Here comes spring, just as expected, like an old friend who shows up exactly when you need them. Fortunately, spring has no idea a pandemic lingers, like a chatty aunt who’s overstayed her welcome, and arrives anyway bringing sun, warmth, longer days, and fresh blooms. Spring pulls us outside and fills our lungs with crisp, earthy air and clears the cobwebs from our heads, boosting our moods and lightening our mental loads.
With spring’s arrival after such a long and confined winter, I cannot help but wonder what everyone has been up to. Recently I have been hearing about what people have accomplished while social distancing. A fellow ceramic artist told me she dedicated time to improving her throwing skills and now, a year later, she’s throwing her best pieces yet. An author shared how she watched online tutorials to sharpen her graphics skills, which helped her design new surface patterns for her pots. There are countless similar stories on social media, news programs, and the like, of people stepping away from daily distractions to devote their minds to new pursuits.
I wondered what I had learned during the time of COVID-19. What skill did I hone to self improve? Is Netflix marathoning a skill? Does finishing a 3000-piece puzzle constitute an accomplishment? What felt like such a forced and cruel punishment at times now feels like it was an opportunity to upskill. I landscaped: putting in a pea-gravel path in my backyard. I cooked: starting a supper club and exchanging meals with friends in the driveway. I designed: moving my studio from the dark, dank side of the basement to the side with small windows—a miraculous change! I created: making a few new ceramic pieces, although not reinventing the wheel. It all feels like a blur.
Maybe I’m too caught up in the glorification of being busy and need to acknowledge the value of time spent simply being idle. After all, productivity is not the only measure of time well spent. Some of the most important scientific advancements were stumbled upon by those who devoted their lives to contemplation. Time spent reflecting, meditating, and relaxing creates a healthier state of mind, uncluttered and untethered. When we spend our time observing our surroundings, we are present and more attuned to the season that is upon us.
No matter how you spent this past year, whether embracing skills or taking time to stare at the changing shape of the clouds, the arrival of spring presents many opportunities, including fresh wheel-focused projects in PMI’s annual throwing issue. Arlynn Nobel shows an innovative way to alter and combine thrown forms. Danny Meisinger takes us step by step through throwing large platters. Dodie Campbell demonstrates how to throw a closed form called a yo-yo pot. Jason Hartsoe creates pedestal bowls with a lift. We also have shrinkage math, tips for throwing tall forms, troubleshooting thinly thrown bottoms, and thoughts on good proportions.
True idleness may be a lost skill, but being in the studio, whether making or contemplating, is most certainly time well spent.