Years ago when I was learning to throw, my very first assignment was to throw five 6-inch-tall cylinders. I remember struggling so hard just to get to 4 inches. I was so worried I would fail at this thing I wanted to be so good at, that I overly stressed about the whole thing, and barely reached the requirement. A few days later, when the instructor was grading the assignment and all the pots were dry, I recall watching her hold a shrinkage ruler up to each pot. I was flushed with anger. Really? A shrinkage ruler? After all the effort I put into those precious pots!
Years later, when I was teaching wheel throwing, it occurred to me what my problem was in that first class. I was too invested in the outcome. I was so serious about making the perfect object that I was missing out on how enjoyable the process of throwing actually was—no risk, no reward. Ceramics is all about process after all—the process of making and the process of using—little is about the preciousness of the object. So before I gave a similar assignment to my own students, I had them throw cylinders that they could not keep. Each finished piece had to be rewedged for another day’s throwing. We spent a few days with this exercise and I noticed everyone not only having more success, but also more fun. No one thought of their pots as precious, risks were taken, and little time was wasted worrying about results.
Ironically, I recently needed to be reminded that a little humor in our lives (and the magazine) can also have its rewards. We’ve been known to get a tad too serious in the office trying to make sure everything is perfect. In this issue, we focus on those who love to throw pots on the wheel, and we also throw in a little humor just for fun—pun intended. Paul Linhares shows us how to throw and flatten bottles, Jim Wylder takes the mystery out of throwing globe-shaped pots, Mark Johnson introduces us to the flower raft, Shana Salaff constructs squared plates with altered rims, and Simon Levin gives us tips for throwing and trimming off the hump. We also explore bone china, pinched vessels, Fiesta ware, and taco trays for taco night.
So put your shrinkage rulers away, lighten up, and throw with abandon. The risk usually pays off.
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