Failure, Subtlety and Breakthrough

First big bowlI went into the studio yesterday armed with new ideas after watching several videos with potters centering and throwing large amounts of clay.  Most of these videos were old news-I had watched them and failed many times.  In fact, one of my dirty little clay secrets has been that I never, ever know if I will be able to center that lump of clay on the wheel.  But there is something about trying an impossible task that is exciting, so into the studio I went, ready to plop a new lump on the wheel and see what happened.

Usually, I start small and work up to something bigger.  Yesterday I was feeling brave or careless-not sure which.  After wedging about 5 pounds of clay–or at least twice as much as I usually attempt–I patted it into a cone shape to put on the wheel.  Somehow I had missed that subtlety in the first ten viewings of my favorite video.

When the wheel started and I attempted my “new” technique, that thing just about flew off the wheel.  “Ok, here we go again.” I felt like throwing that stupid lump of clay across the room.  Then I remembered the other subtlety.  With this particular method of centering, which is designed for small people, the very short potter actually stood up over the wheel to exert downward pressure. So I tried leaning over the wheel a bit more on my decidedly uncentered mass of clay and breakthrough!  That mass centered up almost instantly.  I ended up with a very large (for me) bowl as pictured.

The big question left was this:  “Can I do it again?”  It is not that unusual for me to center a pot and then have no idea how I did it.  Kind of hard to replicate under those circumstances.  So I did it again. And was able to throw another very large bowl.

Second Big Bowl

Now it was becoming clear that I was onto something.  So I tried several more times, including with some normal-sized lumps for me.  For the first time since I have started throwing on the wheel, I could center every time almost immediately.

Now I cannot wait to get back into the studio!  Today will tell if this is truly a breakthrough.

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