In Brief—A trip down memory lane about the making of a potter and the pieces that were produced along the road. Though the potters will fade into time, the pots will live on.
NOTE: As I said at the beginning of my Japan blog, I will be adding photos to occasional blog pieces. This is one. Thanks to Pinterest, you will get to see some of the pots I have made. To identify the method, I’ve provided information below each photo.
Click here to see some of my pottery.
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Cheaper Than Therapy—
I was in “the Zone,” in another world detached from the one surrounding me. The mound of clay turned on the rotating wheel head and my hands seemed to be in the realm of a sorcerer. As if by magic, the clay transformed itself into the base of a teapot. Four pulls. Amazed at what I had done, I completed the necessary parts to assemble into a teapot and put it on the shelf to reach the leather hard state that would permit me to trim and assemble the parts into the whole
Most potters agree that working with clay—“mud” as it is often referred to—erases whatever tensions may lead others to the couch in a therapist’s office. Tensions flow out of the potter’s body and mind as the clay turns on the wheel. Focus and concentration may be the answer, but it certainly worked for me.
I was a lawyer who was doing everything with my brain and little with my hands when, one day, I passed a pottery studio with a sign in the window saying “Pottery Lessons.” That sign beckoned me. It changed my life. Being a somewhat compulsive person, I became competent within a few months and was asked by the owner if I would be interested in teaching on the weekends. Law during the week and pottery on the weekends.
Never let it be said that I am not observant. I had noticed that most of the students were females between the ages of 18 and 40. I was divorced and suddenly felt like a kid with unlimited credit in a candy store. It wasn’t long before I had acquired something of a reputation. As one of my admirers said, “If you’ve got it, flaunt it.” I flaunted my buff body and my newfound attraction. I also improved my skill with clay.
Unfortunately, my reputation as a lady’s man and a failed relationship almost cost me the unexpected love of the wonderful woman who eventually became my wife.
I eventually stopped teaching pottery in my spare time and quit the practice of law. After stumbling about and losing my motivation, I found myself back in the television business in an executive position. My wheel and kiln sat gathering dust in my workshop while I reached a state of burnout after eight years of too much work in the corporate world. I retired and moved to Sweden, my wife’s country, choosing to have our children grow up in a cleaner, saner environment.
A New Life Blossoms…Then Ends—
Dusting off my wheel and kiln, I began removing the rust from my pottery skills and focused my energies on learning new ways of transforming clay into objects of beauty. New friends taught me new skills and provided me with the materials needed to explore unfamiliar avenues. The value of wonderful friends is probably the greatest reward I found.
I took a class in salt firing in an outdoor wood-firing kiln. I soon found myself heaving pine logs into a roaring fire and admiring the earthy warmth of the results. I became a mad scientist concocting startling crystalline glazes that were seldom seen in northern Sweden. And my old love of Japanese raku led me to successfully show and sell my work locally. Gallery shows of my raku and crystalline pieces replaced my former shallow reputation as a lady’s man with that of a member of a group of talented Swedish potters.
After several years, all that came to an abrupt end when a little brain tumor robbed me of quiet and joyful times in my studio. The ceramics magazines still stir my creative soul, but sitting at a turning wheel, experimenting with glazes, pulling glowing raku pieces from the kiln are now in the past. The old wheel sits gathering dust; the kiln stands cold, and I sit at my computer writing about the past.
Time moves on, but the pieces we made still exist to inspire future potters. The flame is passed on. Pottery is forever.