My six-week pottery challenge began today! A week late, thanks to Hurricane Irma. The first thing I learned...we call it "wheel throwing" not pottery. Duly noted.
One of the most fun parts about learning new things (at least to my inner linguist) is learning the new language that goes along with it. The least fun thing (to my inner-outer-everywhere introvert) is walking in the door and getting started.
I was fortunate today, in that I had a ton of encouragement to embark upon this new challenge. First, I told all of you I was going to do it, and I've received so much encouragement. Second, my sweet son, Ben, has a drawing class that he is doing in the same place at the same time. Ben is definitely the artist in our family, and he was so sweet driving over:
"Are you nervous, Mom?"
"Yes, honey, I am a little nervous."
"Don't worry, Mom, everyone's a little nervous at first, but you'll be fine! What are your nervous about?"
"I think I won't be very good at this. But mostly, I'm just nervous because it's something new, and I don't know anyone. I'm really glad you're going with me."
Finally, a very patient friend of mine has been there behind the scenes to receive my ridiculous texts and reassure me...
"OMG! I just spent the last 10 minutes frantically searching my house for the pants that I have officially designated my pottery pants. Who loses pants?! Finally found them hanging in the closet where they belong. What is wrong with me?! Thank God you can only go to your first pottery class once. Basket Case, signing off."
"Go! You will do fine!"
So, off I went. And all I can say...Oh. My. God. So. Hard. But also...Amazing!
First, you are presented with a rather hefty square of clay. It smells funny but is quite lovely. Then, you must use this weird cheese cutter thingy to slice manageable bits of clay from the giant chunk.
Then, the most fun part (well, for me on Day 1, anyway). You knead the clay (yes, kind of like bread dough, but there is no yeast involved, so less pressure), and then you do this cool thing called wedging. Basically, you are preparing your clay for the wheel. You want to disperse the water in the clay more uniformly throughout and make sure you don't have any air bubbles. You wind up with a nice, smooth, round ball of clay, which you then get to throw down onto the center of your wheel.
Then the really hard part begins...
Centering your clay...I am pretty sure this is impossible...I mean, in theory, sure. The clay is stuck nicely to the center of your wheel, and it doesn't make you seasick to look at when you press down on the foot pedal that makes your wheel spin. Probably the best advice I got today..."Don't look at it! I mean, look at it, but don't look at it!" This is because it's completely mesmerizing, and alternatively, infuriating. Just when you are becoming one with your beautiful clay and wheel...it all goes wonky, and your head starts spinning. Also (and this is my own advice, nothing I heard today), don't drink and wheel throw. Trust me on this. There are enough things spinning in a wheel throwing class without adding your head into the mix.
After you center your clay (or in my case, after your awesome instructor, Cheyenne, centers your clay for you), you try to dome your clay, which is basically just forming it up into kind of a dome thingy. This doesn't sound hard, but trust me, it is. The irony is that once you get it up into that dome, you gently and elegantly smush it back down into what's called a puck (I think, or possibly, a pug). Then you make your puck into a doughnut. Sadly, this doughnut is made out of clay not actual doughnut material, and ours didn't even have a hole that went all the way through. Rather, we were trying to use our thumb to kind of flatten out the bottom of our clay thingy and get the bottom of it to be even and at a mostly 90 degree angle from the wheel.
Once you sort of do that, you use your fingers--left finger inside, right finger outside--hold them together and start to form the clay up into a column. This is very hard to do. And I learned some great new wheel throwing terminology...
"You're chasing the wheel!" (You're not supposed to do that. You're supposed to keep your hands/fingers in basically the same place and kind of anchored to your body for stability. Let the clay come to you...don't chase it...)
"Looks like that clay is working you...you're supposed to be working the clay!"
And so it went. The others in the class had all had some wheel throwing experience prior to this class. I was the only brand newbie. But everyone was so nice and so encouraging. And, although I really sucked at making anything remotely attractive or worth keeping, I thoroughly enjoyed getting my hands (and clothes, and face, and hair) dirty, and it was a true pleasure to start to get the feel for the clay and the wheel. I'm starting to sense what my hands and feet need to do to make this thing happen. You'll notice, I said nothing about my brain. I need my brain to get out of my way. This is about touch and sensation and intuition. And I have faith that I'm going to get there.