Happy New Year! It’s been a crazy couple of months with work, which is fantastic, but I’ve missed sharing my creative adventures. While a busy work schedule often means my downtime is filled with mundane, everyday tasks and sometimes more work instead of crafting, I did manage to squeeze in one fun class this fall that’s been on my bucket list for awhile.
I’m giddy to have finally gotten around to taking a pottery class, and not just any pottery class. I’m a lucky girl–I live only a few miles from the Northern Clay Center, a pottery studio that has a stellar reputation among potters nationwide. And, because evening classes are popular and fill quickly, I’m also grateful to have the somewhat flexible schedule of a freelance writer and editor…and friends who have flexible schedules, too.
So every Tuesday in November and early December, I found myself spending most of my day in front of a pottery wheel, doing my best to churn out somewhat round pots in a class called–you guessed it–The Land of Round Pots. At first I felt a little guilty to be sneaking away from my desk on a work day. But having this scheduled class actually forced me to make better use of my time the rest of the week. In fact, for a couple of weeks in a row I was able to finish projects on Thursday, freeing up Friday mornings to spend a couple of hours in the studio. This felt nothing short of luxurious, and I’ve decided I need to do things like this more often.
But I don’t want to leave you with the impression that this class was like spending a day at the spa (although I did sometimes feel as if I were getting some sort of spa treatment when I was up to my elbows in clay). Pottery, as one of my friends warned me, is not easy. The way I began, crouched over the wheel in a state of intense focus, reminded me a bit of how I huddled awkwardly over knitting needles for the first time. Wasn’t this supposed to be relaxing? Admittedly, learning how to throw pots was more than a little frustrating at first. Centering the clay on the wheel looked easy enough, but I found myself spending far too much time trying to get it just right, working the clay until it was gritty and rough in my hands. And if the clay wasn’t quite centered, attempts to shape the pot went south fast. There’s something about centrifugal force that isn’t easy to overcome. But eventually, with the help of our fantastic instructor, Lisa, I got the hang of it. I learned how to hold my hands in order to guide the clay rather than force it, which tends to pull the whole works off center.
Trimming the pots nearly stopped me in my tracks. I get this way sometimes when I’m worried that moving forward will ruin whatever it is I’m working on. As I kicked the base plate of the wheel, spinning it fast and then slowing it down a bit with my foot, I noticed I was holding my breath. When I worked up the nerve to apply the trimmer to the leather hard pot, I said a little prayer, hoping it wouldn’t catch (and I’m not really the praying type). I did get a little carried away with the trimming on one small pot and went through the side. This was a reminder to really study the interior shape of the pot and commit it to memory before flipping it over, securing it in place, and beginning to trim. Without that mental picture of the contours of the inside of the pot, I may as well have been trimming in the dark. By pot number 3, though, I was able to trim a foot I could be proud of.
I think my favorite part of the process was glazing. For some reason, I was able to forge through this stage with reckless abandon. My biggest glazing challenge became pushing myself to explore glazes other than VC Green, which I fell for immediately. The best part of it all? Going back to the studio a couple of weeks later to look for my pots. This was like Christmas. I was surprised by how the pots were transformed by the glaze in unexpected ways. I love the pots I made, and although the learning curve was steep, I can’t wait to make more. Here’s to learning a new skill and having it change your life in some way, big or small. Looking back, I see this was on my list for 2017...what will it be in 2018? And what bucket list item will you take on in the new year?
In 2018, look for two new books from me: Dig In! 12 Easy Gardening Projects Using Kitchen Scraps (the follow up to The Nitty Gritty Gardening Book) and The Craft-a-Day Book: 30 Projects to Make with Recycled Materials. Can’t wait to share them with you!