I’m sharing coffee with my sister, an artist whose home is splashed with color and pattern. The walls are ochre, scarlet, and cocoa; bright green gingko leaves fill the curtains. Origami cranes peek out from under pots filled with jade and African violets. An owl made of acrylic and spare computer parts flies out of a canvas in the bathroom, and close-cropped photographs of wild mushrooms adorn the stairwell. All of this gets moved to new places every week or so. Her home’s dynamism is so different from the spare, cool aesthetic of mine, with its wooden floors, clear surfaces, and white walls. Once something is positioned in my house, it stays there. I thrive in a quiet, intentional environment, but I envy my sister’s color and verve. As I look at the walls of her kitchen, I wonder what color they’ll be the next time I visit.
I drain my cup as she wanders off. She returns with a bucket of clay, sets it in front of me, and says, “Will you help me make some cats, please? I have so many to make before next week.” She’s talking about figurines for the Lost Cats Project, a citywide hide-and-seek game she cofounded to promote not-so-random acts of creative kindness. After sculpting and painting the cats, she names them, gives them collars, and tucks them into hidey-holes in parks, galleries, restaurants, and museums throughout the greater Richmond, Virginia, area. Then she tweets clues regarding their whereabouts, sending groups of seekers into a frenzied search.
“So, will you please make some? It’s easy. Here, I’ll show you.” She rolls a hunk of clay into a ball and rapidly coaxes it into form.
I hesitate. I’m not so good with my hands.
“C’mon, I need to make 100 more. Will you help me? You’ll be my guest artist. It’ll be fun.” I take a handful of cold clay and roll it between my hands until it becomes supple. Soon I’m looking at a cat. This cat has a smushed head and a vexed expression, but she’s sort of appealing. I name her Isadora and ask my sister to paint her orange. For another hour, we sit together making cats. She’s right. It’s fun.
Some months later my sister sends me a stop-motion video made by a VCU art student who found Isadora. In it, we see Isadora come to life and go on an adventure. She wanders out of a building to a river, stumbles over the roots of a tree, and winds up on a bench, where her new owner finds her.
Seeing this video stuns me. I can’t help but smile — and cry a bit. I’m moved that the artist was inspired to fashion a beautiful, quirky little film in response to finding Isadora. (OK, it was a class assignment, but still.) Though he describes his video as “silly,” I’m reluctant to dismiss it. It’s brief, but it’s also potent.
What we create wanders through the world, sometimes with surprising results.