Clara Richardson


I unapologize for being left-handed, more so than even I knew. When my first grade teacher asked if I could write with my right hand instead of my left, it was easy enough to comply. Subsequent teachers tried to cut through my confusion at which hand to use for a new skill by asking which hand I wrote with. By the time I learned to draw and illustrate the animals and plants I had studied in college, it never occurred to me to use my left hand. For almost 30 years I drew scientific illustrations with my right hand.

Yes, Roman letters and left-to-right top-to-bottom sentences are easier to write neatly right-handed, particularly cursive. Since I had the flexibility of being ambidextrous, it seemed it would be no big deal. There was an early lesson in “fitting in” that I now reject.

I unapologize for not knowing the difference it would make. I stand up for the importance of knowing what it means to be left-handed. I defend my decision to begin to write left-handed - at my age! I need the clarity and depth of feeling that emerges. I defend my decision to begin to draw with my less-skilled left hand: the hand that finds the shape. I celebrate the skills I learned as a young person where I did use my left hand. Worlds opened for me that were comfortable to inhabit; casually holding reins, cooking, or painting walls. It is most important to know myself and to claim the power of who I am.

When I want to communicate words with the world, I write with my right hand, because the writing is more readable, and rather elegant, actually. When I want to hear from the inner me, I now write left-handed, the connection is more direct. In recent years I have learned that when I want to find a shape on paper, my left hand will find it more naturally and accurately than my right hand. Sometimes I find that the quickest way is two pencils, two hands.

Now that I fully reclaim my left hand, I see the power and peace of using both together. I unapologize that I need both hands to think and to create. These days it often feels as if I think, see and learn with my hands. Yes, I know that, as my grandfather said, it is the wiring, not the hands. But it is my feeling-experience that it is the hands, and I need both. And I can even tie a bowline in both directions, something that would make my dad smile.

About the photo:

I asked to be photographed in my studio where I do my visual thinking and problem-solving.