Tue 10 Oct 2006
All weekend my thumb, of its own accord, kept reaching over to my ring finger like a dog going to the window waiting for its owner to arrive. Every time, it was disappointed. That’s because my wedding and engagement rings were in the pocket of my giraffe-print apron, stuffed in a cubby at the pottery studio. I can’t wear the rings when I’m throwing things on the wheel because they get hopelessly gobbed up with clay and because they are prone to cause unsightly divots on the pot itself. I tuck the rings into my pocket until it’s time to go, and every day except Friday, I’ve remembered to put them back on. This time I had to spend the weekend bare-fingered.
When I arrived on Monday and plucked them from their pocket, the waves of relief tempted me put them on anyway, divots or no, gobs or no. My wiser head (I keep it inside my main head, no one can see it) prevailed and I put them back in the pocket for the duration.
Today was an important day, because my month of rented time, space, and equipment was about to run out. I had sixteen pounds of clay to get through and not a moment to lose. Mostly I’d spent the month throwing two pound bowls, trying to get sets of bowls that are roughly approximate. The clay I’d used most of the time was some stubborn mix of grit and slick that had a very strong sense of self. That is, it liked where it was and what it was doing, and refused to budge without very strong persuasion. My palms would sometimes bleed as I used the symmetry and pressure of my body to center a lump of clay on the wheel. I’d grit my teeth and force it into submission. The good thing about it was that once you got it to behave, it would stick the way you had put it, with great personal integrity. No leaning, no slouching, no messing around behind your back. It was hard to get a thin wall or a smooth, non-sandy interior, but by golly it wasn’t going to forget it was a bowl.
I really didn’t like that clay at all, and so for the new batch I went with Sonoran white, which felt like cream cheese by comparison. This clay was submissive and amenable to instruction, but I quickly found that I couldn’t give it one direction, and then change my mind halfway through. It just didn’t have the resilience to go with the flow. If I tried to push it too far too fast, it would collapse in a slimy, quivering heap, and I’d have to send it away to a plaster slab to recuperate. But if I was careful, I’d get so much more out of it in much less time. Slim-walled, steep-sided bowls just grew off the wheel. I almost forgot how bored I was of two-pound bowls.
As I lined up one wet bowl after another, I acquired a small audience of homeschoolers aged one to sixteen, who were there to do a project with the resident potter. They mostly kept to themselves, inspecting my rising walls only as they walked back and forth to the sink, but later, a little straw-haired girl with black charcoal all over her elbows and knees (where had she been crawling?) held up her newest prize: “Look! It’s an egg! I found it in that straw over there and my mom says I can eat it for breakfast.” She introduced herself as Madison, and pointed out that her egg wasn’t shaped like other eggs. It was more oval, with some points at the ends. “That’s an ellipse,” I told her. She nodded and then replied that it was a good thing her dad wasn’t here, because he didn’t like eggs, or chickens, or any animal except pteradactyls. By now she was following me around the property as I checked on things, holding the egg out in front of her, perched carefully in her cupped hands. “Your dad only likes animals that no longer exist?” I asked. She guessed so. Oops, it was time to load up the homeschool minivan, and she took her leave. “Enjoy the egg,” I said. All in all, a good day at the studio.