Monday, 7 September 2009

on the other hand

in order to prevent my brain turning into something like this
and to remind myself how it feels to be an utter novice
i signed up to a class in porcelain bowl making
the JamFactory in South Australia
i spent an afternoon there
this last weekend
being reminded how it is to be a student
watching the master demonstrate something deceptively simple
and then attempting myself to get a feel for conjuring a bowl from what is essentially a lump of mud
at the end of four hours i had six slightly misshaped vessels
which on Japanese principles should have been tossed into the pugmill for recycling

you know, to make a teabowl you first have to throw 999 of them away

it was good to turn the 'teachermouth' off
to listen and observe
to wedge some clay
form a ball

attempt at centering it on the wheel
getting oneself centered in the process
and be reminded of the difference in the hands

the right one works better at pulling a pot
the left one is much better when pinching a vessel
oddly the left is also my felting hand
while the fountain pen has made a home in my right
sewing is ambidextrous

for the next five weeks [with the odd break to allow for other commitments]
i shall be beavering away at the Jamfactory
Saturday afternoons smoothing silky seductive silica surfaces ['clay' didn't fit in that sentence]

as a bonus there may be a few bowls to take home at the end
for teatime in the studio
Gwyn Pigott and Petrus Spronk can sleep easy

i'm undertaking a journey
learning about the process of learning
and on the way
collecting some lovely pre-mordants on my clothing


  1. It is so very fun, I think too, to learn something new that you thought might be easy. Finding that every thing really does have it's own eye-hand co-ordination and learning curve.
    I love the thought of needing to be centered, in every way!
    I love the idea/promise of being humbled again and again.
    I'm sure your pugmill was full of treasures! Happy squishing!

  2. Sometime ago, a time of passage was soothed by working with clay for earthenware bowls. An oasis in the turmoil. I then dreamed of the feel of wet clay slipping beneath my hands on the wheel.

  3. Remember the Japanese philosophy of wabi sabi-- imperfections are beauty.

  4. what can I say, but welcome to the journey of bowl making,where the most important part is the empty space inside and the ability to create a bowl which takes you on a journey which looks both inward and outward. Happy traveling.

  5. I remember the Japanese philosophy of wabi sabi and that imperfections not are but have the potential for beauty, but not to be used as an excuse for bad craftsmanship

  6. thank you for your advice Petrus - this is indeed in many ways a small journey about the big space within
    a sidestep of sorts
    but by no means a diversion from that which remains my main purpose - story telling in words and in cloth

  7. Learning a different artform so often feeds ones chosen medium, bringing fresh ideas and new perspectives too. I find it often jolts me out of the same old groove. Enjoy!

  8. Ha. I started as a potter and am now a felter. There is some connection between these two crafts. I know many felters or textile people who used to be potters. "Spooky" I still have a strong pull to the form of pottery, The lift from the foot, the generosity of the shape, that ahh moment. I still have very fond memories of my teacher, Max Tychsen sadly no longer with us, and his wild passion for his craft.

  9. Learning new skills is a sometimes overwhelming, but always a rewarding time. Inspiration comes from many forms.

    I would love to see your finished products when you are done.


  10. Only 993 to go! How wonderful to experience the learning side, the student side. Yes, please photos at some point!

  11. must write at greater length
    must write at greater length
    must write at greater length
    must write at greater length
    must write at greater length

    Ugh! all that dirt under yor nails...

  12. yes did occur to me that when making felt bowls there's that sense of malleability and moulding - except that the felt needs to be pushed out whereas the clay needed to be pulled. but there's definitely a link. i found to that it was a lot like milking a cow, because the minute a thought OTHER than the task at hand wandered into the headspace, things started to dance off sideways.
    when one is milking a cow one can ONLY have cow thoughts in ones head because cows notice and stop letting down the minute one is distracted

    twisted, honey, i ain't got no fingernails to speak of anyway...

    and thanks everyone for the very kind noises and pearls of enlightenment

  13. i love the wandering off that leads to dance off sideways. have never milked me a cow yet the message of distraction comes through clear and sound.

    thanks for the delighting way you seat yourself as novice and get your stories telling.


  14. I so miss throwing!... Recently i've been contemplating getting hold of a wheel and kiln from somewhere (but expensive)... I did an apprenticship when I was younger and loved everything to do with clay.... there is something so satisfying about conjuring something from nothing..or nothing from something. and I love the earthy smells and the collection of tools, which you get so protective over... oooohhh... for a lottery win!
    Good luck, can't wait to see some beautiful objects :-)

  15. I'm so happy for you! I'm been daydreaming about taking a ceramics class in my neighborhood for years.

    But tonight i AM starting another class, one which i'm very very excited about!