December 3

December 3

Though M.C. Richards was born in Idaho and grew up in Portland, it was at Black Mountain College that she truly “grew.” After receiving her Ph.D. in English from UC Berkeley, she began teaching at BMC in 1945. The only female faculty with a terminal degree, she became one of its most popular teachers. But no one just taught or learned at BMC. Everyone was teaching, learning, doing. M.C. translated plays, became a student of pottery, danced, and also founded the Black Mountain Review. She summed up the ethos of BMC this way:

“…philosophically it was a place where the arts were at the center … no matter what your major…. You had to learn to function within a community which did its own work and made its own decisions. This involved a certain amount of social and emotional growth.”

M.C. Richards

This rootedness of the creative impulse greatly influenced the rest of her long life. She took up painting in her 80s and lived in many creative communes throughout her life. Best known for her 1964 treatise on creativity, Centering in Poetry, Pottery, and the Person., M.C. wrote:

Where making is a central activity, every example has value: making bread, making a sign, making a report, making a table, making a concert, making love, making tea… making plans for next year, MAKING. In making, we develop a feel for materials, for the play between purpose and accident and inspiration, for gestalt, for instrument, for becoming, for death as a physical process essential to creation; and we are filled with wonder.”

M.C. Richards

White outlined hand-written letters on black in all caps that read: "CLAY THINGS TO TOUCH * TO PLANT IN * TO HANG UP * TO COOK IN * TO LOOK AT * TO PUT ASHES IN * TO WEAR * AND FOR CELEBRATION 
inversion of poster for pottery sale by M.C. Richards

Links for Further Exploration

Invitation to Creativity

M.C. Richards came to BMC a writer and left a potter. BMC was a laboratory, an invitation to MAKE.

And contrary to messaging we receive from our product-oriented culture, making isn’t about the end product, but the PROCESS.
The How Not the What.
So put on some music & play!

If you haven’t already, open up the oil pastels from your package and grab some paper or use your journal. Oil pastels are really fun to work with. Just prepare to get a little messy! Instead of drawing images, consider just lines and shapes; play more with how you can layer and blend (rub colors together with fingers or cloth). Play with transitioning one color to another and blending inbetween. Let the colors and textures inspire you.


You can use oil pastels on many surfaces. Just be aware that they will stay “wet” or able to rub off unless you put clear varnish or clear tape over things.

Blending: You can blend pastel coilrs in different ways. You can apply pressure making strokes with the pastels. You can lay one color on top of another and blend them with the pastels themselves or you can use your fingers or cloth to rub them and blend together.

You can add baby oil or vegetable oil on a cotton swab over the pastels and create a smoother blend.

Tools: Our fingers are our tools! But you can also use q-tips, cotton swabs, kneaded erasers, cloth scraps, dry sponges, and paint brushes to play at blending and spreading the oil pastels.

Find an overview handout here (note that we will be exploring some of the techniques described later in our creative journey).