Sunday, April 29, 2012

Me and My Mud

Because I don't have enough crafts going on, I have decided to take up pottery.

Okay, okay...that's not true. I have pa-ha-lenty of crafts in my life and an ongoing list of unfinished projects. (It amazes me, in fact, when I actually finish something and get to write about it here.) But there were some very sound reasons for me to take up pottery: 1)  In my opinion, there is always room to learn something new. 2) I love any excuse to put on old gross clothes and get my hands really dirty. 3) I have long held a sneaking suspicion that I have a natural, great talent for ceramics. 4) I acquired a big 'ol pottery book for STC Craft (written by the amazing potter Simon Leach!) and have been attempting to edit the manuscript for the last year and a half having never so much as touched any clay in my life.

It was that last reason, mostly, that caused me to enroll myself in an 8-week course.

Actually, it was perfect kismet! I had just returned from Spain and was face to face, once again, with the unruly pottery manuscript, when I learned that my friend Aimee teaches a pottery class as a "recreational activity" at a local apartment complex just ten blocks away. I signed up immediately and showed up for the first class along with eight other women my mom's age.

Here's the thing: none of us are all that good. We are learning!! Oh, but we have such aspirations. What exactly it is we want to make, I am not sure--do any of us have a shortage of bowls at home? How many uses are there for an unadorned cylinder? Will I actually be able to make a functional mug in just 8 weeks?--these questions are beside the point. All I know is that for three hours every Tuesday, me and these lovely ladies strive for perfection! We also eat quite a bit of chocolate.
Aimee is our inspirational pottery hero. She often reminds us--not in a braggy way, but in a "guys, don't get down on yourself" kind of way--that she has been throwing pots for over half of her life. But still, when we watch her do a demo, it is honest to God like voodoo. How does she get the clay to cone up so fast? Oh, but the sweeping curves on her bowls! And then when she gets out her wood tool and starts trimming away the bottom! It's sort of like an OCD dream-come-true; you could just marvel at the pleasing shape for hours. Just look at her pretty bowl above! could marvel at some of my pleasing shapes. Check out this lovely little cylinder! Sure, the wobbly lip may keep it from becoming a future favorite...sake vessel, but it could certainly hold...jelly beans? Yes, this cylinder would be a great jelly bean holder.
And this bowl would be fantastic! Yes, it's a salsa bowl! Do you see all of my natural talent?

OK, clearly I have a ways to go.
I hate to tell you this, but sadly, neither my jelly bean bowl nor my salsa bowl exist anymore. This is the terrible, wonderful truth about learning pottery: we cut many of our creations in half! It's actually part of the learning process when you're just starting out. When you cut a cross-section down the middle, you learn all sorts of things, like how the floor is really thin or how the walls are super uneven. And then you learn from that and you make better bowls. It also teaches you not to be too precious about your creations. You do not, apparently, need to keep, glaze, and fire every single effed up cylinder that you ever make. (Even though that would be a SUPER fun present for my sister's birthday...hey Erin, here's 90 crappy cylinders!). Aimee, our fearless instructor, is not above cutting any of her perfect bowls in half either, an act which causes a collective cringe amongst me and my classmates.
I think you will all be relieved to know that this last week, however, I got to KEEP one of my crappy cylinders. (We're going to learn how to glaze this week, so I had to keep something to practice with.) Glazing, I suspect, is where the magic happens! Just look at that seafoam green. And that "not very bloody" oxblood. I think I want to do polka dots. I don't even know if that's possible. I just want it.
But if I'm being honest, one of the most thrilling things about the class so far is how filthy you get. If you have ever wanted to dip your arms elbow deep into a trashcan filled with something called "slurry," then you should totally take a pottery class. (Even though Aimee hasn't let me dip my arms into the slurry trashcan yet, I bet she would if I asked.) 


  1. Let it be officially known that I would LOVE 90 crappy cylinders. Also, I think you'll be talented at this! Also also, oh my God, how much fun would it be to take this class with Mom???

    (Some background: At a friend's wedding several years ago, her mother hand-crafted mugs to give away as favors. I, naturally, got really drunk at the wedding, and at some point went to every table to collect all of the mugs I could carry in my large purse. I still have about eight or nine of these mugs. I LOVE THEM.)

  2. I want to make crappy polka-dotted cylinders, too.