Lately, I have been increasingly interested in learning how to make things with my hands, from scratch. Regardless of how ugly the finished product might turn out to be, there is something truly satisfying in looking at it and knowing it came from me, my imagination, my effort. Now, creating isn’t new to me, but creating with my hands is. Unlike writing a story or a poem, when you work with your hands you’re literally shaping whatever it is that you’re creating. You can actually feel it as it takes form. That’s pretty amazing! So this is what I’ve been doing the past two Wednesday nights–putting my hands and my imagination to work.
The first night we worked without the wheel, just hands. We were given a big, thick sheet of clay and sat in groups around a table to work on our mugs. I liked getting to sit in groups. We all worked individually and quietly for the most part, but it still felt like a team, a community. It was kind of like kindergarten–except there was less clay eating and fewer bathroom accidents.
The second night was all about the wheel which is completely different! You’re now bringing in this external force that is supposed to make things much easier, but if you’re not in tune with it, it can actually make it much harder. Although it sounds more mechanical, working with the wheel was more tactual. You really have to feel the movement of the clay to notice if something is right or wrong. You have to feel the thickness of the clay to determine how much pressure to use. Instead of looking down at what I was doing, I found it was easier to look straight ahead and just focus on what I felt. I loved the feel of the wet clay as it moved within my hands. It was soothing. Centering the clay and drilling a whole with your thumbs is the easy part; The hard part is raising the clay–but it is also the best part. It sounds silly but I was completely mesmerized when, during the demonstration, the instructor started lifting the walls of the clay. The clay was actually “growing” right in front of our eyes. It was like a magic trick.
I have three more Wednesday nights in the class. I’m looking forward to seeing how all my pieces will look in the end after the firing and the glazing :).