For my sister’s recent milestone birthday, her sons and daughters-in-law bought her a pottery workshop for up to ten people at Fountain Square Clay Center. I was thrilled to accept the invitation to join in!
I had visions of creating a lovely piece of pottery to use for bonsai or a small houseplant. Maybe I would make a vase to keep by the kitchen sink to hold a few of the ever-changing flowers of the day from my garden?
The evening of the party arrived and we all gathered at the appointed time and place. We put on aprons made from old blue jeans, then we each grabbed one pound of clay and sat down at our pottery wheels.
First step. Center the clay on the wheel. With the wheel slowly spinning, I put my hands around my lump of clay and tried to get it so it didn’t wobble in my hands as it spun around. I’ll admit, I needed some help from the instructor who, within in a matter of a few seconds, shaped the clay into perfect symmetry.
Second step. Push down on the center of the clay with our thumbs to slowly create an opening in the clay. Once we got the opening to the right depth, we could than slowly push out on the clay to create a bowl. All was going well at this point until it wasn’t.
Third step. I missed the third step which is to stop before your clay bowl flops in spectacular fashion and becomes a spinning plate.
At this point, I’ll admit that I was the first one to have her clay flop. I opened the door. Broke the ice. I was first!
Fourth step. Take my big plate-shaped-blob of clay and throw it on the discard pile and start over. I was pleased to see that the pile was not small and I was not the first person who ever had to discard her blob of clay and start over.
Repeat with a new one-pound blob of clay, but this time I managed to stop in time to not end up with a flat plate of clay. Instead, as my niece across the way kindly pointed out, I ended up with a bowl that looked sort of like a lettuce leaf bowl. The instructor checked it out, pointed out where it might crack when fired in the kiln, but helped remove it from the wheel and said they would try to fire it in the kiln to see what happened.
Then I repeated the whole process again with my third, and final, one-pound blob of clay. This time, I am pleased to say that I think I might possibly have a decent bowl to display once it is fired and glazed.
I’ll know in two weeks when I pick up our creations—all kiln-dried and glazed— how my bowls, and everyone else’s, turned out.
I did learn some lessons along the way.
First, if you are going to fail, do so early on, do so publicly, and don’t let it ruin your evening. There is another blob of clay waiting for you! I like to think my failure made it easier for the others to fail since I was the first to do so! I like to think I set a good example.
Second, listen to the instructor. I think I was too eager to dive into my clay blob and didn’t hear all of the instructions clearly at first. If I had listened better, maybe I wouldn’t have had that first disastrous attempt?
Third, always try again. It would have been easy enough to stop after the first blob and watch the others magically spin their clay into beautiful bowls, and then beg one of them to give me one of their bowls. But what’s the fun of that?
And finally, it is more fun to try something new in a group and fail surrounded by family and friends. Others had their pottery attempts fail after I did. Misery loves company? Not exactly. More like we were all trying together and offering suggestions. We realized that not everything was going to be perfect. Failure is fine! Our imperfect bowls will be beautiful because we made them ourselves.
Will I try pottery again? I’m probably not going to sign up for a solo class but if someone invites me to another pottery party, I’ll definitely say yes.
Now at this point, I could relate this whole thing to gardening. How gardening and growing plants looks easy to some people and how sometimes people will try to grow an easy-to-grow plant and fail. How it is important to sow another seed, buy another plant and try again. How everything won’t turn out perfectly but your misshapen zucchini squash will always taste better than anything store-bought, etc.
But I’ll leave it to you to come up with those gardening analogies!
P.S. That piece of pottery in the picture was NOT one of our creations from last night. It is a little jugl that a niece or nephew once made for my mom. Since I was the distributor of all my mom’s things after she died, I ended up with this piece of pottery that no one seemed to want or claim. You know what I’m going to use it for? That’s right, I’m going to put it by my kitchen sink. It is the perfect size to hold a little flower or two from my garden.