I often wonder why not everyone does pottery.
As I wedge a piece of clay I solely focus on that. No matter what else is going on, my duty at that moment is to remove the air that shouldn’t be there. When I’m centering, I center myself first. I focus on my hands. One of my best potter friends, Emma Pilon, always talks about “muscle memory”. I believe that is one of the most important things. You must find your own way to center and in doing so you will feel a sense of ease when the clay feels just right. There’s always going to be times where a piece of clay won’t center. This to me is beautiful. It runs parallel to everything else in the world. You can try and try to influence the clay to go in the right way, but sometimes it just won’t and it wins. Cut it off, and start over.
There is no greater feeling as a potter than watching a piece of your work get unloaded from the kiln and float in your hands.
For the clay that does find center I have learned to stop and think. Eva Polizzi, one of my pottery “heroes” once gave a demonstration and said to write on the centered clay “jar” or “cup” or whatever you want that to be so you know what your hands and mind are in sync. This has helped me tremendously in life. When things are going good stop and think what you could do to continue to more forward.
To all the wobbles or unevenness that have been in my pots…that was my fault, and moving forward I have to make myself better and more conscious in the moment. I have to control my movements and gestures with ease.
To all the pots I thought were going really well…that their profiles were wonderful, curvy, magical and beautiful, that crumbled or became to flimsy in my hands. I still am proud I learned something in the process. I appreciate and truly accept you. I was attached and just as quickly unattached. I will start over and add less water, release pressure, and be more delicate in your fragile states. It may be you were too firm of clay, or too wet. Either way I learned from you.
Finally, all the pots that made it and came out of the kiln radiating. My wood fired teapot. My most favorite piece of pottery I’ve ever made. I had such a hard time making that. Matthew Povse, my professor who is truly one of the most smartest, most hardworking and humble people I know, sat with me for days trying to help me. I couldn’t do it, I couldn’t make the lid. I couldn’t make the spout the way I wanted. But I knew I wanted a teapot for the wood firing at Nan Burti’s studio. I fought with a lot of clay. And kept starting over until I felt like I had the what I wanted. It listened to me and let me make it beautiful. There is no greater feeling as a potter than watching a piece of your work get unloaded from the kiln and float in your hands. You appreciate it even more when you struggled in the making of them form.
Through ceramics and farming I have learned life lessons. Sometimes things work don’t work out as planned. Sometimes you drop a pot and sometimes it cracks in the kiln. Keep moving forward. Because the pots that come out and fill your heart and you feel a connection to it, those make it all worth it.