Tag Archives: Pottery

Sequestered

IMG_9063

My dog EmmyLou has this relaxing thing down…until I start snapping pictures.

A little more than two weeks ago I was talking with a friend at an annual gathering for my son’s school at a local roller rink. We talked about music and local venues and how much you’d pay to see your favorite band. We talked about the various activities our kids were involved in and how their schedule had become ours. Eventually the conversation shifted to current events, and the dreaded Coronavirus. He told me that he was almost 100 percent certain that our public schools would close due to the Coronavirus before the end of the school year. At the time I thought he couldn’t possibly be right. His prediction seemed so preposterous and over the top. There was simply no way that could happen.

Fast forward by what seems like a blink of an eye and now here I am, sequestered with my husband, two sons, and our dog in our home, which is more stocked with food and provisions than it’s ever been. Today is the first day of the mandatory school shutdown to “flatten the curve” of the rapidly spreading virus. Yesterday the very thought of every business closing and having nowhere to go flooded me with a sense of despair.  But today I’m focusing on shifting my thoughts of what to do with this sequestered time in a more positive direction.

Last weekend (was that really only two days ago??) I felt little pangs of relief as the six activities we had scheduled were canceled, one by one. Would we possibly have a quiet weekend at home with nothing to do? My introverted, homebody self did a little dance (That little dance was inside my head, of course). Perhaps cutting outside activities and powering down could be a good thing?

I stocked up on food, getting only what we would need for the next couple of weeks. The thought of hoarding seems crazy to me, but I found myself doing an inventory of the number of toilet paper rolls in the house (17 jumbo-size rolls) and swinging by the home paper goods section at Target just to see if all the hype was true (it was).

IMG_9055

No toilet paper at Target and no chicken at Aldi on Saturday.

I’m just finishing up a couple of pottery classes so I stopped at both studios to pick up finished pieces and see if I could glaze those items that had been bisque fired. At this point, news of businesses closing had been cluttering up my inbox every hour or so, and the writing was on the wall…these studios would close soon, too. I did what I could and then left the five bowls and one vase on the shelf waiting to be bisque fired. Who knows when I’d be back to glaze them…or if they would still be there?

IMG_9046

These will remain “greenware” for the next few weeks at least 😦

Yesterday we made the final, final decision to postpone our upcoming trip to Costa Rica with friends until next year. What seemed perfectly do-able just last Monday was obviously the wrong thing to pursue less than a week later. It amazes me how quickly this whole pandemic has unfolded and filtered into all parts of life. And I realize this is just the beginning. I’m trying not to dwell too much on how it will affect my freelance business or the work of those around me. Like I said, I’m trying to shift into a more positive mindset.

In the meantime, I have an editing project that is at a standstill as I wait for the author to revise a chapter. Many of my usual downtime filling activities—going to the pottery studio, going to the Y—are no longer options. I’ll be honest: I’m already going a little stir crazy. I’m one of those people who can’t really sit still. Ever. The only time I’m not in constant motion is when I’m asleep.

So my plan is to make a list. There are limitless projects I’ve been wanting to do around the house that I just haven’t had the time or energy to tackle: Decoupaging and painting an old end table, sewing a scarf out of upcycled t-shirts, making a few more embroidered hearts, sewing another origami bag or two, starting a practice of drawing something every day, playing the ukulele…the list goes on. Maybe I’ll even revisit one of the windowsill gardening ideas from Dig In!

IMG_9057

I made this cherry moon pie for Pie Day on Saturday…more baking to come!

I’m also thinking about what I can do to safely help others in my neighborhood. Runs to the grocery store? Still exploring options. What I definitely don’t want to do is fritter away my time scrolling through Instagram or Facebook or checking the latest news. I’m taking this whole pandemic-induced shutdown as a sign that I need to untangle a bit from my constant need to check the latest anything on an electronic device. Instead, I’m going to go for a run or walk along the river, dig into one of the many books stacked on my bedside table, start one of the projects I mentioned above, or bake something with my boys. Better yet, I’m going to make a point to just sit every once in a while. I’m challenging myself to make more downtime a part of my day.

IMG_9062

What are your plans? Any books you recommend that I add to the list? Have you found any ways to help others in your community during this crazy time? Please share!

And if you’re looking for ways to keep kiddos busy during the long days at home, check out one of my gardening or craft books: The Craft-a-Day Book, Dig In, or The Nitty Gritty Gardening Book! Most of all, be well.

Pottery Redux

IMG_4665

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.

IMG_4662

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.

IMG_5142

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!

IMG_5136

The Land of Round Pots

IMG_0343

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.

IMG_0150

My friend with her lovely round pots.

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?

IMG_0342

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!