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September 02, 2009

return to pottery

This spring, pottery class was frustrating. I felt like I wasn't progressing, stagnating at a level of skill that left me frequently with lopsided or off-kilter pots. Sometimes the issues lay in the difficulties of transferring creations off the wheel - it was only late in the game that I learned that many more advanced students own their own "bats" or the platforms that attach to the wheel and allow the just-created piece to be removed so wheel can be used again without having to transfer a wet, fragile piece to another resting place in order to dry. Because the studio I attend has a limited number of bats for students to use, students without their own bats must transfer all their pieces off bats at the end of class (if not before) and on to another platform for drying. Many tragedies occur during this transfer.

My frustrations with pottery simmered enough that once an expensive car repair presented itself, I took that as an opportunity to take a hiatus from pottery, ostensibly for schedule and financial reasons, but also to give myself a break from my lack of progress.

But in an attempt to keep myself busy, particularly in light of sad events in my life that continue to churn and use up most of my excess energy, [I'm not inclined to discuss them here - suffice it to say they are similar to waiting to hear a diagnosis, without being that.] I re-enrolled.

And upon re-enrolling, I declared that I was back with a new purpose: to get back to the basics, to refine my throwing techniques so that I could reliably produce symmetrical and attractive (and larger) items, and eventually, end up producing items at the end of a wheel session that I had envisioned at the beginning (instead of the usual - "hmm, I think I'll make a large bowl...yikes! maybe a small bowl...okaaay, maybe a mug." and at the end I've got a tiny plate.)

So back to basics we went. I spent much of the session refining my centering technique - a crucial skill, because if your clay isn't fully centered on the wheel, your end product is likely to be uneven, assuming it doesn't entirely collapse and get scrapped off into the slip bucket. After working on centering, I went back through the various "throws" (movements with your hands over the clay to move it around and take it from a lump to a bowl), with S, my instructor. We talked finger positioning, pressure, wrists. It was specific and very helpful.

And by the end of class, I had produced two, large symmetrical pots that will most likely eventually become the bodies for satisfyingly large mugs.  As I explained to S at the end, I had finally figured out how to center well, open evenly, and to do the first two (of three) standard throws. So now I had ample time to start screwing up things during the third throw, an opportunity I'd never had before - as the vast majority of my previous pots were already wobbling by this point.

It felt good to recommit to pottery, and to make a noticeable improvement over the two and half hours. It got me outside of my head and myself for an hour or so today. I rode up to pottery wondering what I was doing, why I was going to spend my hard-earned money to continue my mediocrity. I rode away from the studio in the lowering dark glad I'd made the leap back in.

September 2, 2009 at 11:25 PM | Permalink


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