Monday, September 5, 2011

Welcome- and how I got started in Pottery

Hello, and welcome to my newest blog and my newest hobby! For those of you who know me well, you know I'm always getting into something. This is what seems to keep me happy though, keeping my mind and hands occupied, and just staying busy. Sure beats worrying about general things in life.

Well, I suppose I should explain how this hobby came about. So here goes....

When I was about 10-12 years of age, my dad owned some land down the road from where we lived. He used to plant corn there for the horses. He also owned what we call today, a clay pit. In that clay pit was a place we would go swimming. It seemed to have a natural spring somewhere as the water stayed in there and was always so nice and clear, unless of course we were swimming and kicking up the bottom. We had such a good time at that swimming hole. 

Not only did we swim there, but the land extended into I don't know how much acreage but  we would walk around there when we could and look for arrowheads and flint in the fields. While we looked for those items, we'd always come across pieces of pottery laying around. I always wondered why it was a reddish color but black on the other side. My uncle owned a field there as well. There was also a really nice fish pond another uncle owned back then too.  So back then, we'd hunt those fields and that dirt road to see what we could find. I was always looking for treasure :)

I guess one day I took the notion to dig in the dirt in the clay pit there to see just what I could find. As I dug I was amazed to see the layer of gray looking clay inside. I began to think to myself, "Uh huh... so that's how those Indians made that pottery, right from this clay here". So that is when I began wondering how it was done. I never pursued the dream back then of finding out. No-one around to really influence me I guess, or to ask questions, so it never came up again  back then.

I guess I never gave pottery too much thought until around 9/2010 when we were in Gatlinburg, TN and I turned on the visitor channel there at the Condo. It showed a bunch of crafters and the Arts Community there and oh my... there was Alewine Pottery on there showing their pottery. I think I watched that channel for the next 3 hours. I enjoyed their advertisement so much, the bluegrass music and all. (by the way, I'm a guitar player too, although I haven't done it in a while) I was so thrilled as I watched. I told my husband then, "I really want to learn how this is done, I've wanted to know since I was a little girl, and look how old I am now". Well, he thought it was a great idea to go to the Arts Community to check them out. I immediately told him, "Ok, we can go, but you go in there and see if they really are what they say, check out their pottery and see if it really looks like that, and tell me if someone is playing the banjo". And so we went... and so I sat there in the vehicle while he went in. When he came back, he said, "Yes, they are everything they say they are in the advertisement, don't you want to come in"? I just simply smiled and said, "Na... I better not, cause I know I don't have the money to spend in there, and I have already seen how beautiful their pottery is, I can't afford a piece. So, we left. He kept telling me how beautiful the pieces were and how many other potter's were in there working as well. What a wonderful place it seemed to be and I knew one day I'd be back, and with some money!

Well, I guess that was long, huh? I'm not finished though, lol
My next encounter came in March of this year (2010 in case I look back someday on this post) when I was at a friends surprise baby shower. There was another homeschool mom present there. I knew JoAnna from the other mom's but also knew she worked at the Arts Council in town and for years she had taught clay classes. I had never taken a class. So I briefly spoke to her at the shower and told her I'd give her a call.  Well, we touched base on Facebook and she sent me an invite to an Empty Bowls Class she was giving. I immediately was so excited. I signed up for the class and went. She taught us how to make a bowl with our hands, called "Pinch Pots". That is the first time I had ever touched the clay. It felt so soft, and so unlike I could have imagined in my mind. My first thoughts were, "Why is it grey"? "Why isn't it Red"? I guess I was thinking back about the red clay in the pit at home, but then I remembered the grey clay as well I had seen. I never asked her about it, at least I don't remember asking her. 

I made the ugliest bowl you would ever see in your life. That poor bowl! I was still doing alot of quilting at the time, so when it came my time to decorate my bowl (you quilters will get a laugh out of this) I did some quilting lines like you'd do if you were quilting a quilt block. The really bad problem with this is, I went through the clay with my sharp pic and put holes in it. Now how in the world was anyone going to eat out of that bowl? Well luckily this class was for us to make 2 bowls. One for us, and one to donate to Empty Bowls. (You can read about The Empty Bowls Project here)
My next bowl was better, at least the walls of the bowl weren't so thin. The edges were not so smooth either, so how was someone going to eat out of my bowl? Well, I paid Joanna 10.00 for the bowl so I could personally eat out of it on Empty Bowls Night so I thought that would take care of that. 

I think I was addicted for sure that night. I found out where the nearest clay supplier was and it wasn't but 45 minutes away from me. So I made a visit to the supplier to get me some clay and some glazes. Those poor girls in there. I must have asked them a thousand questions that day and I can't remember the first thing I asked them now, except what glazes I needed and what clay was Joanna using? lol.  I came home and taught my kids how to make pinch pots, I taught my nieces and nephews how to make pinch pots, and how to glaze the pieces and I had them fired for them. I joined "Club Mud" so I could get my pieces fired at a good price and I went to town.

The thing is... making pinch pots was not what I really wanted to do. I wanted a Potter's Wheel! I had seen one for sale at the suppliers, so I asked about it. It was a Prodigy Wheel. I didn't know much at all about making pottery, much less about a wheel, so I asked them about it. They assured me it was a good wheel. So in April 2010, I put that wheel on layaway. I was so thrilled... "I was finally going to live out a dream of mine". I began to think, "Wow... God certainly DOES care about our dreams!"

At the end of April we were having our 5th Quilting Retreat and I was on the committee. The host of the Retreat told us about a very professional potter who was going to be doing a demonstration for us at the retreat. I was so excited that he was coming. And he did come and do the demo and I asked this poor guy a million questions! I guess I seemed rude taking up all of his time! He had the prettiest Crystalline Pottery I had ever seen in my life... and prettiest I've seen since then!He made all 90 something woman a mug. It's my favorite to drink my coffee out of. It's also my first real mug made from someones hands and not a mold.  His name is Phil Morgan and he is a Master Potter. You can see some of his beautiful pieces at Phil Morgan Pottery . I'm sure you will be in awe of his work. I also see he can be found on Facebook. I'll have to friend him :)  Seriously though, he really IS the best I've seen yet! So needless to say, that was part of my journey into throwing clay.

I came back from that retreat, so fired up! So excited! I could hardly wait to get my wheel, but I had to wait cause I didn't have the money yet to get it off of layaway. On June 3, 2011 I became the proud owner of a Prodigy Potter's Wheel. While I had been waiting to get my wheel though, I was watching potter's on YouTube throw clay. I watched everything I could of Simon Leach's videos. He became a familiar name around my house. I'd watch him each night I'd go to bed and actually falling asleep many of those nights I watched so long. I have a playlist with every video just about that he has made on Youtube, so I could set it on auto play. He was a big inspiration to me. He sure made it look so easy throwing on the wheel. 

I have pics I will post soon from start to where I am now that I will share. I get a few laughs already at myself when I look at some of the pieces. I've come a long way in just less than 3 short months of throwing. I probably had the wheel a week before I decided to throw something. I was so scared to try. The first night I did though, I guess I put too much water on the piece and it went wonky on me. In fact each piece I would try to throw, the rims of the bowls would be thick on one side, and thin on the other. I became frustrated really quick... One reason is I had a husband who stood there and said, "I don't know why it's so hard for you to make something, why you keep ruining the piece"? I got so angry!! I had already swore this was one thing he would NOT get involved in with me. Everything I've done, he's been a part of, but I wanted something for myself only, although the wheel is for a left and right handed person, cause I thought my son might want to throw. So, I got tired of him standing there asking me why I couldn't make something and I said, "Come on... get on this wheel and let me see YOU make something! Come on, show me how easy it is... I promise it's not as easy as you think! And so.... he did! And wonky his piece went and crumbled down! LOL  It was so funny. Wish I had a pic of it. I told him, "well, that serves you right for making fun of me". You never learn basic techniques for anything you try to do. And, it's not about how fast you can do something, but how you master the techniques, and how well you perform those techniques. I think that's how you get a good piece of art! 

I thought maybe I needed a lesson so I got Joanna to give me a lesson on the wheel. She makes some beautiful hand built pottery pieces herself. I just love her work and she has inspired me greatly. As she watched me on the wheel though, she told me I had the basics down and said, "I just needed to keep practicing". 

So, I've been practicing! That's what Simon Leach says as well "Keep on Practicing"! My dream is to take a class from him in PA. I would really love it and I think sometime next year just maybe I'll get to do so. 

Well, congratulations if you have read this whole post and you are still with me and not asleep. Sorry so long winded, but that's how it happened. 

Stay Tuned for more Post with some pictures of the things I've done so far. And... most of my pieces just look like ceramics for now. I am about to order some dipping glazes... and then... "LET THE FUN BEGIN"! 

Thanks yall for reading :)

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