Pottery classes have recently become an anchor to my weeks. On Friday nights, I show up and throw, or mold, or trim, or glaze. Or maybe a bit of everything. In three hours, you probably wouldn’t think I accomplish a lot. A creativity high was reached a few weeks ago, when I threw five things in one session. But what I make isn’t the always the sum total of what I accomplish in that class.
Somewhere between walking in and walking out, I unwind. From work. From life. From all the questions I don’t have answers to. From the things I can’t seem to put down, even when I know carrying them is just wasted energy. I can’t pinpoint the moment. Does it start at the wedging table? Or when I’m elbow-deep in clay-splatter at the wheel? [I'm not the neatest artist to have ever thrown. A unlikely fact perhaps, given the general smallness of my pieces, but somehow I think you're not surprised?] But I lose myself a bit, and time disappears. I’m not entirely sure I’m talented, but I do know I have to be creative in some facet. It sustains me in a way that I’m still learning to articulate. To not be apologetic for, when caught out in my little hobby. And, I leave from there, a little lighter. Exhausted. But lighter. I sleep easier on those nights.
I’ve taken two sessions at the art center now, and have been welcomed into the core group of stalwart throwers who regularly attend throughout the year. And, truly, they are as much a part of the reason why I feel the way I do when I’m done, as the clay. I value their company, and their insights. “Bethany, don’t pet your pot!” one chides, gently but firmly; when I’m tempted to break a cardinal rule, and touch a wet piece without the wheel spinning. She was right, and my first-ever mug gives thanks for her timely intervention. So I watch, and I learn. I ask questions, and I learn.
While perusing the Instant Gallery at the American Association of WoodturnersNational Convention, with my aunt and uncle this weekend, I had a thought. [Well, several, actually. But I think it can be distilled downwards into the essence of one cohesive thought.] Seeing these beautiful pieces of varying sizes, shapes, and color (is it really so easy to forget the myriad of colors and patterns wood can take on??), parallels could be drawn between my uncle’s return to woodturning and my own to pottery.
He showed me a box he had made. A tiny, exquisite thing of painstaking detail, with a lid so seamless … And told me the story of a woman he’d met at one of his association meetings. A recognized woodturner in her own right, who regularly makes tiny, exquisite boxes that sell for thousands of dollars, she had donated one of her boxes for a raffle, and he had won it. And used it to learn from – to inspire him.
This sounds not unfamiliar to how the creativity and talent of my classmates have worked on me, and my own efforts. I like these moments. When I realize what it is I’m actually doing. But more than that, it was nice to connect with my uncle over that shared form of learning. To find another thing to be inspired by.