March 22, 2011 § Leave a comment

Attending Swarthmore over the weekend was an absolute joy and I got a tiny peek at what it might be like to be a potter.

What I learnt most from the two days was a glimpse of what fluidity must feel like, and it was exhilarating. The small adjustments continued a plenty and each time was a revelation. For example: my struggle with centering had not been the result of my positioning over the wheel, as I had imagined, but because to centre the clay I had been trying to force it into the centre of the fast spinning wheel. The more the clay wobbled the more I fought the wheel, which was continually taking my hands with each rotation. It was hopeless, and painful, as the friction was grazing the skin of my little fingers. So, when I went to the teacher with these sore fingers and she told me to hold my hands slightly above the wheel instead, the difference was instant. No more battling, no more straining; my hands still and calm at the centre of the rushing wheel.

And this is the excitement of learning. The realisation, the smile on your face, the quickening of the pulse. 5 600g balls of clay all torn half way up the cylinder in the same place. The teacher told me to work the clay with my hands at 5 o’clock rather than 2 o’clock. As she was talking, I drew the wall of the cylinder up in one motion and I felt everything concentrate in my fingertips. The motion felt fluid. I was elated.

There is a passage in ‘The Craftsman’ by Richard Sennett about the concentration, the focus, of the maker’s energy in one point. He talks about it in reference to a glassblower but it is relevant to any maker. I can’t just locate the book at the moment but when I do I will post about it.

My girlfriend says she would like a bowl on her desk at work, so I kept one bowl from the weekend and tomorrow I hope to turn the foot.


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