It's a new year, and that means back to the studio for me. I'm at the wheel today throwing odd lots: six small covered crocks, six honey jars, six cream pitchers. Two tumblers, four stick butter dishes. It's a big change from yesterday, when I was all about the production: 28 soup bowls, 20 more for the Empty Bowls sale. Two days before it was twenty tall mugs and two dozen painted ones.
It's still slightly amazing how easy throwing comes after all these years. It certainly didn't start that way.
I was a terrible pottery student. Oh, I loved the clay, worked hard at it, but I Could. Not. Center. I braced and I pushed and I wore the lump down to a nubbin and still, when I opened the hole, it was off-center. (No, that's not where my business name came from; that's a story for another time.)
I drove myself crazy. I drove my instructor crazy. She finally made me get off the wheel, go back to hand-building for the rest of the term. (She's also the sabbatical replacement teacher who missed the fact that I was throwing backwards, left-handed. But I digress.)
I came back to the wheel from a different direction: I'd seen a film about traditional Korean potters (narrated by Mike Wallace, interestingly enough), who used the wheel for coil-building. Pots were roughed out from enormous coils, the size of your wrist, then paddled together and thrown thinner using wooden ribs. I didn't achieve that scale, but tried the technique out with smaller coils and wound up making some progress, and a nice set of big fat coffee mugs for my class final.
Some time in my second semester, I finally learned to center, by working one-handed. I'd apparently not been coordinating what my hands were doing, and what one hand centered, the other pushed off again. Keeping only one hand on the clay--the other locked on my wrist, maintaining pressure--allowed me to finally produce a centered lump of clay, a centered opening, and (since I'd learned all the raising, thinning and shaping techniques while coil-building) centered pots. And then I was lost forever.
I kept throwing after class ended. Heck, I kept throwing after I graduated. I learned how to center properly, and made so many pots. I traded glaze mixing and kiln loading for studio time, spent all my evenings and weekends in the studio, bought my first kick wheel from a student in the art history class I was teaching (as a sabbatical replacement). I had my first experience with art fairs (barely made gas money at Norskedalen) and the value of celebrity endorsements (when the band on stage at River Fest--Smith & Mayer--told people to come check out my pottery, they did. And bought things.).
I took summer pottery workshops. Two weeks in Tuscarora Pottery School, in Nevada; a week at the Pigeon Lake Field Station in northern Wisconsin. And I spent a week's lay-off from my graphics art job researching and applying to graduate schools. Which brought me here, to Eugene.
When I've not been chained to my potter's wheel, I've been chained to the computer, working on publicity designs for Ceramic Showcase. Here's the postcard, featuring last years Best of Show winner, (cough!) me.
All right, I'm slow sometimes.
I knew sloths were cute. I'd watched the video on YouTube of baby sloths getting their bath time (and being hung out to dry on the porch railing). I'd seen actress Kristen Bell's famous Sloth Meltdown clip from The Ellen Show. And lots of adorable photos on Imgur and Bored Panda.
And it never occurred to me to paint them on pots.
It took a customer to alert me to the possibilities, a fellow from Southern Oregon who contacted me before Clayfolk 2016. His stepdaughter loved sloths; could I paint them on a tall mug and tumbler for her? I certainly could. He was happy with the results, which I expect earned him Best Stepdad Ever, at least for Christmas 2016.
Come 2017, I thought I'd make a few more sloth pots, maybe sell him a dessert plate or something. I never got the chance; dessert plates and pie plate flew off the shelves. I never knew a sloth could move that fast. I made more for Holiday Market, most of which also left. So I'll continue making sloth pots in the new year, dessert plates and pies for now, but they may migrate onto other forms eventually.