Thursday, January 25, 2007

Random thoughts on Wheel-throwing

For the last two years, I have worked nearly exclusively with handbuilding. I've handbuilt my pottery, and have assisted in handbuilding classes. Because I felt that it was time to become re-acquainted with the wheel, I decided to assist in a wheelthrown class this semester.

Teaching others to throw has made me think a lot about what it takes to change a lump of clay into an aesthetically pleasing (one hopes) vessel.

Among beginning students, the biggest challenge that I've seen is simply holding still. The clay obstinately pushes against the hand and makes the arm bump back and forth. Sometimes a student will decide to push back hard, and end up throwing the lump off the other direction. When this happens, the spinning lump gathers force and pushes back even harder the next time around. It is easy to explain--yet so hard for new students to do-- to brace their elbow against their thigh, their hand against the clay, exert an even pressure, and just hold still. The entire body must be tensed, calm, and very still.

It occurred to me tonight that centering clay is a lot like parenting. With my daughter, when I get distracted or busy or lazy, I find myself being "bumped around". Whenever I get frustrated and push too hard, it always comes back to bite me. But when I can be steady, calm, and "still", things go so much better for the both of us.

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