The semester begins. Last Sunday, I returned to our snow-covered campus after a vacation with family, and was reunited with friends. On Monday morning, at 8:30 sharp, myself and six of my fellow students piled into a van, heading for a pottery studio, where we would spend the next two weeks. The first two weeks of the semester at Sterling College are a period called “intensive.” During this time, students take one class, all day, every day. By completing an intensive, students receive the same number of credits as if they had taken it throughout a semester. For this intensive, I chose to take a ceramics course. I have been doing pottery for eight years already, but that has mostly been self-taught, so I wanted to take the chance to experience a more structured learning environment. In the course, the two instructors, who are local artisans and educators, are helping me and the entire class to develop our work, and push our limits, while at the same time, supporting us each step of the way. On Friday, I made one of the largest pieces i’ve ere made. I had many doubts during the process of throwing the piece, but in the end, it turned out successfully, and I was encouraged to continue to try new things. At first, it was a struggle.
For those unfamiliar, the first step of making pottery is centering the piece of clay on the potters’ wheel. The biggest challenge was learning how to center a larger piece of clay, because it requires more force and different technique. I started with eight pounds of clay, which is twice as much as I had used before.
After two failures, I successfully threw a bowl that was six inches tall.
I repeated this size and form a few times, until I felt comfortable going bigger. As the week progressed, I was astonished, both to see that I was capable of not just making forms that were bigger, but that my level of craftsmanship was even higher on the larger forms, than on the smaller pieces I started with.
By making large, wide forms, I was able to focus on the small details, and had more margin for error. As I first progressed into the territory of larger forms, the walls of the pieces were thicker than I would have liked. However, after hours upon hours of practice,I began to accomplish my goals, and created symmetrical pieces, with thin walls.
Would you like to have a look inside our Pottery Studio? Click here to see some photographs…