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Self Nurturing: Working The Clay

Many years ago, perhaps in 1981 or 1982, I treated myself to a short course in pottery.  I was living in London at the time and worked in the area called The City.  This is the financial district where all the major banks have their head offices and various supporting financial institutions and the London Stock Exchange are also located there.

An adult education program was being offered in a school near my office and one of the classes on the evening schedule was pottery.  I have always had artistic inclinations and loved indulging my creative side.  The course was only six weeks long and, because it was being offered within the City education system, the cost was very low.  Pottery was one area of the arts that I had not tried and so I enrolled.

As soon as I touched the wet clay I was hooked.  There is something both soothing and sensual about working with clay.  I am a very tactile, hands-on type person so I was in my element.  By the end of the first class I already had two pieces made and ready to dry.  I could barely wait till the following week when we made another, slightly more complicated piece and also glazed our first work. 

Upon returning to the third class I was ecstatic.  There on a table sat two items with my name printed neatly on a label in front of them.  They looked like something that I would buy in a store.  They looked professional.   One was a flat, rectangular, plate-size dish with a slightly raised, inch-wide border that I had glazed in a deep burgundy red overlaid with a black speckle effect. 

The other was an eight inch tall cylindrical container with a lid that had a small loop handle on top.  This I had glazed in a soft grey-blue that was slightly mottled in effect, even allowing hints of light green here and there.  I had engraved the letter “R” in this piece because I had made it as a gift for my mother.  It sits upon my hearth today.

I made several other pieces over the course of the six-week class.  I gave them as gifts to my family members for Christmas.  But the class finished all too quickly and nothing more was offered.  I researched several other adult schools but found no more pottery classes.  I felt as though I had eaten an appetizer and was still hungry for more – lots more. 

Years went by and I moved back to Italy and life took a totally different turn.  I remarried and started a second family at age forty and got a little lost in child rearing and home making.  Years passed, other activities filled my life and I forgot about pottery until recently the hunt for a gift for a friend took me to a small art gallery and there was the sign:  Pottery Class – any level, come and have fun.

I signed up in a heart beat and two weeks ago went to my first evening of working the clay again.  It was as though I had never stopped touching this marvelous material.  Clay is so malleable, so soft, so giving and forgiving. If something doesn’t go quite the way you expect, you just wet it down and start over.  My heart was singing and I shaped and designed and created until my joy was on overload!

We used three different techniques and created three different bowls.  Each one was very unique in shape and finished design.  One was very smooth on the exterior but we cut out flower and leaf pieces and put them on rather like an appliqué.  On another we engraved whatever pattern we desired.  On the third one, which was very open and shallow, we created a textured finish on the top side and left it smooth underneath.

Tonight we went back to glaze our pieces.  So many colors and finishes to choose from!  I made each one different, but somehow either the color mauve or eggplant seemed to make its way somewhere onto each piece.  My soul was very happy by the end of the evening.  Now I just have to be patient.  Our teacher will fire our pieces in the kiln tomorrow and they will be ready for pick-up on Saturday.

This was just a two-evening class.  But before I left I spoke with the teacher.  More classes are coming up and she is hoping to offer them on a regular basis.  Thank you God, I need this kind of soul food.  My creative muse needs nurturing on a regular basis.