Journal

At time of writing I have yet to attempt throwing a pot on either of my new wheels. The first cost £19 (above), the second a full size one was £140. The reasons behind that are numerous but I’m full of trepidation over it for while I have attempted to throw pots on a few occasions, I’ve really only had one success which was this one, my first which I did at a craft fair.

The thrown pot that got me started

I took it home, made it look pretty and signed up for a course where it was eventually fired and glazed. I’m amazed it even survived the journey of getting home. The main problem I have had with throwing pots is centering the clay on the wheel. The Chinese for centuries have had apprentices who do nothing else for two years to perfect just that and nothing more.

In my evening classes over the years it’s emerged that some fellow students are like me, not naturals when it comes to throwing while others are and get it basics from the start. I’m not sure if I’m in the ‘absolutely hopeless’ category or if I’m in the ‘with practise will manage it’ yet but I intend to find out very soon.  

My very first course in pottery was actually before the craft fair. Again an evening class but one I didn’t enjoy and didn’t finish anything on. Like most folk coming to pottery for the first time I just wanted to have a go at throwing as it tends to be perceived as the coolest and most practical form. Unfortunately the tutor refused to let anyone do so and I didn’t grasp what the course was offering instead so I sulked not least because the tutor was a rather grumpy sod which was definitely not what I’d signed up for.

Happily that was decades ago and all subsequent courses were led by kind, helpful, friendly, considerate tutors with a passion for teaching and oodles of enthusiasm for pottery. As a result I regard my course as a one off and rare encounter with tutor who was most likely only doing it to help to pay his bills or debts.  

From various pottery festivals and shows it’s very much the norm to meet enthusiasm among potter’s of all levels of learning and skill and you can all too quickly find yourself buzzing with ideas of things to try to the point of getting overloaded as I have on many occasions. There seems to be a unifying quality about clay that is Seldom matched by other media perhaps because it’s a tactile process from start to finish.

Pot made using a mixing bowl as a mould and decorated with pottery stains

So what can you learn on an introduction to pottery course, if it’s not how to throw a pot? What if you find you are hopeless at it? What on earth can you make? Well I’ll tell you. Anything and everything you like. After all you can’t throw a cube on a wheel nor make sculpture, nor anything three dimensional with angular sides but you can make something round without a wheel like this one, which, when I shared it with Keith on Twitter he correctly identified as a handbuilt pot, i.e not thrown. Darn it, I was hoping he wasn’t going to be able to tell from a poor photo alone but then he is rather more experienced than me.    

Building by hand quickly became a passion and, I suspect will be in the main all I’ll be blogging about in the weeks to come. I hope you’ll join me as I recount my journey of learning all about clay. One final thing to add before my first practical blog, if you work with clay, keep a notepad. I didn’t initially but as time went on it soon became essential as aside from health and safety issues, results are always unpredictable. From glazes, to clay types (called bodies) to firings nothing will come out as planned ever if you don’t take note of what happens to them from previous experiences. From mistakes you want to avoid, to surprises you want to repeat working with clay mirrors life that way. Hope you take it up, if you never tried it. Next pottery blog, next Tuesday where I’ll begin with my muddy recollection of my first lesson… Tempting Tiles

Four of my later tile experiments