A Sculpture from Scratch

/ Nandika Mishra

Fiction26 min reading time

“Ok, so, question. Why is our assignment so fucking vague? The fuck is that about?”

“A sculpture from scratch? Meaning we can’t use classroom supplies or something? Like we have to make our own?”

“Bro, I don’t think we have to make our own supplies, that’s so fucking hard.”

“No, I think we do? ‘Cuz they said that a good example of a raw ingredient is river dust, ‘cuz it can basically enhance anything. So we literally have to make all our materials using ingredients we foraged.”


“Damn. Kia, you said you go foraging regularly, right? Could I join you?”

Kia smiled. “Sure. I don’t really know when I’ll go next, but I’ll let you know.”

“Cool, thanks!” Calian bounced away, leaving Kia to sit and stare at the paper on her desk in mild confusion.

Project: A Sculpture from Scratch

Due Date: 🟣🟣🔸/🟩🟩🔹

Key Points:
  • No using base materials from class
  • Must forage all ingredients that you intend to use
  • Can only use foraged ingredients to create materials for sculpting
  • You may work with a partner to obtain ingredients, but the sculpture must be entirely of your own design and creation (though don’t be afraid to ask others for their thoughts!)
  • Really be creative here! Remember, it is a full sculpture so there needs to be a lot of time, effort and thought put into it. Really remember to consider every little detail.

Good luck everyone! And remember to have fun!

Kia chewed at her lip and cracked her knuckles, feeling more than hearing the loud pops. Then she folded the paper neatly, placed it into the folder in her backpack and stood up, a little unsteady on her feet. Today’s class had been extended into a double period because the history teacher had been unwell, so her legs had fallen asleep after two whole hours of sitting and listening.

The Bronze room was located above them, five floors up, and it was where Professor Camara would most likely be at the end of the day, either painting or creating a new spell. But Kia was tired, and could not muster the energy to climb five flights of stairs. So she snuck around to the back of the Cloud room, and checked out a cloud using her student worker ID. It really was meant to only be used when she was working, but no one had to know, right?

The cloud drifted up quickly, as expected, and the journey probably wasn’t longer than ten seconds. Still, it was worth it to avoid those stairs.

The quiet settled around Kia, thick and poignant, as the last of the students filed out from the Bronze room in whispered chatters. They were definitely first-years, judging by the way they huddled in packs and seemed to shrink in her presence. She squeezed past them and tapped on the door, alerting the only person left in the room.

“Hey, prof?”

Professor Camara smiled, grin stretched wide to show off golden teeth. As expected, she was indeed painting, brush flying across the canvas. “What can I do for you, my dear?”

“Hi, prof. So, I was just wondering about the assignment we got earlier today, the one about creating a sculpture. Um, I just—could I ask some questions? Sorry about this—”

“No, no, not at all, my dear! Come, come, sit.” Kia obliged, sliding into a chair and keeping her backpack to the side. She pulled out a pen and the assignment sheet and turned it over, ready to take notes.

“Yes, this is the assignment that the fourth-years got, isn’t it?” asked the professor.

“Yeah. I guess I generally understand what we have to do is create a sculpture on our own, starting with the raw ingredients. But—ok, I feel like this is gonna sound really arrogant—I’m pretty good at foraging, so I wanted to know if there’s anything more I can do in terms of creative boundaries? Like—”

“Ok, dear. What did you first think when I was explaining the assignment?”

Kia looked down at the empty page, tapping her foot. “Um…I guess I was just thinking about where all I should go to collect ingredients.”

“Right. Why do you think I made that part of the assignment, using only foraged ingredients?”

By this point, Kia’s pen had been pressed against the paper for so long that the ink had begun to blot. “I mean, I go foraging a lot, so I know you can generally get better quality stuff than what we have at school. But I don’t think that is the main reason…”

“It is definitely one reason. But have you noticed anything when you go foraging? Has anything ever stood out to you?”

“Umm…oh, shit! Oh, the mood rings!”

Professor Camara smiled, giving Kia a solid two thumbs up. “Yes! When you forage and cultivate, you can pour in a bit of your energy into the ingredients you find using a mood ring. It’s extremely useful when you want to change an ingredient in some way before removing it from the wild, because?”

“Because that can have a different effect than if you change it after you’ve already gathered it,” Kia answered, back straightening the smallest bit. She would never show it, but she was proud to have more foraging knowledge than most of her classmates.

“Exactly. But I should tell you, y’all are not yet advanced enough to use the mood rings to their full potential. Right now just stick to adding emotions, ok? Those already are strong enough to change an ingredient by a substantial amount.”

Kia quickly interjected. “Prof, I know how to use mood rings to forge new ingredients from old. My parent taught me.”

The professor chuckled. “That is certainly something, dear, but for this project, we needn’t make our sculptures too complicated. There is a reason for that, I assure you. For now, just stick to emotions, hmm? Add any one you’d like to the materials—anger, sadness, joy, anything. But do keep it simple.”

“Is that related to the overall project? ‘Cuz I’ve used mood rings before, but I never felt like emotions added that much effect.”

“Well…” Professor Camara trailed off, worrying her bottom lip. “Put it this way. Those emotions will be used for something very raw and very real, something that will absolutely need them.”

“Huh…like something alive?”

“I can’t say anymore, but you’re on the right track. But enough of that! That’s strictly a surprise for the end. Let’s move on, shall we?”

Kia nodded.

“Now let me ask you something else. Let’s say you have an idea for a sculpture, ok? So you go foraging and you go hunting. Is that a good starting point?”

Kia’s mouth formed a silent o-shape. “I think so? But I feel like I could be wrong.”

The professor hummed in understanding. “Ok, let’s put it this way. Should we think of the idea first? Or should we get the ingredients first? Which is better?”

Silence settled again for a couple moments, before Kia spoke, somewhat hesitantly. “I think…the ingredients? Because you have more freedom that way?”

“Yes, that is essentially correct. By starting with the ingredients, you are actually limiting yourself to what you can find, but in this case, that is not a bad thing. On the other hand, if you come up with a great idea but aren’t able to gather the correct materials for it, you would have to start over. Getting the ingredients first allows you to come up with a plan based on them, rather than guessing if you will find the ingredients you need or not for your initial idea.”

Kia nodded, finally moving her pen across the page, scribbling down a couple of notes. After a minute, she put everything away in her backpack again.

“Thank you so much, prof, this really helped. I’m definitely gonna start with foraging ingredients, and see where to go from there.”

“No problem, dear. I look forward to seeing your completed project,” Professor Camara replied, turning back to her painting.


“Bye, dear.”

Sculpture assignment notes—pt. 1

  • Mood rings in foraging → can change things before gathering
  • Get ingredients first! So you can work based off that

In hindsight, maybe standing knee-deep in a golden river for over an hour just to obtain a single silver scale wasn’t worth it. There was no way Kia would escape from this without a cold.

“Kia…” Calian whined, mouth turned down in an over-exaggerated pout. “What the hell, man! You said you were good at this shit!” They waded over to the nearby rocks, which had been weathered away by the cool rushing water to become smooth as pearls, and sat down with a flop.

“Sorry,” muttered Kia, hiking the hem of her pants up further. “I don’t know why they aren’t here yet, they’re supposed to be migrating through here around this time of day.”

Calian swiped their hand across their cheek, trying to flick away the wet strands of hair that had stuck. “You’re sure it happens every day?”

Kia huffed. “100%, bro, I come here all the time.” She stretched her arms up high, as if she was a marionette being raised by her strings. “One could even say I know this place like the back of my hand.”

Calian barked out a laugh. “Oh, fuck off with that cliché line!”

But it was indeed not too far off from the truth. If Kia closed her eyes, the scenery around her would spring right back up again in her own mind. Directly in front of her were looming clusters of thick spruce, with leaves as soft as cotton and bark as hard as diamond. Though the dense forest looked rather regal and inviting, merely one step in invited trouble.

Behind her were the sprawling hills of lush green from which they had just collected bunches of verdania and scattered sopolon. Right as Kia had finished gathering her sopolon, Calian had tripped and sent verdania flying into the air and all over Kia’s shirt, which meant that her shirt was forever soiled. Still, Kia couldn’t find it in herself to be angry—she had merely retaliated and chucked snow onto Calian, who could do nothing more than sit on the ground and giggle.

A giant waterfall towered over her on the left, gushing thunderously and dangerously, creating white clouds of golden water in its wake.

And finally, to her right was an endless stream. Actually, it was all around her. It twisted and turned in voluptuous curves, winding around her feet and zooming behind her, over the hills they had just crossed and out of sight, like the shooting stars her parent often created.

The stream in question was giving them no end of trouble in their search. Jets of water bounced around them, escaping the shimmering sands that lay at the bottom.

Calian batted wildly at the streaks of water. Their nose was scrunched and flushed red. “Holy shit, why is it still doing that? We’ve been here for like half an hour already!”

“Ok, forget that!” replied Kia. “Tell me, have you thought of anything for the project yet?”

“Not really, I figure just go for it and see what happens.”

“Are you serious? Isn’t this worth like 25% of our grade?”

Calian grinned. “Yeah, but you can’t take it so seriously, da. There’s no way you’ll even be able to put together anything worthwhile if you’re stressing about it the whole time.”

“The fuck—ok, just tell me, have you at least thought about what materials you’re gonna make?”

‘I guess…I mean, there’s not much to it, is there? There’s red reeds, clay of copper, fairy lights…the usual stuff, right?”

Kia groaned, planting her hands on her hips and tilting her head backwards. It was always fun to play up the drama when Calian was around. “You gotta think bigger than that!”

“Is that so?” Calian stroked their chin, glancing upwards and exaggerating their frown. “And how do I do that?”

“It’s like magic, alright?”

At this, Calian glanced at her, their playful frown morphing into a genuine one. “Ok, now I’m lost. What do you mean?”

The jets of water from before jumped up to tug at Kia’s wrists, and she crouched down, gliding a hand through the cool river. “What I mean is, magic didn’t come from nowhere, correct? Someone had to create it.”

“So, dear Calian—”she said as pointed her finger up at their nose, making Calian’s eyes go cross-eyed trying to follow the movement,”—what I am telling you to do is to create an original ingredient instead of being boring and using pre-made combinations. Or rather, I’m challenging you.”

Calian rolled their eyes. “Kia, only you could care so much about a dumb art class.”

“Hey! It’s not dumb!” She stood and shuffled closer to Calian, lowering her voice. “I heard that something special is going to happen with the sculptures we make.”

“Oh, I’ve heard people talk about that before. They say it’s something hella grand for a fourth year assignment, like way better than anything we could think of.”

“Yeah, I’ve heard that too. But when I was talking to the prof about the project, she hinted at something else, something actually about the sculptures.”

“Oh damn, you serious? What is it?”

Before Kia could speak, however, the two suddenly felt a change in the water pressure beneath them. It grew and grew, until they were forced to clamber out of the river and onto safe land.

“The fuck is going on?!”

“Calian, you don’t know? We’re about to see the silverfish you wanted to see so badly!”

Calian laughed and said something unintelligible over the loud rush of the water. They waited patiently, and after a few minutes, the pressure died down.

The river was as still as before, sands shimmering, unchanged.

Calian’s face fell as they waded back into the stream. “Where are the fish? I thought you said—ouch!”

Calian hissed in pain, lifting one of their feet up. Vermillion color was seeping its way into the clear waters, and the bottom of their foot now sported an angry cut, though fortunately, it wasn’t too deep.

“Shit! You ok?”

They waved a hand dismissively, although they were grimacing. “I’ll be fine, this’ll heal in like no time. But anyways, you said we’d see the fish. What happened?”

“Yeah, I might have lied about that,” said Kia. “Honestly, the fish move too fast for anyone to spot them. But look!”

“Look what?”

“Look below you!”

Something was shining in the riverbed, brighter than any of the sands that dusted the bottom. Calian bent over to pick it up.

“Is this—”

“Yep. A silver scale.”

As they stared at it, it began to twitch in Calian’s hand. Suddenly, it changed its coloring, turning a deep obsidian shade.

“Hello? The fuck was that?! Kia, what was that?”

Kia was at a loss for words until she noticed a tiny splotch of red on the corner of the scale. Perhaps…?

“Dude…I think it reacted with your blood, dude. It’s an onyx scale now. Which is literally—”

“The only scale that’s rarer than a silver one!” Calian’s eyes were wide in wonder, clutching the scale in their hand. “Holy shit, I didn’t even know a reaction like this was possible.”

Kia smiled. “See? I told you. Like magic.”

Sculpture assignment notes—pt. 2

Ingredients collected:

  • Snow
  • Spider silk
  • Verdania
  • Scattered sopolon
  • Eye of rabbit
  • Harp string hum
  • Golden water
  • One (1) silver scale! Fucking Calian, they got an onyx scale I’m so jealous
  • Cotton fibre
  • Munmonne
  • Dandelion seeds
  • Misty magma
  • Maple dough

Kia sat down at her crafting table, cracking her knuckles. She was ready.

Before starting, Bion, her parent, who had done a similar assignment at her age, had told her only one thing—don’t overcomplicate the sculpture too much.

Simple was best, apparently. Why that was, Kia wasn’t sure, but she certainly knew to trust her parent’s advice, so simplicity was the order of the day.

Into her brewing pot went the initial ingredients for Kererry Tonic—a handful of cotton fibre, two cloves of munmonne, and one foot of spider silk. The spider silk was a special product of hers, because while foraging it, Kia had divided it up into parts and cultivated each one with a mood ring. Now, she had a wide array of silks to work with.

Kia cranked up the heat on her burner, and finally added a portion of golden water to the mixture, before hefting the pot onto the burner to let it simmer. Next, she turned to her snow.

She had packed the snow into cubes earlier, and pressed her dandelion seeds into the tops of each of them to create indents. Now, she carefully pried the seeds out, and poured out of a pitcher misty magma into each of the indents. At once, the magma began to cool and harden. While this effect was instant, however, it was also temporary. In a few hours time, the magma would become pliable, like clay, and Kia would be able to roll her magma…things into magma ropes, warm to the touch and tough as nylon. Those would certainly come in handy later to hold things in place.

While her mixture boiled away, Kia turned to her most difficult ingredient: the maple dough.

While it served as a good base for crafts of any kind, maple dough was extremely tough to knead, shape and form, let alone actually craft with. But Kia knew the process by heart, and while she had only done it a few times, she felt more than prepared. Mentally, at least.

She set to work, kneading the dough for five minutes at a time, calloused hands working away at every inch, pulling and pushing and prodding and peeling. The dough needed a break from kneading in the gaps between, but you couldn’t just let it rest. So when she wasn’t kneading, Kia was pounding the dough with a hammer, or slamming it on the counters like a madman. It was a rookie mistake to let it rest for even a second, because if you did, the dough would immediately harden and you’d have to start the process over.

This continued for about an hour, with an added step of slathering the dough in verdania during each knead. This would give it some extra glossiness and color.

After Kia finished, she rolled up the dough and wrapped it in a cloth damp with water, so it wouldn’t harden back up again, though by this point it was unlikely to, if she had processed it well enough.

She turned back to her cauldron, peering inside. The mixture seemed to be cooking well enough, though the color was a tad lighter than she would have liked. She tossed in some more cotton fibre, and the solution darkened.

By this time, she had nothing more to do than work on her sopolon. This would be the third and final material she would make. She would turn sopolon into blue butter.

Making blue butter was a relatively simple task. Kia grabbed a bowl and added the sopolon, a different set of spider silk, a small amount of golden water—never more than the sopolon!—and all of the harp string hum. As an afterthought, she threw in a little verdania, once again for enhancement purposes. Then, she whisked. She whisked and she whisked and she whisked so fiercely that the bowl nearly clattered to the ground a couple of times during the process.

Blue butter required lots of whisking, like any good butter did, and it could be strenuous on the arms if one wasn’t careful. So after twenty minutes of vigorous whisking punctuated with breaks and many, many arm-wringings, a carefully curated mound of blue butter sat in the bowl.

Kia ran a towel over her forehead. Was it normal to get this exhausted so early into the crafting?

Ultimately, she couldn’t dwell on that thought, because her mixture was almost ready. It bubbled and gurgled in the pot, low and slow. The final step was to add in one eye of rabbit as well as her precious silver scale. When she did this, a ripple formed in the center of the mixture, slowly undulating towards the outside. With every undulation, the mixture became clearer and clearer, until it was completely transparent.

It was ready.

It was ready, and that meant as soon as Kia doused the maple dough in her newly made Kererry Tonic, it would be ready for her to form and shape it as she pleased.

“It’s getting serious now,” Kia muttered to herself. “It’s getting real serious.”

Sculpture assignment notes—pt. 3

Raw materials made:
  • Cotton fibre + munmonne + spider silk + golden water + eye of rabbit + silver scale = Kererry Tonic
  • Snow + dandelion seeds + misty magma = magma ropes
  • Maple dough + verdania = better maple dough??
  • Scattered sopolon + spider silk + golden water + harp string hum = blue butter

The hall being used for their passing ceremony was a grand one. The floor was exclusively clouds and silent waterfalls coming from nowhere surrounded them on all sides. As Kia glanced around, Calian leaned over, whispering in her ear.

“Hey, so, why are we having a fucking ceremony for our sculptures? It was just one assignment.”

“This is probably what the rumors were talking about, right? But I guess we’ll see soon enough.”

Kia craned her neck, trying to peer around the various students and get a glimpse of something, anything, but mist clouded her vision.

At the moment, it was just Kia and her classmates who stood in two neat rows, lined up opposite each other, with each person’s sculpture placed in front of them. But as time passed, more and more figures began to trickle into the hall, from various teachers to parents of her classmates, as well as a couple of higher-level celestial beings that Kia never thought she would see. Each of these figures took a seat in places of varying luxury; some sat in the plain bleachers behind Kia, while some settled in thrones that looked to be specially designated for them.

Once everyone was seated, the chattering melted away as Professor Camara entered the hall, striding through the center till she reached the other side, where the last of the students stood, rigid as poles.

“Welcome teachers, parents, other beings, and most of all, welcome, dear students.”

Professor Camara slowly paced the hall as she began some kind of speech.

“It gives me great pleasure to welcome you all to today’s Descending ceremony. Students, I understand you must be feeling confused right now, but I must say, I have always loved keeping up this tradition.” Here she paused to laugh, and a couple of other chuckles echoed around the hall.

“We never inform the students of what this ceremony is, for fear of clouding their judgement during this assignment, but now that the day is here, we may finally reveal it to you.”

“But first, let us take a moment to examine your beautiful sculptures.”

The professor made her way to one end of the hall.

The first sculpture she stopped at was a whole foot taller than its creator. Bronze skin gleamed in the sunlight, and Kia spied threads of spider silk twirled around the arms. It had no irises—merely a dark expanse of doe eyes. However, the top of it sported a number of different colors, probably made with caracars. The chiseling on this sculpture looked amateurish, but Kia suspected that was on purpose. There was no doubt that every part of it had been crafted with care.

“Cansu. This one will have a gift for music, and their eyes are filled with a gentle sparkle. A good use of tree bark.”

The professor continued down the line of sculptures, commenting here and there.

“This one here shows signs of anguish, though this is not a permanent fixture. Balance is an important part of any craft, and you have exemplified that well, Odoti.”

“Ah. An early death. Ever the strong-willed, aren’t you, Yeong-Su? But you have taught it to seize the day, haven’t you? The red reeds here make that clear.”

“Lovely job on the little details, Calian. You got lucky with that onyx scale, yes, but you certainly did not let it go to waste. I am glad for that.”

Finally, the professor came to Kia.

“Kia, you had trouble figuring out where to start with this task. But this is a fine specimen, indeed.”

She bent down to examine the sculpture, then spoke in a low voice. “I daresay you have the best one of them all.”

After a moment, she straightened up again, smiling at Kia. “Your sculpture shows us that nothing can be perfect. Strengths and weaknesses are equally important. That is an important fact to know, Kia. Never forget it.”

Professor Camara stepped back from where Kia was standing, and snapped her fingers. A hole began to open up in the center of the hall, growing until it was the size of a small whirlpool. Indigo stairs dotted and painted with various stars and galaxies grew out of one end, spiralling and spiralling downwards until the steps were far out of sight.

The professor snapped again, and this time, the sculptures started to glow a warm gold. They rumbled to life, one after the other, and trailed towards the newly formed stairs. One by one, they began to descend those same stairs, as the various figures in the hall watched, some faces ripe with shock while others looked on with a gentle smile.

“Some of you might have guessed by now, but the reason we had you perform this assignment with such care, the reason everything had to be done on your own, was because you have just made your first attempt at creating humans! Congratulations!” Professor Camara began to clap, and everyone in the hall joined in, save for the students.

The professor continued, making her way back to her seat. “When your sculptures finish their descent, they will turn into souls, wandering the universe. When their time comes—that is, when enough souls have died that more are needed on earth—they will make their way to the earth and merge with newborn children. Think of it like the process of osmosis—when one side is in need, molecules from the more busy side will make their way over until things are balanced again.”

“There is no predetermined fate for any of these souls; they will simply roam until they’re needed. And once that happens, they start their journey of growing into the humans you all have designed. They will not be perfect by any means, and that is ok. Humans are not meant to be perfect. I mean, we are not even perfect, so how can we expect that from humans?” The professor’s brisk tone melted away into a more gentle one, and Kia felt a smile tugging at her lips.

It was a lot to take in. But now Kia had a new appreciation for the lack of information given to them. It allowed each and every one of them to truly tap into their creativity, into the depths of their own souls, to reach beyond the limits of their potential and see what they could create.

They could have fun with it. Just as instructed.

For a moment, Kia was lost in thought, and it took two taps from Calian on her shoulder for her to glance at them.

“What’s up?”

“I think I get now why the assignment was called ‘A Sculpture from Scratch,’” remarked Calian.

Kia rolled her eyes, amused. “You don’t say? Ok, let’s hear it; what’s the reason?”

“It’s because it scratched an itch in my brain to try something new!”

Calian’s face bore no expression as they spoke, though Kia spied a muscle subtly twitching in their jaw. A giggle escaped her, quiet yet lively.

“You’re a fucking idiot, man.”

Calian grinned at her. “A real fucking idiot.”

Sculpture assignment notes - pt. 4

End result: They became humans though?? And prof didn’t tell us for real?

Fucking art class, man. I love it.