In 1969 I began to really start working with clay. I had always been an art student - whether from an instructor or Nature as my teacher, but clay was different. Clay was three dimensional... it felt wonderful in my hands. It smelled really musty and earthy. And I found that I could influence and direct it's shape and form, well, at least to some extent. Clay was my friend and a solitary companion at an age and stage of my life when I sought to be alone.
As did most beginning potters, I started out trying to control the clay. I was very strong for a teenage girl and was able to bully the clay into submission part of the time anyway... but only to have the pieces I'd worked so hard on, demanding perfection of, either explode in the kiln, or, warp out of shape with no explanation!
That's right, I was born a control-freak - through and through... Probably why I've never had a drink, never smoked (cigarettes OR pot) and never did drugs. Hard to believe isn't it, considering that I graduated in 1969. I admit to being a bit boring... but a control freak doesn't allow anything to have control over them, and that included mastering the clay on the wheel. Me vs. centrifugal force.
I was soon able to throw on the wheel with ease. But something was missing... I was also studying Zen in my philosophy classs. I new there was a conflict in my method of throwing... although the pieces were quite nice and any size or shape that I chose... I felt unsatisfied with the results, part of the "circle" was missing.
I would say that it took over 25 years of making beautiful pots, despite my not knowing the "secret", to finally grow enough to give up forced control while throwing.
I don't even know how it happened. One day I just went to my wheel and sat down and "threw". I didn't argue with my clay. I allowed it to show me the way. I had been very peaceful while wedging the clay and the good 'soft' feeling continued while making the entire piece. It's form was unexpected, I'd never made that shape before, never even thought about it. The clay actually was molding me. Could this be the beginning of sharing? Cooperating? Give and take? .... allowing? .... All of the above were foriegn to me.
I looked at that first "harmony pot" for many days. Turned it around and looked at it from all directions. Studied its form, noticed its lack of perfection... but still, there it was - the best and most pleasing pot I had ever made in my life. And a total mystery!
It might sound kind of sappy, but that pot was the beginning of a new me. A healing had started. The secret I had discovered is that clay is not static. It is definately dynamic. What you are feeling and what you believe have great influence on your 'energy'... and what your energy is while you are working in clay is what your pot will offer to whomever takes it home.
In the early days of the "new me" I was content to make happy-harmony pots for my own pleasure. But eventually I took great pride in watching people pick up one of my pots and smile. They'd turn it around and around and be happy while they were holding it. Sometimes a particular pot had just the right "fit" for a particular person. Sometimes that person couldn't afford to buy the pot... I usually made a gift of the piece. Now that felt REALLY good.
I'm such a stubborn person, and none of the above happened quickly or without a fight, but I DID learn that important lesson and my clay and I are equal and happy friends. Looking back, it took 30 years to get the foundation right. I was finally ready to move forward. It was time for the Segue... horse hair raku. But we'll save that for another time.