On the second night of class we sat around the table marking slabs of clay. My slab of clay was not behaving. I kept carving, stamping, rebuilding. We chatted as we worked, getting to know each other. I put down my tools and stared at the clay. It was wrong.
“Nope” I folded the slab in half. Sandy, the teacher, gasped in horror. I reslabbed the clay and started over, building where I had carved. It was better. I built my slab into something useful. It was declared “cool.”
I kept making things that were not as cool. Objects cracked and broke, dried with waves in places I wanted flat. The carving I put on a box didn't come out at all the way I'd hoped. I achieved far less than I had hoped. Several objects were crushed into small pieces to be recycled.
Weeks later we glazed. The glaze on my useful object dried and I left it on a shelf in the kiln room. I retrieved it this evening, pleased with the results. Sandy told me it has created quite a stir when the kilns were unloaded. I fingered the smooth surface, tracing the design and the places where the stain and glaze had mingled.
I started building a bowl from an idea I'd had in my head. Sandy was not sure it would work, but she became increasingly engaged in the project as the final form began to emerge. I layered clay and slip, pushed the pieces into position. Sandy's chair moved closer to mine. She said she had to go, but didn't get up. She asked if I was going to return tomorrow to finish it. When I told her I had to finish tonight she settled into her chair and waited.
“You're just waiting to make sure I don't crush it.” I said
“Yes, I am.”
“Because you know I will just throw the whole thing in the recycled clay box.”
“I know you will.”
Clay and slip, clay and slip. Would it be any wonder if the bowl refused to remove itself from the mold after all those layers and all that pressing? The edges of the bowl would not survive much fussing. I attached the last piece and eyed the recycled clay bucket. Sandy sat waiting.
I slid the clay and mold from the table and wiggled my fingers at the edges. I was asking a lot from clay and slip. Sandy has been doing this a long time, and she was not exuding her usual airy confidence.
Was I holding my breath? I don't remember. “I don't think this is going to...” The clay and the mold slipped apart as if I'd unlatched them somehow. The mold in one hand, the bowl perfectly cradled in the other I saw the interior for the first time. “It worked! I love it!”
Sandy loved it, too; delighted at my delight and at the object itself. It is now wrapped in a coveted piece of “good” plastic so that it will dry slowly and evenly, and sitting on my shelf awaiting an uncertain future. It must dry evenly so that pieces don't fall off. I must put a foot on it. I must be very gentle with it before it is fired into hardness. I must decide how to glaze it. I must be patient enough to do the glazing. It must survive the kiln, the kiln operator, and all the people who take things off and put things on the kiln room shelves, at least twice.
But for now it is enough that the thing exists outside my head. It worked. I love it.