Last night was the final night of my “learning to throw” ceramics class. The class was a gift from a good friend. She and I have spent the last six weeks meeting in Manchester each Tuesday evening, connecting over a quick dinner and a glass of beer and then descending into the basement of the school building for 3 hours of wheel work. What a treat!
Throwing clay is an interesting business. It requires concentration and letting go, strength and gentleness, control and trust. Plop a big hunk of clay into the middle of a spinning wheel (not too fast, not too slow), use your sponge, squeeze some water onto the clay to make the surface slippery. Breathe a couple of deep, centering breaths and relax. Gently set your hands around the wobbly mass, relax your shoulders, set your elbows against your side, your knees against the wheel and gently, with care, press your hands to the clay allowing it to center itself by conforming to the shape of your hands. Breathe. Relax. You can’t bully the clay into the center. It has to want to be there. You are there to gently suggest to it, to whisper in its ear, to trust that it will know what to do.
You can feel when it is right. You can feel the clay slide inside the cave of your hands, working with you. It is a peaceful feeling with a sense of rightness.
I took this class as a way to “recharge my batteries” or fill the creative well. I needed to do something physical that had nothing to do with printmaking or painting or drawing. I needed to move my hands and my body and to move out of my printing mind into my artists mind.
When my programming students face a problem that they can’t solve, I know that no amount of staring at the screen will help them find an answer. I tell them – walk away, take a nap, go for a swim or a bike ride. Take your mind for a drive so that when you return, you will see the problem in a new light. This class was my midnight drive in the convertible with the top down. I smelled the fresh night air, let my hair blow in the wind and parked by the shore for the moonrise.
The next step? I go into the studio and clean. I create an ordered space and layout my inks by color. I select a plate, wander around the house, and eventually, I’ll wander back into the studio to print.