Thursday, July 18, 2013

As the wheel turns: Throwing therapy.

I have a lot of work to complete.   Shelves of bisque ware need to be glazed and fired.   There’s shelves of green ware waiting to be underglazed and bisque.  When I went to throw this week, I had a lot of unfinished business on my mind.

It wasn’t all about the clay.

Nope.  A friend of mine’s dog was put to sleep a few days ago, a dog I helped to take care of for many years.  You can read more about it here.  A family member was hurt by the actions of a selfish and cruel person.  Again.  Another friend is having a difficult time.  It’s not me.  It’s not my pain.  But I feel it all the same. 

I was feeling sad and mad. 

I didn’t realize it at the time.  I just got out my clay, bats, water, sponges and prepared to throw.  I decided to get out just two 5-pounders not really knowing why at the time.  I usually throw a lot more clay in a session.  Maybe it was the filled shelves filling my mind.   I wasn’t sure.  I just sat down and turned on the wheel.  I threw a nice big bowl.   As always, I wanted it to be bigger but I remembered the last time I pushed the clay too far and ended up with a flopped bowl.  So I took that bowl off the wheel and set it aside.  

I had a hard time centering.

The next ball went on the bat and wobbled.  It had a bump and a bulge that didn’t seem to want to straighten out. I kept throwing anyway.  In my cupboard,  I have a roundish bowl that I bought a few years back that I use a lot.  It’s a good size and shape for salads but, I now know, it’s not a well thrown bowl.  I had that shape in my mind but it’s not a shape I normally throw.   None the less, in a few minutes, I had a bowl about that size and shape on my wheel. No bumps, bulges or wobbles.

Magic and mania happens.

It was amazing at first, to me, that I’d thrown it really without thinking.  But, alas, the mind decided to critique it and decided it was too thick and not big enough.  Can you predict what happened?  Sure you can.  Nice well rounded, good enough bowl turned into a flopped mess in no time.  Determined as ever, I tried to rescue it but it was too late.  Worst of all, I knew it was all my fault.

A different kind of throw down.   

Swearing, I took the bat off the wheel and threw it onto the concrete floor.  As it hit with a satisfactory thwap, I just sat there at the wheel.  Completely still, feeling the tears trickle down my cheeks, I stared at the bowl now turned into a plate.  And, other than the edge turned over on one side, it was not a bad plate.  A little convex where it needed to be concave, for sure, but it was even and a good size.  I sat and stared some more wondering if this was how someone a long time ago, discovered the plate? 

After my little breakdown, I had a breakthrough. 
Getting up from the wheel, I picked up the bat and just started to pull the edges up to the center.  It was rough and uneven and well, kind of fun.  I let myself play with the clay creating swirls and twists and a sculptural form appeared.  I could see some of my sculpted creatures residing inside.   I knew, though, that the form would never dry that way, so I put it back on the wheel and let myself play with it some more.  A bowl form emerged once more and the sides flopped again.   But this time, I just turned it upside down.   Maybe it’s not a bowl but a base for a sculpted piece.

Answers appear in the most mysterious ways.

Did I get the big bowl I wanted?  Yes, actually.  I did it the first time. I just didn’t see it.   Did I get the rounded bowl I thought I wanted?  No.  I got something better:  Emotional and physical therapy and a base for a sculpted piece.  Whoever said art isn’t therapy is crazy.   

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