Four weeks ago, Phillip and I started pottery class at the local community center. When I was a child, I took ceramics camps for several summers and for quite some time I had played with the idea of looking for classes in Seattle – when I mentioned it to Phillip, he seemed keen to join on, too! We were particularly interested in learning how to throw clay, that is, to sculpt on a potter’s wheel (more on lovely pottery jargon later).
As an eight and nine year-old, my interest lay exclusively in creating an arsenal of very small pinch pots and unintentionally grotesque animal sculptures, so branching out to wheel work was a really exciting alternative. We showed up to our first class poised and ready to be pottery prodigies, masters of the wheel – and anyway, by our instructor’s standards we were. He was very complementary of our first bowls; mine the taller and lumpier of the two pictured below. But despite the learning curve, I find sitting behind the wheel to be a very enjoyable, relaxing, mentally stimulating activity. And messy! Now like my more seasoned classmates, I’ve got a pair of dedicated pottery pants (not the pants you’re thinking of, Rosie…coquine madame!). I’ve truly arrived!
As challenging as turning a blob of clay into a non-blob of clay is the vocabulary – some are completely new words and some are old words with completely new meanings. Pulling, greenware, leather-hard, ribs, and wedging are all terms that I’m finding myself using more and more, while I have yet to find the word to describe the feat of clay flying clean off one’s wheel and onto the floor, or the act of overwatering one’s clay, or the phenomenon of sitting back to look at one’s work and happily proclaiming it done, only to accidentally tear through it with your thumb as you touch up a smudge. But then again, I am still learning.
Over-confident from the first class, during week two I sat down at the wheel with a tall, curvy idea in my head, and ended up with a cylinder. Twice. Too short to hold anything upright and too fat to be a delicate drinking vessel. Oh well. Phillip left a nice bowl and beer stein drying, though!
In week three, we started turning up at the studio more often, so we can only hope that more practice time will lead to something a bit more interesting and a bit less cylindrical.