Spotlight: Slop: Joys and Expense

Bill Hunt: Years ago, I opened my own ceramic studio in a commercial space, thinking I had a good sense of what expenses were expected. But as in all commerce, there are surprises. Among those was the cost of jeans! When throwing full time, your jeans should be cleaned every day if you’re a wet thrower like me. Jeans don’t last long when washed every day after being soaked in slop and abraded with silica. It’s enough to drive you to Wal-Mart.

Now you’re probably thinking, “What an idiot. Just wear an apron! But this actually doubles expenses because regular aprons soon slide to uncover one jean leg, don’t they? So both jeans and apron will be slopped. You now have two items to wash every day. Then again, there are those special throwing aprons with wide, individual leg coverings; but when you get up quickly from the wheel, it’s easy to flip one of those leg flaps over on your clean underlying jeans. Move fast enough and you can even flip slop up on your shirt or face!

So to cut some of the laundry bill, you can, of course, wear jeans for multiple days, but watch out! Here comes silicosis! Back in the day, a clay factory worker sometimes brought home silicosis to their entire family on unwashed work clothes slung up on a clothes tree or hook by the door. Dried clay poofs up into the air from day-old slop like powdering a baby’s bottom.

So with that history in mind, you pay extra for a pair of overalls: the apex of protective wear. Problem solved? Well you still have to wash them daily; plus in summer, you sweat profusely. (Option A) Just wear only shorts underneath those overalls. But eventually you need something from your shorts pocket. Well…you get the strip-tease picture. Not a pretty sight for most of us older folks. (Option B) You’re comfortably throwing your wheel-born masterpieces when your cellphone rings underneath the overalls. Hands fully slopped, you reach for the salvation of a throwing towel, but you know it’s no substitute for soap and water. Nevertheless, you reach beneath the overalls, grab that phone with a slightly slopped hand and guess what your phone looks like after a few of those calls? Ah the joys of throwing when new technology collides with old.

Nevertheless, the slippery feel of slop is among the great joys of studio life. In the throwing water bucket are vast juicy populations of friendly molds, bacteria and potential plagues that are regenerated ad infinitum. Some of those little critters actually do good things like increase plasticity. Like the family’s yeast bread starter, never let that bucket dry out!

So here’s to slop! It’s a spa treatment for your hands and anywhere else it splashes. And it’s no less than intimate contact with mother earth herself.

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