Saturday, December 13, 2008

Pottery, etc.

I started a pottery class this past week with a local potter, Talle Johnson.  Today I got my first pieces out of the kiln.  Glazing is always a bit of a gamble, because it never quite happens the way you expect it to.  But accidents are part of the process, so it's fun to see what explosions of color come out.  I was really excited about the metallic spots and matte glazing on this first one:

...and wheel work borders on hypnosis (staring down into a spinning bowl for extended periods of time requires good hydration and mental preparation).  It's actually really interesting to feel clay find it's center.  Think of a noisy room going silent.  At first you have to wrestle with the clay a bit while it spins, and then its lumps smooth out into a circle, and your hands are cupping this perfectly round lump of clay, spinning silently and effortlessly.  It still takes me a long time to get it centered, and I think I am holding my breath the entire time.  Then, the thumbs open up a hole in the middle, which creates the sides of the bowl or mug.  Patience is key, at least right now, because sudden jerks knock the clay out of center, so every move is doubly slow and meticulous.  I think of the spinning wheel as one force, while the hands are the opposite force, working in contradiction to the rotation in order to pull a pot out of nothing.  Maybe it's like a flower blossoming in fast-motion: a burst of shape and form.

This is an older, hand-built piece I made in 2007.  You can see the coils on the top half.  The notches are to help bind the coils together, but here are more for looks than necessity.  Everything about it is off-balance... the handles, the glaze, the coils.  It has four sides at the base but warps into 3 at the top.  I also took clumps of different colored wet clay, and splattered it all over, which makes it look like it has been underwater for while.  I guess I tend towards the messy, so it's good that I am back on the path towards symmetry.   

close-up of a handle

On a personal note: I am moving to the opposite end of Chattanooga, which I am truly happy about.  My current house is rather drafty and cramped.  It's nice on rainy days, because Lookout Mountain gets this thick fog all over it and the trains rumble off in the distance, and I can open the old glass windows in my kitchen and drink tea, but that's really the only positive.