Both kids chose to paint plates this time. Ezra(5) worked hard painting what he called “a skull” onto his plate, with a gorgeous rainbow of colors. The plate Arayla (9) chose was in the shape of an apple, and she carefully, joyfully painted many coats of red glaze to guarantee a dark red, shiny apple color when it’s done, and a beautiful bright green for the leaf, and a brown stem. She was VERY serious and focused. Once her many layers of glaze had dried she flipped it over to paint the bottom of the plate. But as soon as she flipped it over she gasped, dramatically, all joy leaving her face, as she saw a black stamp on the bottom of the plate that read: “MADE IN CHINA”. Fighting back tears, she said with intense emotion: “Oh GREAT! Now *CHINA* gets credit for MY artwork?!”
Somehow I found this deeply amusing, somewhat confusing, and oddly poignant given the widespread current reality of this rampant “Made In China” phenomenon. But seeing how genuinely upset she was, I managed to stifle my adult humor, and, empathizing with her disappointment, gently suggested perhaps she could paint a dark heart over it to mask it, or maybe a star? Arayla shook her head sadly, hopelessly, her shoulders slumped, saying she felt like all her hard work had been wasted on something that would then look "as though it had been made in China!" Realizing this was clearly a 9 year old dilemma I might not ever be able to fully relate to, I decided to delegate, and so as the woman who was working at the shop walked by our table, I said: “Excuse me, my daughter is feeling very upset about this ‘Made In China’ stamp on the bottom of her plate. Do you have any suggestions for how we might remedy this?” And the sweet woman nodded, kindly, answering quickly: “Oh don’t worry at all. It totally disappears in the kiln.”
I smiled at Arayla: “There you go, Baby. Your plate might have originally been ‘Made In China’, along with millions and billions of other things, and come all the way here by boat or plane, then by truck, and probably another truck, and then another, all without even breaking a tiny bit, but then you got to make it absolutely, uniquely beautiful with your own sweet hands.” She nodded, happy once again, dipping her paintbrush into the red glaze, covering the “Made in China” stamp with thick, bold, triumphant strokes.
And I reveled in the absolute oddness of it all: this strange, sacred and artful world overflowing with sheer beauty and goodness and kindness, sickening consumerism, horrific human error, ecological tragedy, and the open, tender hearts of amazing little children who are simply, happily, painting apple plates and rainbow skulls with their paintbrushes poised: to make the world anew. <3