles and shards, most of them not too beautiful at all, the kind of stuff in the discount bin at tile stores from economy bathroom re-dos from years past. What a wonderful metaphor and challenge to sift through the pieces of “what is” armed only with the hammer, a great “agent of change”. We each produced two trivets that echo each other (we were both working with the finite universe of the discard box) but are unique and quite beautiful. At first John (he’s a teacher that takes his craft seriously)was really pissed that the instructor didn’t give more direction, no handouts, just “break some pieces and make something new”. But by the end he was totally engrossed, as I was in creating beautiful new things out of “what was.” What a gift! I see us side by side in the studio doing more of this, a wonderful form that levels us since it really requires little skill except the pleasure of putting together what is pleasing to the eye.

  • Deanna J Bowling

    Love this vision of making something astonishing out of something broken.

  • cynthia thomas

    what a wonderful exercise. i will be trying this soon. next trip to the store where i can buy a clay pot. life tried to break me 30 years ago today! instead, i have a life more wonderful than i thought possible. yes, i sometimes still feel the loss, but my life is very good. cynthia

  • Karen Greenslate

    Lynne, This piece is beautifully composed. What was also beautiful was being at TRAC camp last week, watching you move in and out of the art tables, encouraging and cheering the girls on “just enough” to help them take some risks and create “a new work.” You are great at accepting their beginnings and affirming their ideas rather than interjecting your own. You are a great artist, but you were fully commited to helping them to find their own ways of building and creating. TRAC camp was full of people like you who gave the best of themselves to guide, teach, care for and love on some kids who have seen some of the worst side of people…people whose love left them in harms way. This piece is a good description of how God’s love recreates us in HIs son….”a new creation.” Thanks for sharing this….I sure hope you send this to the GNP newsletter right away! Karen

  • Helen

    I don’t have a pot to actually break but I know that with God my old broken pot is being remade as a bridge from the old life to the new!

  • Deanna J Bowling

    Helen, I like the thought of a bridge.

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>