It starts out as a good day at the wheel. The clay centers, the walls go up and out and a piece emerges. The bowl, plate or mug looks good. No obvious warping or wobbling. I sigh with satisfaction and carry the bats in to dry in the studio covered in plastic.
A day or two passes as the clay pieces dry to leather hard and ready for handles or trimming. That’s when good can go bad quickly. I find a bubble in the bottom when I’m trimming and instead of a nice even bottom, there’s a chink. Pulling the handle goes well, but attaching it turns into a wrestling match. And, of course, just as I’m about to get it all set, the dogs need to go out. I finally get all the handles and leaves on. But the next day, find multiple cracks and I know I have to start over.
“Know when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em.” The poker saying applies to clay and life.
I’ve had handles and hands and heads and feet all fall off. Only to decide that it’s going go back on no matter what. Then I get out my slip and vinegar and start patching and pasting away. Again. And again. And again. Most of the time, I get it all to work, all the way through to final glazing. Sometimes, it works for the bisque process and falls apart in the end.
One thing I know for sure, crack ups happen. Could be me, the clay, the weather, the kiln. The reason doesn’t really matter. What matters is how to handle it.
There’s stubborn determination and there’s trusting your gut. Which do you choose?
One I’m always asking myself. Maybe one day, I’ll know the answer.