It’s been awhile since I first posted about my adventures in pottery. Like every other extra-curricular activity, life sometimes gets in the way. I finally signed up for a second class at Northern Clay Center one year after completing my first class, which means I was basically starting over–only this time I had the advantage of having been through the process before.
Having a little muscle memory in my back pocket made all the difference. After a couple of frustrating classes (and a few YouTube videos), I was starting to get the feel of centering and then gradually pulling up the clay, many times over. At one point Lisa, my instructor, told me I needed to slow down and that certainly resonated with me. Truth be told, I could stand to slow down in all aspects of my life. Too often, I’m rushing through to get everything done so I can finally sit and enjoy what I really want to do, whether it’s reading a book, crafting, or watching a movie. But this time I was rushing through what I I had set aside time to do…be present in this pottery class.
So I slowed down, and things became easier. I also made more time to be at the clay studio. Giving myself more opportunities to throw, trim, and glaze allowed me to take my time at each phase. And this made the whole process more relaxed and fun. I was focusing on the “doing” instead of just getting it done.
My goal in this class was to throw a perfect cylinder. The last time I took pottery, I marveled at a classmate who could make one cylinder after another, all in beautiful form. At the time I was struggling just to center the clay on the wheel. I’d “center” until the clay was gritty in my hands. Then I’d finally give up and just go for it. Of course the pots were off center and I’d end up cutting off the wobbly top and creating a stubby, bottom-heavy bowl, just to have something to show for my efforts. But now look at this pot above…getting the centering right makes a world of difference.
Nailing down the basics allowed me to focus on learning how to do new things like make handles. Since I had made it my intention to throw cylinders, I decided to make a few of them into mugs, and I even made this sweet little pitcher. My handles need a little work, but they stayed put and feel solid.
I also took some time during the glazing process to actually think about my approach (rather than just dipping all pieces into VC Green with reckless abandon!). I thought about and the order in which I was applying layers. I thought about how and where I was going to hold the piece as I was dipping it in the glaze. I thought about how different glazes might overlap and interact. I thought about all these things so much sometimes, my head hurt! In fact, on my way home from the studio, I even found myself trying to match the colors of cars I saw to glaze colors in the vats! I guess you could say I got immersed in the process.
I tried wax resist techniques (see the diagonal lines and dots on the mug at left?), experimented with stains (see those little blue dots on the mug?), and tried applying slips and then etching in patterns (see vase below, right). I basically had fun and began to let go of the idea that I might “ruin” anything. This, I think, is an important point. Classmates and instructors advised not to become too attached to any one piece at any stage of the process. This is so spot on, yet hard to do at first.
These two pots are a perfect example of letting go. It was our last day to throw, so I was working to get as many pots done as I could. These were the biggest pots I’d ever made, and I was pretty happy about them. And then I was rushing to get the one on the left off the wheel and onto a drying board when the board tipped off my knee, crushing the tops of both the pots. I could have cried. But one of my classmates told me to keep them and go with it. These are now glazed and waiting to be fired, and I can’t wait to see how they turn out.
It’s safe to say I’ve caught the pottery bug. My friend and I are already signed up for our next class, which starts in a few weeks. I’m itching to get back to the wheel. My next goal is to work on trimming and lightening up my pots…but whatever happens, happens, right? Stay tuned for the next installment of As the Wheel Turns!