Finishing this first batch was a two plus year journey. We picked up my studio equipment in September of 2010. Going into Highwater Clays was like landing on another planet. Literally. As a watercolor artist, I knew what paints, paper and brushes were used for long before I declared that I was an artist. Standing in the middle of this strange store, I forgot how little I knew starting my watercolor journey years before.
So we came home with this foreign equipment from some strange planet and it sat in my studio and in the garage in boxes for months. To say I was a reluctant potter is an understatement. I knew enough about working in the mud to take out the carpet and replace it with tile in my studio. Sometime late in the Fall, I decided to put together the slab roller and the wheel. Veryle Lynn Cox came over and we made pinch pots together. Later I decided to actually start playing with this thing, and went to YouTube to figure how to use the slab roller. I found a project on making plates with paper plates as a mold and turned out several decent plates with the slab roller.
My confidence up, I went back to YouTube to learn how to use the wheel. Actually, the official term is “how to throw pots on the wheel.” The first thing you do is “center the clay”. So after watching, and rewatching a few videos I headed down to throw my first pot. (All the people who have ever tried to center a lump of clay on a spinning wheel are laughing right now.)
I threw the clay down on the wheel, just like the video showed, and then cupped my hands over the lump, and started the wheel. There are no words to describe how horrible that felt. The wheel seemed to lurch as my lump just got lumpier. And my hands were now all muddy! Nothing happened remotely like the YouTube videos and certainly nothing like scene in “Ghost” with Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze. After a few attempts like this, with mud spraying everywhere, I stopped, looked at my hands and considered throwing the lump of clay through the window in my studio. Yes, throwing is definitely the correct term!
With the help of another friend I got a lesson in centering clay. The first lesson: The wheel can spin in two directions. For a right hander, I had the wheel spinning backwards! That would have been nice to know.
“You have to get mean with it.” And “Don’t let that clay boss you around.” were key points of guidance. Centering clay actually requires some strength and lots of leverage. With the help of my patient friend, I was able to turn out a couple of small pots that weekend and over time, was able to successfully create a good size batch of small pots.
Now it was time for the kiln. A big chunk of the two year journey was waiting to get the kiln installed. In the Fall of 2013, we finally had it in, and did the first firing.