this i believe

This I Believe | Consider the potential of pottery

October 5, 2013 

I believe in pottery.

Pottery is an art of possibilities, a perfect union of form and function.

While people create other types of art purely for decoration, ceramic art isn’t made to be hung on a wall. Rather, ceramics can be used for everything from storage to gardening to cooking to drinking.

Pottery adds an element of beauty to the most routine aspects of life. Drinking your morning coffee? It will probably look and taste better in a custom-made, wheel-thrown mug with a perfectly trimmed bottom and a marbled glaze.

I have always loved creating pots and learning new techniques, whether it’s hand-building, wheel throwing or just messing around with clay.

When I was in elementary school, I went to summer day camps at Creative Oasis art studio. We made collages, wire sculptures and paintings. We took photographs and created custom jewelry.

But my favorite activity at camp was always pottery.

The instructors gave us a tour around the pottery studio, and the variety of materials and equipment fascinated me immediately. The first demonstration of wheel throwing looked like magic. I watched, transfixed, as the clay whirled around on the wheel, stabilizing as the instructor forcefully centered it with her capable hands.

Once the form of the bowl began to take shape, I knew I needed to make one of my own.

Ceramic arts reward the persistent. It can take many tries to center the clay, to open the piece and to pull up the walls. It took me a week at camp to learn these first steps.

After several hasty attempts at opening up an off-centered lump and ending up with a handful of misshapen clay, I learned to be patient and steady. Once I had the basics down, I began producing. I spun out dozens of tiny bowls and cups from the wheel in the studio.

Though none was very beautiful or artful, I loved the feeling of creating something useful. I loved retrieving my bowls from the kiln and seeing how the glazes had changed during the firing.

I loved taking them home, and I always watched with pride when my mom put a snack in one of my bowls.

Unfortunately, Creative Oasis closed several years ago. I didn’t have another opportunity to make pottery again until last year, in high school, when I took a ceramics class and rediscovered the magic of pottery.

The class turns every monotonous afternoon into an exciting opportunity to make something beautiful, something functional yet artful.

While throwing pots on the wheel, I feel like a sorcerer, turning a lump of unassuming clay into a shapely vessel. When I hold a piece of clay in my hands, I consider its potential; that piece of clay could become a cereal bowl or an oversized mug or even a lidded jar.

To turn clay into art, all you need is a few basic techniques, some practice and the vision to see possibilities.

I believe in creating pottery.

Lauren Weiss lives in State College. Her essay aired Sept. 19 on WPSU.

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