Monday, November 01, 2010

Pottery class: Day 1

Today was my first pottery class that I am taking through the town’s adult education classes. I tried pottery once before way back in the late 80’s but I’ve pretty much forgotten everything I knew. If I really ever knew anything at all about it! All I remember is that for some reason our class time was cut short and the instructor ended up doing all our glazing and firing for us. One pot I did hand-building and the other one I threw on the wheel. It was my first experience with “throwing” and I quickly realized why they called it that when my would-be vase literally flew off the wheel and landed on the floor like I had thrown it there.

Today was different. After finding my way through the security gate (she lives in a really cool gated community where all the houses are sprinkled among the woods throughout a very large complex) me and another woman were were welcomed into Kathy’s home. She wanted to show us things she had made so we could get an idea that we weren’t limited to just making small pots or (god forbid) the dreaded school-project-ashtray. It was also a tour of her very large home as we peeked into each and every bedroom (including her own) to see the object d’art that she had crafted. After the house ceramic tour we marched down to her basement where her pottery studio is. A work bench, a wheel, and two kilns, (one large; one small) took up one room while the the other part housed glazes, forms and molds, and other tools of the trade.

She’s a very open and friendly person, and obviously a very talented one if her pieces are anything to go by.

There are only three of us in the class and both of the other women have had a lot more experience with this than I have. One woman who has already been taking the class for two weeks (she started early due to being gone for the next two weeks) was already on to making lovely wall plaques and leaf platters. She had imprinted the clay with a leaf from a water lily and some other exotic elephant ear leaf for a large platter. Gorgeous! She said she’s done it all before—only 30 years ago. She said she’s taking multiple art classes. I got the impression she was not there to learn but to have use of the tools, glazes, and kilns. The other woman who arrived with me has also had a lot of experience, plus she paints. Me? Well, I guess I feel a little inadequate right about then, but isn’t that what taking a class is all about? (The class was listed as Beginning/Intermediate.)

We did two things today. The first was a hand-built bowl. We took out our frustrations by throwing the ball of clay down onto the table to get all the bubbles out. When we reached the desired thickness we played around with different textures from Kathy’s basket of toys. I just grabbed what I thought looked interesting and started imprinting the clay with a variety of things. I think I took a coil of spring, some corrugated cardboard and a string of different sized beads. My bowl consisted of probably six or more slabs of clay, slightly overlapped and put into a plastic bowl lined with plastic wrap that served as a form. Once that was done we had to scrape, scrape scrape the inside until it was smooth with no sign of the overlapping pieces. I’m not sure my bowl is going to be very even in thickness, but c’est la vie!

The second thing we made was a ball shape. This time, we “bounced” the ball of clay on the table while trying not to flatten it until when we cut it in half we couldn’t see any bubbles. Then we hollowed out the center by pressing the clay down. We added some shards of some other kind of medium (not sure just what it was) in the middle of our ball so that it will rattle once fired. We could make our ball into anything we wanted. I made an apple with a stem and one leaf. It was pretty one dimensional, and I kept thinking it should somehow be more. But what? Apples don’t have a lot of texture to them ...

Meanwhile my co-class mate was whipping up a intricately carved pumpkin from her ball of clay. I was very impressed. Looking from one project to another, mine looked like a fifth grader had made it and hers looked like an artist had made it. Oh well.

Finally, when we were about to walk out the door, it occurred to me just what was wrong with my apple. What I had needed was an apple in front of me as a model. Apples go in at the top and slope slightly on the sides but mine was pretty much round all the way around. I wanted to grab it off the table and start over again but I didn’t. I did learn something though, so that’s good.

I think it’s going to be fun but I do wish everyone was starting on the same playing field. Why oh why do I have to be the only “beginner?”

Lynne Robinson, Hewitt, New Jersey


You have a great eye for a photograph, are good at needlework and knitting and I am sure you will have a natural talent as a potter.  Good luck.

Don’t compare yourself to the “other kids” in class.  Just continue to learn grin and enjoy it.  I"m sure your apple will be just fine when its done.  I never was very good with pottery.  I enjoy all art but never liked the feel of drying clay on my hands…I know I’m a sissy but I also can’t handle the feel of wool or flannel.

Joyce, thanks for that, but I really do think that taking photos and the other things are not really all that “artsy.” I can’t paint; can’t draw, and I think pottery might be like that. Only time will tell but thanks for the well wishes!

Debra, yeah I know but it’s hard. My apple will be what it is: boring! I don’t mind the clay hands at all and since I have never had a manicure in my entire life, my nails don’t mind either. smile Well, now we know that you don’t knit or do pottery!

I remember having to cut my nails very, very short when I took pottery classes.  To this day the things I made in those classes are my favorites to eat from.  Wish I had the time to throw again on a regular basis…...

Maggie, now why am I not surprised to learn that you did pottery? This woman is not big into throwing.  She’s more in to hand building so if I want to pursue throwing again I may take classes at the other place here in W Milford where a friend of mine takes classes.

Hey at least at the end of the class you will be the Most Improved! Just have fun with it and don’t worry about everyone else.  smile

You know…I’ve got one of those lovely ashtrashs around here somewhere…

Susie, yes that’s true, but I could also end up as the “least inspired.” Only time will tell. I am going to do my best not to make an ashtray since I honestly cannot think of one person I know that smokes to gift it to! Maybe a small change holder? smile

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