Like other multi-taskers, I have recently begun to question my lengthy ‘to do’ list. My passion is pottery. But throwing pots on the wheel is a very time-intensive activity. I began to think, “Why make pottery on the wheel when a bowl can be purchased at the store?” I dreamt of the free time I’d score if I gave up my pursuit of pottery.
But when I ran into an old friend who remarked that mine was the favored serving bowl at family dinners I began to rethink my relegation of pottery to the back shelf of my life. It’s soul-satisfying to know that others use and appreciate my pots. I began to further inventory just what pottery means to me.
There is a definite release in the creative process as I sit bent over a mass of glossy red clay, fashioning a terra cotta planter. Throwing pottery on the wheel poses a challenge each time I attempt a new project, and holds the potential for a lifetime of learning.
Travel, always enriching, has an influence on my pottery as well. When visiting the Museo Ceramica in Tenerife, the Canary Islands, there were grand storage pots of over 6 feet in height. Pots of every description seemed to whisper their stories to me as I walked the glossy hardwood floors of the museum.
A visit to our own Southwest taught me about the Anasazi, basket makers, who later refined the art of pottery making. Those old pots speak volumes. I was drawn to learn of the nineteenth-century Hopi potter, Nampeyo who was so intrigued with the pottery that her archaeologist husband unearthed, she chose to emulate the ancient designs, to keep the history alive.
Meeting old pots I’ve made in friend’s homes teaches me lessons in endurance and humility. It took a long time to teach myself to throw pottery, and some of my first cups and bowls may be more suitable as doorstops! A craft like pottery subtly communicates from the maker to the person who enjoys it through its use over the years. I will never be a Beatrice Wood, Shoji Hamada or Bernard Leach, but working with clay continues to both inspire and challenge me to create pots for both their function and presence. Maybe it’s as Beatrice Wood, centenarian potter said, “It takes patience to follow the road of life which leads in the right direction.”