This year has been a travesty for creativity, adventure and feeling free (a rightful human sensation): they have been banned from our emotional diet, leaving us chewing on the leftovers of our relationships, health and frankly, our patience.
It is, therefore, not merely essential, but in fact, mandatory, to make the best of an effort and pull ourselves from the apathetic coma the pandemic has put us into.
This year there’s been a baby-making boom, yoga boom, online shopping boom and all sorts of other emotional airbags but for me, nothing really cut it like the craft of pottery. And not only because I’m a babyless minimalist, but rather due to its effects on my body and mind: pure grounding, meditation, and self-discovery.
Mildly intimidated at first, my all-time companion/twin/creative monster, Yana, and I paid attention to the very primal source of this craft: the clay.
How could one describe it? Cold, earthy, powerful, and sticky: just the sensation of this classic building material in my palms awakens this primal instinct for creation. So I obliged.
The process is natural: air should be eliminated from the mix so that it doesn’t cause explosions or cracks later in the course of baking. This is achieved by squishing the material in various shapes: bull’s head, goat’s nostril, tiger’s claw or whatever random word combinations from the animal kingdom one could think of. Applying full-body power is, of course, essential (bye gym subscription!).
One should take into account, however, that this is merely the warmup. The real workout begins once the already sweaty potter sits behind the wheel. Seemingly still, the creator is aiming for their ‘centre’. I am, for instance, aware of the whereabouts of my elbow, shins and collar bones. The centre, on the other hand, is more like the third eye or intuition – you know it’s there but you haven’t seen it. It turns out, one doesn’t need to have seen it to find it- one has to feel it. In fact, the creator doesn’t even need to look at their ball of clay at this point, but rather just have a feel for the substance in their hands, notice what they are up against. So see, here we already move into the spirituality of the craft.
This metaphysical task is essential, as once the balance between the palm and the clay is created, they work together almost intuitively, in a state of creative trance to produce various shapes and curves. It really boils down to each small movement: they all make a difference, as does distraction and sudden exits of this state of meditation. That’s where you’ve seen tons of memes, gifs, etc. of objects of pottery falling apart: the maker has lost touch with the sensation of the material or their concentration.
After this Buddhist experience, one more mundane follows: drying. I say ‘mundane’ as this stage involves hair driers, radiators, electrical heaters and in general, objects which remind the creator they are historically located post-industrial revolution-wise. This is a proper moment to use other modern devices like boiling kettles or coffee machines for a little break from the excruciating art of creating a somewhat symmetrically-shaped object.
Once dry, clay changes substance, colour and behaviour. In order to carve details in the solid and cold body of a pottery object, one has to use just an ounce of their physical power, calm down their breathing and arrange their arms in an unbreakable geometrical positioning, whereby holding a sharp object, which is to later cause significant changes to the looks of the yet juvenile pottery masterpiece. This step results in a semi-finished look for the pot, thus size and shape are still being altered during the next step: baking.
Contrary to the misconception, placing the objects in the oven is extremely fiddly business, which may eventually leave an item, and with it, the heart of its creator, shattered.
As a reward for getting through this hot and hellish place, the survivors indulge in a four-second bath in a glaze of choice. The power of hope and the strength of the maker’s fingertips then accommodate a magical transformation from an initially dull colour to a mesmerizing mix of textures and tones. This happens, of course, after another round of baking.
In the pictures of this post, you can see the results of our journey. We called them ‘The Ocean Collection’ as the colours and textures bring to mind a mirage of endless beaches and summer. This way, at least in our heads, we have experienced a pretty extraordinary holiday. Enjoy!