Shaping a recovery: Jamie Fine returns to the Torpedo Factory

“Flora,” white stoneware, copper

What happens when a sudden injury threatens to sever an artist from her work? Back in December, ceramicist and sculptor Jamie Fine was forced to confront an artist’s greatest fear.

“We were just strolling home from a local restaurant not 500 feet from our house when I tripped on a broken sidewalk slab and hit the ground,” Fine says. “When I opened my eyes seconds later, I was at eye level with a crack that looked like the Grand Canyon, with peeling red paint to indicate its dangerous nature. My arm felt disconnected from my body, floating somewhere off in space, and I couldn’t move it. I told my husband, ‘Quick, get the car,’ because it was serious.”

At the emergency room, Fine learned she had a compound fracture of the right arm—a straightforward term for an injury that was anything but. She needed surgery to disinfect and set the bone and metal braces to support what she vividly describes as its “shattered, uncountable pieces.” The surgery was delayed because the hospital didn’t have all of the necessary parts—and then, Fine says with a surprising laugh, “everything that could go wrong did go wrong.”

“Guardians,” mixed stoneware, glazed and unglazed

However, in the six months that followed, Fine put herself in the hands of the medical equivalent of an artist, a Baltimore doctor she calls “a renowned ‘fixer’ of difficult problems” who took a muscle from her leg and a skin graft from her thigh to rebuild her elbow, which was missing its triceps tendon due to infection.

Such an ordeal is enough to make anyone shudder—but amazingly, Fine is already back at the Torpedo Factory, happily giving shape to months of pent-up inspiration.

“I’m just glad I have two arms, even though one is weak,” she says. “I’ll get a new tendon next January, and hopefully this time it will do well. Of course, I’m making smaller pieces now, but that has one real advantage: they are more affordable than the bigger work. And I’ll start some bigger pieces as soon as I can.”

See Jamie Fine at work in studio 330 at the Torpedo Factory—and in this lovely Vimeo video from 2012.

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