#87: How Easily They Wash Away

Pottery class, Week 2. Threw four bowls, or tried, at least. Tore one right off the wheel (did I not knead the clay enough beforehand?). Made the walls of another bowl too thin. Caught the side of a third with an errant hand while I was reaching to grab a board. Salvageable, but when I left the studio I forgot to put wrap the drying bowls in plastic. They may be too brittle when I go in this week. A supercut of every beginner mistake imaginable.

I’m just starting to get a feel for the kind of manual pressure I need in order to center the clay on the wheel, and I’m told this is the toughest thing to learn. That pinky-edge-of-hand-muscle is getting a little stronger. I also practiced trimming a bowl I threw last week. Used a tool with a metal loop on the end, conveniently called a Loop Tool. Even before I started this class I’d heard, I don’t remember where, that when you’re working with wet clay you want to focus on the shape of the inside. Now I know one reason why: You can much more easily trim the excess from the outside. Get that invisible solid right and you’re in much better, um, shape. It’s the same way with novels.

I’ve found in many places parallels to writing but never so much as here in front of the wheel. Words as a substrate are most like clay: not solid but not altogether intangible either. They both harden over time, both seem to be made of themselves (this is an imprecise statement, but the feeling is there). How easily they both, in their wet states, wash away. And the terror of publishing? A two-thousand degree kiln sounds about right.

In ceramics, they call it Heatwork.