Thursday, May 3, 2012

Beginnings and endings: From mud to porcelain.

The transformation amazes me every time. Clay starts out as earth. You wedge it. Throw it. Trim it. Paint it with under glaze, oxides or colored slips. Heat it and cool it. Color it again with glaze. Heat it up again and cool it again. And that dull, drab lump of mud becomes colorful, strong porcelain.

This week, I finally finished glazing a dozen mugs, bowls, a few little vases and spoon holders. The next morning, I fired up the kiln on one side of the garage. Then I went to work on the wheel on the other side. After I threw a couple of vases and a jar, I trimmed the bowls from last week. As I worked on making new pieces, I waited for my timer to tell me to turn up the heat in the kiln to finish the other pieces.

I always thought that throwing in the cold garage while the kiln was hot would make it more comfortable for me. But that didn’t seem to be the case. I’ll admit. My throwing was a little thrown off and I wasn’t sure why. Later, after I’d cleaned up outside, had lunch and taken a shower, I realized what was going on.

Firing a glaze load is the completion of a creative cycle. Throwing is the beginning.

Usually when I’m firing, I don’t throw. I clean up or write. In other words, I give myself that day to acknowledge the completion of a body of work. It’s in the kiln, now, and it’s time to let go. Letting go is not something I do easily. I worry. I hope. I pray that all my work will come through the final firing process in one piece. And that the glazes will turn out better than I hoped when I was painting, pouring or dipping. I may have a kiln sitter to decide when the firing is complete. But I wait, watch, peer anxiously through the peep hole.

As the kiln fired, I had a hard time centering my clay on the wheel. My pulling was off on every piece. Instead of pulling straight up, the clay was off to one side and had to be corrected. Each piece was literally leaning toward my left. The kiln was sitting across the garage to my left.

I was not centered on my wheel. I was centered on my kiln. And all my fears of letting go were spinning out on my wheel. Endings and beginnings can be hard, especially if they happen at the same time. Glaze firing days are cleaning up days not throwing days.

Now I see. Endings and beginnings need to be honored on their own.

Seeing this clean, empty shelf as an opening and an opportunity to begin again. One day at a time.

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