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Getting the Hang of It

Pottery by Lucie Rie

I’ve always been one to dig deep into my interests, particularly with my love for art. This is what jumped started my collage making--becoming obsessed with going to vintage stores to collect old magazines I could cut up. I've also gotten far on with my journey with acrylic and watercolor paints, the medium that has made me pull all nighters more than a handful of times just out of the excitement of making pieces. I've made sculptures out of recycled items I find, learned how to knit and sew. I've even tried out photography and film making. Most recently, I have dived into the world of ceramics.

I still think back to this past Christmas to acknowledge how lucky I was to receive the gift that I had been yearning for the longest time, a pottery wheel. During the span of that whole entire year, something about wheel throwing had intrigued me. So much that by December, I had watched just about every youtube video created that discussed the subject and followed dozens of potters on instagram so that I could remain updated on their newest projects. Each upload amazed me--I too wanted to create those gigantic sculptures and those beautiful dinner plates. I was eager to get my hands on some clay and find a wheel that I could work with--I rambled on and on about it to just about anyone who had ears to listen. More specifically to my dog Coca, who turned her head in confusion not understanding a word of what I was talking about but at least wagged her tail to remind me that she cared. I had obsessed over many art mediums in the past, so much that they became somewhat of a phase. I knew that pottery could be my next, if only I could find a way. However, getting a wheel and all of the supplies for it just seemed very out of reach and not as easy as other mediums. This is why I almost fainted that Christmas morning when I took that first glance at my wheel as I unwrapped Rudolf designs off of a giant box with my name on it.

That afternoon, I set up my wheel. To begin, I wedged a chunk of clay and set it onto my wheel so that I could begin making my first piece. Then, I pressed my foot down on the pedal and the wheel began to spin like a record player. I hugged the clay with my hands and began to harmonize with it. As I did, I began to visualize what I would be making. A mug, I concluded--easy enough for my first time. I fantasized over what color I would make it and what kind of cute handle I would design afterwards to attach onto it. This was seconds before my “mug” flung right off of my wheel and smashed right up against the wall beside me along with all of my hopes and dreams.

I sat there in silence for a few seconds, processing what had just happened. Damn. Had my clay been too wet? Had I pressed on the pedal too hard, making the wheel spin too fast? Had the position of my hands been the problem? The worst was that I had no idea which of these it had been and that realization crushed me. All of a sudden I remembered a feeling that I had experienced many times before, particularly when starting to try out a new medium. This was, the feeling of not knowing how to go about it, the feeling of absolutely sucking.

Nobody likes to be bad at things. I personally catch myself beating myself up for being new at something, attempting to take the short cut or the easy way to get good. Every single time I do this though, I find myself going right back to where I started. I forget at times, that it can take years to master a medium, that those artists that I see and look up to took a long time to get to that point and even then, find themselves struggling at times. Jee, I’ve been using watercolors for god knows how long and I still find myself asking artists around me how to go about a technique.

This is why I decided to join a beginners ceramics class a few weeks after this incident. I wanted to really get down to the basics and from there slowly work myself up. In this class, I have learned that growth can be fun too. A friend I made in the class works in the

business industry and had never before done any form of art--she was using the class to destress. First day of class, she had a very similar experience as my first time on the wheel and the piece she had envisioned turned into a total fiasco. But what surprised me about this moments was that she proceeded to laugh when her piece flew off of the wheel. "Maybe next one will come out right!” she said. She made me realize that effective progress never happens overnight, we just have to go into it with an optimistic mindset as artists and as learners. Its very much like for instance if you wanted to grow muscles. To gain muscle, you must dedicate time and effort. That means being prepared to show up at the gym a good amount of hours a week. Only then, will there be any effective change. Even then, it will take a couple of weeks to months to see any sort of progress. This is what I am aiming at here with this new wheel throwing thing. I am prepared to be determined, persistent and most of all, patient. I make a conscious effort to take hours out of my week to practice on my wheel, adjusting my technique as I go every time. I know that one day, I'll be able to get the hang of it and get through the levels I strive for, all it takes is time!

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