One of those days
Updated: Sep 2, 2019
Today was one of those days when nothing seems to work out at the studio.
I stopped by after leaving the office to trim some previously thrown porcelain tumblers, and after finishing those, a switch flipped and it was failure after failure for the rest of the session.
I’m not all that upset about it. Kind of surprising, right? It was to me. I felt frustration in the moment, sure, but as I cleaned up, walked to the subway, and commuted home, I had time to reflect on each thing that happened. By the time I walked through the door I was pretty pleased with the choices I made and the attitude I practiced this evening.
First, I poked a hole in the bottom of a pitcher I was trying to trim. After patching the hole up, I re-centered the piece on the wheel to take off more excess clay from the sides. This time, it flew off the wheel, banged up against the splash pan, and became so deformed that I had to give up on the piece entirely and recycle the clay.
Upon reflection: Once you poke a hole through the bottom of a piece, it’s pretty much a goner. Patching that hole was a risky last ditch effort that had a low probability of success. I did it because I wasn't ready to let go of that piece, but then my hand was forced. If the patch failed only after I’d fired the pitcher, all of that clay would have to be discarded. Better to have cut my losses while I could still recycle and remake.
Next, I attempted to wedge the porcelain trimmings and use them to throw something. I could tell it wasn't the right consistency but I powered through, attaching a bat to the wheel and getting myself set up. Once I got started, I quickly realized it wasn’t going to work and decided to switch gears. Instead of trying to throw something, I’d use the wheel to make the clay more homogenous by coning up and bringing it back down several times. Then I'd put it back in my bag for next time.
Upon reflection: When I decided to switch from throwing to wheel wedging, I did so with the feeling of "ah, yes, I thought this would happen." Pottery teaches you to listen to your gut. It took me a minute, but I got there, and I ultimately faced the fact rather than fight it.
Finally, when switching to throwing with speckle clay, a lower-than-normal chair and clay that was too dry made for a frustrating combination. Hard clay meant that I’d have to expend more energy with each move, and the lower seat meant I didn’t have the right leverage to do so.
Upon reflection: I changed stools after a while, something I should have done earlier. But still, the clay was too hard and I felt both body and mind growing tired. The benefit of wrestling over and over with too hard clay is that it gains moisture each time you center, pull, and re-wedge to try again. I was able to bring a big hunk of this softer clay home to hand build with tonight.
I cleaned up after nearly two hours with no new pieces to show for it. A session like today's? Let's call it practice.