Sunday, August 29, 2010


I've got a brand new bag of clay. It's called 609 and it's like silken putty in my hands. It feels as if I could make anything with this mud. Oh, how I wish I could.

Despite watching numerous pottery demos on pulling, followed by diligent practice with my new beautiful clay, I have yet to pull a good cylinder. I see now that the bowl has been my form of choice because a proper cylinder is not required. Which means that I have been skipping right over a fundamental skill in order to get to the "fun part" of creating a form that comes naturally to me. That sounds familiar. Once I've decided to do something, I tend to jump right in and figure things out as I go along. This approach generally works, but is not hazard free. Sometimes I end up backtracking in order to learn how to do things "properly." My way often turns out to be the hard way. Last week, this Snap Judgment piece reminded me that doing things the hard way, is a curse that can be broken.

My previous post was a bit Eeyorish, with some of Pooh's optimism stirred in. I hope it wasn't too depressing, or too saccharine. It's just that, lately, my good fortune has driven me to wonder, "What will go terribly wrong next?"

Tomorrow, I'll ignore impending doom, throw on the wheel, and enjoy great music at LouFest. Life is good. Really.

Sunday, August 22, 2010


This afternoon's wheel session was a great disappointment. I just glanced at my army of arches and have no doubt that they're conspiring to march off to someone who can, at the very least, pull them into decent cylinders.

One thought kept me going-- an individual must devote at least 10,000 hours to something before mastering it. Of course, those who are naturally talented may log far fewer hours before becoming adept. The rest of us must practice. This Radiolab episode offers an entertaining look at the relationship between talent, practice, and success.

I've been thinking a lot about how lucky I am to have the luxury of being frustrated by my lack of talent on the wheel. I have a job that pays the bills and leaves me with enough time and money to pursue other interests, such as pottery. Although my income to debt ratio places me in the ranks of the lower middle class, compared to many in this country (and many more around the world), I am rich.

Sometimes I feel guilty for spending time pursuing my own interests while so many others are struggling. Then I think of how quickly the years fly by and I know I am on the right path.

Sunday, August 8, 2010


I've never been a very good creature of habit. While I fit very well into existing structures, such as work and school, I have yet to succeed at creating consistent routines in my personal life. There is within me a deep rebellion against the notion that life may be divided into little boxes and arranged in a tidy row. Life is a whole lot messier (and more wondrous) than that.

At this point in my life, I crave order. Not the sort of spine tightening order of the woman down the street, who walks her shih tzu every day at 6 am and calls the police when the neighbors' raucous backyard BBQ goes on past sunset. I crave an order that will allow me to develop my talents and pursue the interests that bring me joy. I would like to follow this command from Gustave Flaubert, "Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work."

This weekend I began rereading Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. The first time I read it, I enjoyed it, but (since I've never had any delusions of becoming a writer) it didn't particularly "speak" to me. Now that several years have passed and I am attempting to learn a new craft, her words are like those of an honest and gentle mentor. Today, I did not feel like throwing until I thought of the chapters "Short Assignments" and "Perfectionism." I decided I didn't have to create something I could be proud of, I just had to throw.

So I did. Although I didn't create something worth keeping, it was good to get my hands back into clay. I am still having a lot of trouble with pulling, but I've found that wedging, centering, and opening have become much easier. Pulling will surely follow. The bottom of this bowl is way to thin and its shape is the result of my decision to salvage an unwieldy pull. I plan to practice trimming on it.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


This was my fourth attempt on the wheel today. After the first three failures, I took a break to watch the "quick method" demo that came with my wheel. Watching someone throw correctly helped immensely.

Today, I felt like a fool for attempting to master this skill. Then I thought of this poem, which offers an encouraging message and (through its context) puts my own small struggles in their place.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

past creations

I wandered around my apartment today, photographing the pieces I made in previous classes. Ultimately, I would like to create beautiful, functional pieces that are used so often that they become absorbed into the everyday.


In conversation, I often think beyond my words to the effect they may have on those listening. Avoiding silent judgment has become routine. When I thought of chronicling my one small journey in this medium, the usual hesitations nearly held me back. I thought, I should wait until I'm really good at this before showing my work to everyone and no one and What if I never get good at this?

I'm not holding back, about this. The world doesn't need to hear from another amateur who is passionate about her new interest, but I need to speak.

My intermittent interest in pottery began back in community college, when I took both a beginning drawing class and a ceramics course. I still can't draw a straight line to save my life and I don't remember much from the pottery class.

A few years later, I took a beginning wheel throwing class at a local craft store. That class was so much fun! Our instructor shared his passion for pottery without a hint of condescension. He loved throwing pots and he loved guiding us through creating in clay. Our pots were off center, too thin or to heavy, and sometimes turned into planters in the kiln. Yet, through his lenses, they looked good and only in need of the right glaze. In this class, I found my joy in clay.

Work and grad school interrupted my newly discovered hobby. It is a few years later and I just finished another beginning wheel throwing class at a different location of that same craft store. This instructor was ever patient and serene. She allowed us plenty of time to practice, which is what I needed.

Having rediscovered clay, I didn't want to give it up. After a brief cost-benefit analysis (wherein my desire to keep my hands in clay far outweighed any potential costs), I decided to purchase my own wheel. It is a small countertop wheel that fits perfectly on my kitchen counter, between the rarely used bread maker and my workhorse-- the coffee maker.

The first bowl thrown on my very own wheel had a lovely form, but was off center and too thin at the bottom. It didn't make it to the kiln.