Last summer, soon after I moved from Hawaii to Colorado, I drove out with my uncle to check out some remnant slabs of granite & travertine for my renovation. While looking at the slabs, I met Julie Anderson, who is the the wife of Greg Grasso, the person doing my granite. They both live in a work/live space. He does granite and glasswork and she is an amazing sculptural ceramic artist. I asked Julie if she could make me a toothbrush holder. She said I should take a class and make my own! I did! Take a class, that is. I never experienced enough success to make that toothbrush holder during that class.
I struggled quite a bit being able to center any of my pieces, which is a pretty important skill when throwing on the wheel. I realized later on that my problem centering stemmed more with me not being very centered myself. I just packed up and moved my life from Hawaii to Colorado and my new place did not feel much like a home with all of the renovations happening all summer.
I only ended up making 7 pieces in this class. I didn’t take any photos during the process for this class but did take photos of my pieces after I brought them home.The first photo is of my 3 duds that I didn’t even keep. The second photo is of the 4 pieces I think came out ok for a first class. The bowl was the last thing I made. Julie ended up centering that one for me since I hurt my thumb and couldn’t put too much pressure on it. The one with the blue glass in the inside edge started out being a bowl. I use it as a spoon rest on my stove. I like how the glazing came out on the cup with the light cranberry colored rim, but the inside glaze crackled so I don’t use it very often now that I have made more cups.
This past spring, I decided to give it another try and took a second wheel throwing class. In this class, I realized that my need for control and perfectionism were not very helpful attributes. I continued to struggle and was even thinking to myself after a few sessions of the class that this would probably be my last class. But then one evening, Barb Gregoire was invited to one of our sessions and taught us some of her techniques. Barb is someone who is the exact opposite of needing be in control and needing to make something perfect. I really love her work also! The main thing she taught me was it was ok to make mistakes.
In the middle of the next session of the class, I finally made a break through. Everything I learned from both Julie & Barb came together and I was able to make a very cool bowl! I stopped obsessing on trying to do everything perfectly like Julie, I allowed myself to make pieces with mistakes and started having fun! It was then that I really was able to learn from Julie without criticizing myself. I realized that I could still make something pretty cool without worrying about it being so perfect. The funny thing is that I can’t even tell you now which bowl was the bowl I made that night when everything finally came together for me.
I find that both throwing on the wheel and trimming my pieces are very relaxing and meditative for me. I also have started to have more fun trying to do some more creative things when glazing my pieces. Some were good experiments and some where, well let’s just say interesting!
During my 2nd wheel throwing class, I made 17 pieces and I finally made that toothbrush holder!
I threw it during the first session of that class. At the time when I made it, I was not very happy with it but after I glazed it and brought it home, it was perfect! It’s not the prettiest piece and the glaze did some strange things at the top, but I like that it is not perfect and it goes so well with the rainbow travertine in my bathroom. I tried and tried to make a second one, but could never replicate it. It is a one of a kind piece!
Julie is very generous with open studio time. I started spending a lot more time in the studio beginning with my second wheel throwing class and found that the extra time spent, even if an entire day resulted in every piece collapsing (like yesterday!), is all very valuable in helping me to progress. Another thing that has helped me is watching YouTube videos. I have learned some great tips from many very talented people. I also have learned some very cool glazing techniques.
Below are photos of some of my pieces from my second wheel throwing class. The photos on the round blue and brown bats are pieces I just threw. The other white and gray pieces are pieces that have been trimmed and some of the white ones have been bisque fired. Also included below are all of my pieces after they were glazed (except the toothbrush holder that I posted above). Sadly, my little plate has a crack in it. It was originally a bowl. I think I did not compress it enough and so it cracked. Too bad because I really like it.
One thing I learned is that clay shrinks! It shrinks after it dries, shrinks again after it is bisque fired, and shrinks again after it is glazed. I have been trying to make some cups for my cappuccino in the morning. It’s tricky trying to figure out how big to make them, knowing that they will then shrink. I’m still working on figuring out the size taking into account the amount it will shrink. Even bowls look so much bigger when I first throw them!
I took another wheel throwing class right after my 2nd class ended and am now taking a slab-building class. This past weekend I attended a spray glazing workshop and am hoping to attend a Raku-firing workshop in November. I will share more of my work in another post. I really have been enjoying learning and progressing. My love of working with clay has become a new passion.