August 1, 2011 § Leave a comment

It has been a thought-provoking couple of weeks. My workshop is up and running, as far as throwing is concerned, and is functioning well, and I love being in my cellar. I have no clock, telephone or radio down there. I weigh out my balls of clay, set them up on the edge of my wheel and throw. Before I got the wheel, I didn’t know how I would take to the discipline, routine and rhythm of being at the wheel, how I would react when the process of learning became frustrating and hard.

The process of teaching yourself is hard, and frustrating; I have certainly found it so these past couple of weeks. I have been working on the same form, the beaker, trying to get it right. It is a simple looking form but deceptively so. The issues came because I kept making the same mistakes over and over again. This is what I mean about teaching yourself. A little look over my shoulder by someone with experience would, I’m sure, have remedied the mistakes in no time. I spent days with the same weight of clay, throwing repeatedly and each time the same mistakes would arise.

The main issue, the top drawing in this picture, which I just couldn’t seem to fix, was the bulging walls at the bottom of the beaker. It happened every single time, day after day. I cut each one in half trying to work out what was going wrong.

It meant that I worked and worked each form until I killed it. I spent several hours watching clips of people throwing on youtube; and that, as always, was a big help. I tried different ways of pulling (for example, keeping my inside finger still inside the pot and pulling the outside finger up it. This kind of worked but I knew it wasn’t the correct way of doing it.), different ways of opening up the centred clay, until I began to find something that worked. All the time I could see that there were very small improvements but I kept making the same mistakes.

Today, though, it began to come together and of the 30 balls of clay that I threw not one of them bulged at the bottom. The problem was in the end so simple: I was pulling out at the bottom and not up. I thought I was pulling up but I wasn’t. This is a major triumph! I also managed to get rid of the excess clay in the bottom corners and pull it up without ruining the form.

And, with the last one of the day, I even managed to throw it to a gauge (I put the gauge up three beakers previously).

There is a lot to be said for teaching yourself, for having to work out a problem, for having to persevere. I have learnt a tremendous amount that I wouldn’t have learnt if someone had simply told me how to do it.  There is a thrill in struggling with something and eventually being able to find a way through; I certainly felt that thrill when that last beaker came up to the gauge.

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