By Ainara Tiefenthäler

The challenge: Make 10 small clay objects in 18 minutes — one minute each for the first five pieces, two minutes for the next four and five for the last one.

Ariela Kuh, a ceramic artist with a bright demeanor and a yellow apron, set a timer on her iPhone as she explained the drill to the 14 of us attending her workshop last month at the Watershed Center for Ceramic Arts in Newcastle, Maine.

“Remember what it was like to touch clay as a kid,” she advised.

As I prepared 10 tangerine-size balls of clay, images from childhood flashed through my mind: the blue shelves at my after-school pottery program, the bulbous terra-cotta vase my mom made at one of the countless cancer facilities in the months before her death, the small elephant at the center of a red ceramic plate that my tiny hands had formed sometime in the mid-1990s and was now collecting dust.