Forays in Clay

Thursday, March 22, 2012

This was the year where I decided that any whims I had, I would follow them and see them through as much as possible.

One of them was wheel throwing pottery.

The class has just ended and this is what I came out with:

The pieces are nowhere near perfect, full of flaws, but I feel like I'll look back on these objects and enjoy all the misshapen bits about them.

I had always kind of looked at pottery with a bit of disdain. Everything that I saw that came out of pottery looked handmade in a really unbearably hippie way. But more and more people around me tried it out, kind of enjoyed it, and it was like, okay, I want to try this.

I was told that wheel throwing is a lot harder than it looks. I didn't believe anyone that told me this. How could something so calm and fluid be so hard. Also I couldn't quite take wheel throwing seriously at first slightly because of how phallic it was (grow up Ellen).

But oh my gosh it is/was so unbelievably hard. I didn't have anything for literally the first 4 weeks of class. There were moments where I was at the wheel, completely undone by a mound of clay and just wanting to cry or fall apart or somehow magically dissolve into air and never come back to class. I dreaded going to pottery at first because I would look like that idiot at the wheel who wouldn't make anything yet again. It was a reminder that the easier something looks, it means that there is an incredible amount of unseen effort behind it to make it as effortless as it seems.

The teacher had watched me and said that my actions towards the clay were quite 'gestural'. I kind of knew what he meant. And it made me kind of sad. Because he was completely right. I did all the same movements as him, but I wasn't actually doing them (if that makes sense). And it made me realize that if I want this class to work for me and to come out with SOMETHING, then I was going to have to put in more effort than I would have liked. And that was another thing that I learned (as anyone who does pottery knows, there are a bajillion metaphors in this craft that can be applied to life) - you can go through the motions, but you aren't really going to get anything out of it - you've got to bring your complete self if anything is going to happen.

I had signed up for pottery because I thought it would be a chill time where I would just hang out, throw some cups, plates, bowls, whatever and paint them nice colors. But no, it's not like that. At least not at first.

I can't tell you enough how satisfying it was when I actually somewhat sort of centered a mound of clay and made it into a cylinder. The amount of focus I had to put into it, it was a feeling I hadn't felt in ages, where everything inside and around me fell quiet. And that's one of the things that I wanted, to find a sense of calm where I am not affected by what's around me. Earlier in the process I couldn't help but feel people were looking at me all the time and seeing how hard I was struggling and how awful I looked, I was incredibly self conscious.

Now I want to be at pottery ALL THE TIME! Seriously! I love every part of the process - the wedging of the clay, centering it, making it into the desired shape, trimming it, glazing it. Oh my gosh! It's nice because normally I hate certain parts of other things that I do. Pottery is also something where I am happy just creating and making thing after thing after thing, and not really having it go anywhere. When I am painting or drawing or designing, I think about where it will end up, if I can sell it, etc. But with pottery, I am just perfectly happy that I am making things and that they exist (pssstt - friends, I will be pushing tons of my pottery onto you, you're forewarned! And also, don't be dismayed by what you see here, I'm improving, I swear!) I guess maybe I really see what I make in pottery as examples of kind of what I was thinking at the time, and I am just kind of glad that they've taken physical forms.

Speaking of which:

So this is the second piece I've ever made (the first one was so awful that I can't even look at it - I finished it just to have that satisfaction of completing something in the class and gaining momentum to make more). You can see in this 'cup' that I still could not center a piece of clay to save my life. That I probably picked it up when it was still wet and accidentally added dents in it (that actually and wonderfully make it nice for holding). And that I kind of painted it without thinking. But oh man. Do I ever love this uneven lopsided thing.

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