Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Day three, potter's wheel

In the morning, Deborah had given us a demo on using the potter's wheel. She went through the demo slowly and completed it five times. All of us teachers use memory devices with our students on a regular basis; we all know that the sillier phrases tend to be recalled the most. While completing the demo, Deborah gave us some memory devices.  I can honestly say that once I started on the wheel, the information that I most vividly recalled was information related to the memory devices.

These are the three most "vivid" memory devices:

1) When starting out with the clay, center it on the potter's wheel plate and make it look like Patrick's house (from Spongebob).

2) When pressing down on the clay, make a "bear fist."

3) In order to smooth out and increase the height of your vase, mug, or container, use a motion with your hands that is comparable to spreading peanut butter on crackers (except vertically instead of horizontally).

When Deborah did the demo, I watched as closely as possible, trying to embed all of the steps into my memory. I tried taking notes, but it was challenging to focus my attention on the potter's wheel and on the notetaking at the same time.  As an additional review measure, I even recorded Deborah's demo and re-watched it before going on the wheel by myself.

I assumed that the wheel would be fairly easy. I tend to be a patient person and figured that once I got my vase started, it would be easy to make it taller and keep it symmetrical.

My experience was the utter opposite of easy. I was able to begin with the Patrick's house mound (easy enough) and was able to turn that mound into a cylindrical container (vase, mug, whatever--I just wanted to make something that did not turn into mush). I was able to create the hole at the top of the container and then flatten out the bottom. The true challenge existed when I tried increasing the height of the container. While the plate spun, the clay would somehow (I tried the wheel many times) get off-centered. The off-center piece would then basically collide with itself and completely sink in. It reminded me of a little child spending a significant amount of time building a sand castle, only to have it quickly washed away by a single way.

I was getting frustrated. The only saving grace was that the other students who tried the wheel with me were having the same issue. I could at least get the clay to resemble some type of vase or container. Others were having trouble with getting the clay mound to have a hole and a flat bottom.

After awhile, instead of being frustrated, I became determined. I wanted to be able to leave class and have some kind of "successful" piece that I made on the wheel. I stayed on the wheel for over an hour and a half. Being on the potter's wheel is a task which requires physical exertion. You have to brace your body over the clay, hovering over the wheel. There's also many motions that you make with your hands. At the end of the day, my hands actually ached.

This was the piece that I created at the end of the day... it is about 2 1/2 inches tall and is definitely asymmetrical.  However, the piece did not crumble or fall apart and, to me, that is a small success for the day.

This is actually a photo of the piece with underglaze on it (after firing).

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