Friday, November 18, 2005

Mud --> Bottle

I saw literally the most amazing thing I have ever seen in my entire life the other night:

I saw a woman take a hunk of mud and make it into a bottle with nothing but her two hands.

If you have never seen pottery in action, which I hadn't before, you really can't appreciate the magical quality of this undertaking. The potter literally takes a hunk of dirt, tosses it on a spinning wheel, and then makes it rise and fall in answer to her hands. My teacher does this effortlessly, with no mess whatsoever. She began with a hunk of stoneware clay and literally five minutes later had a round-bodied, small-necked bottle, perfectly symmetrical and ready for a cork to be popped in the top.

I mean, it's not like woodworking where you start with boards. She started with mud. Just mud! It gives all those passages in the Bible where God is a potter and making people/things from clay entirely new meaning. I mean, mud can seriously be turned into the most amazing things! And watching clay thrown on the potter's wheel is the closest thing to magic I have ever seen.

Not that I'm any good at it. When I sit down at the wheel, clay and water tend to fly in all directions, and my things end up off-center or just plain tip over. Sometimes I press too hard and knock them over. Mostly I don't press hard enough because wow is clay hard to work. I'm going to have arms like an Olympic weightlifter by the end of this class from trying to shove the clay into submission. And you have to push in every imaginable direction at once - one hand pushes out, the other pushes in so you don't go too far out; in-pushing hand guides the clay up while the out-pushing hand holds the top of it down so it doesn't get too skinny. Follow all that? Now the clay is spinning at the speed of light (well, close to it) and there's all these other things you have to be doing, like adding water and smoothing things out and not soaking your fellow students with flying water or conking them on the noggin with clay.

Despite my clumsy neophyte skills, I have managed to produce a few vessels that look like actual plates and cups and bowls and vases. A few. But this is the killer part - I made them out of mud. Mud! And now they can go in the dishwasher! I honestly can't think of anything quite so miraculous. Mud turning into a cup that can go in the dishwasher. Mud becoming an actual vase that doesn't leak. Mud! It's just mud! And now it's stuff! Useful stuff, even!

I have a sneaking suspicion I'm going to be coming back to pottery class again after this semester is over. Every time my teacher sits down and, with a minimum of muss and fuss, creates a beautiful vessel out of nothing more than clay, I think, "Man, I want to do that."

And I attack the wheel again.

One day, I am going to turn mud into a bottle.

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