12 Weeks of Pottery

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I FINALLY secured a spot in a pottery class in Portland, which, if you live here, know is a feat. Studios are brimming with people and it’s hard to worm your way in.

It all came back like riding a bike and honestly, I was much more skilled this time than when I last had a membership (2015-16). I wonder if years spent thinking about throwing pottery helped.

In this class, you get 20 firing slips and I used all but one. I also blew through two bags of clay and had access to lots of surface design options like under glazes and slips.

I made 3 plates. I’d like to eventually replace what’s in my kitchen cabinets with more like this. One is still at the studio as I missed the last pickup window before the holiday.

And 4 bowls. Only one is really nice (pictured on the left). The wheel I used during class had some really loose bat pins that caused some really wonky pots. I bought a bat mate, which helped, but then I tried throwing with partially dried, used clay I poorly wedged which led to more wonkyness. I am proud of being able to boss not perfect clay into usable forms.

The theme this session was definitely plants. I made 9 pots and several already have new tenants. I really enjoyed playing with the studio’s green slip on these.

This one was very warped that my instructor encouraged me to play with. I’d like to explore this technique more next session.

I also made two mugs. The green one is slightly too heavy, it was one of the first things I made and I didn’t go as hard trimming as I should have.

I’m taking another 12-week course and then I’m going to evaluate where I want to go from there. Might take the hybrid hand-building and throwing class, or I might get on the monthly membership wait list.

Ceramic Quilts by Joanna Poag

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Wowwee. The damn algorithm finally got something right and served up these works of art last week.

This is an appreciation post for Joanna, who has smooshed together two of my favorite art forms – ceramics and quilts. They are stunning and you should see them and maybe buy one. I did.

Where Billow Meets Billow, 2022
Semi-Infinite Clouds, 2022
Detail of Hera’s Milk, 2022
A Ray of Light Refracted, 2022 (purchased left)
Detail of Convergence, 2022
Circadian Rhythms on an Empty Bed, 2022

Pottery + Ceramics as Therapy

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Over the past few weeks, I’ve been doing a lot of purging of stuff. Maybe it’s the new year, maybe it’s my making practice, maybe it’s my partner (aside from his books and instruments, he lives a pretty minimal lifestyle). It’s definitely a combination of factors, but the making practice I’ve cultivated since teaching myself to sew in late 2014 has really influenced how I feel about stuff.

Making things with your hands feels so good. And wearing and using things you’ve made feels awesome. Empowering. Dope.

So I got rid of a lot of stuff. A lot. Like a car-full. The haul consisted mostly of things I hadn’t made but did include a few early makes that just weren’t my jam anymore. I thought about selling the good stuff, but the time commitment involved in that made me feel like everything would just end up back in my closet. So out it (almost) all went. The local thrift store got a whole lot of Anthropologie sweaters circa 2011-13.

First mug I made that didn’t weight a thousand pounds.

My closet now consists of handmade garments, ethically sourced and saved up for pieces, and secondhand. I think I’ll talk more about that in another post.

The purging and organization bonanza later made its way into my making space, which led me to realize I needed a way to view some of my favorite me-made ceramics. They had been previously hidden (yet still functional) in an IKEA RASKOG utility cart next to my sewing table.

They all hold making tools that I want quick access to, but I wanted them to also be showcased. So I bought a little plank of wood, spray paint and some pegboard accessories and VOILA. Now they’re in my face when I’m sitting at the sewing machine. I also made the hanging planter on the top left of the first picture. Good feels.

During purge-fest 2018, I listened to the Love To Sew podcast and learned about the Sewing Makes You Love Yourself challenge. Its goal is to highlight how sewing can make you love your own body and how therapeutic and healing the practice can be. And it’s true for me – sewing helped me get through the absolute dumpster fire year that was 2016, but so did drawing and pottery. So I’m changing things up a bit and declaring that making things with your hands makes you happy/love yourself. Not quite as catchy…

Pottery was my therapy during loss. I took an introductory 6-week wheel throwing class in February of 2016. I signed up because our 4 year old dog became mysteriously sick and we had to put him down mid-January. It was awful. And an empty couch on Saturday mornings was unbearable.

I picked pottery because I’d driven past the studio many times, it was something I enjoyed doing as a child/teen, and it seemed just the right amount of challenging to distract me from my sadness.

It worked. 6 weeks turned into over a year of weekly hours spent at the studio. Yes, I still cried a whole lot, but the public crying almost stopped and I didn’t hate my empty couch as much.

During that year and some change, I took the introductory class twice (I really liked my instructor and it’s HARD), a jewelry making class in which I made giant weird things my instructor wasn’t too fond of, and then did several 3 month memberships, which gave me a shelf for my stuff and unlimited access to the studio.

I also became friends with a fellow K-12 art teacher who was taking the class to inform her teaching. We don’t have the set up at my school for ceramics and I hated my job during the 2016-17 year, so the class was ALL FOR ME.

Taking any kind of a making class is such a good way to meet people if you’re new to a location, or just lonely.

Naturally sewing made its way in to my ceramics and I tried to make pattern weights. They were cool in concept and appearance, but definitely need some refinements for function. I believe these ended up in the donation pile…

All the stuff that didn’t get glazed because of my car.

I had to stop my membership after my car was totaled in early 2017. I had every intention of starting back up once school let out for the summer and I had recovered some of my savings that was obliterated by a surprise necessary car purchase. It didn’t happen, BUT this summer I WILL pick it back up. Therapy is expensive, but I’m worth it.