When the highlight of my day was vacuuming daisy designs in the carpet, I knew I needed a change. As a newly retired woman, it seemed there should be more to my creative life.
I had always harbored a secret desire to make clay pots, to carry on the work of the old masters, to play in the mud. So I scooted off to our local college and enrolled in a pottery class. Loaded with confidence, I felt sure that making pots on a potter’s wheel would be a walk in the park.
On the first day, I felt eager for the challenge. Our instructor showed us how to knead our clay to prepare it for the potter’s wheel, while the SAPs (Smug Advanced Potters) looked on.
“Brute strength isn’t necessary,” our leader explained, demonstrating the punching and kneading process. “With the proper technique, you’ll have this clay behaving like a kid drooling over an ice cream cone.”
It was time to get my hands dirty. I reached for a wad of clay and punched into it. Nothing happened. I gave it a hefty kung fu whack to let it know who was boss. It seemed to stare back at me as if to say, You’ve gotta be kidding.
But persistence paid off, and at last my clay was ready to use. We sat lined up on benches facing our potter’s wheels like soldiers on duty, awaiting our leader’s command.
Then, with a flamboyant wave of his muddy hand, the instructor ordered, “Throw the clay!”
I wound up, tossed the clay toward the wheel–and missed. The real shocker came when the clay landed in the lap of one of the SAPs seated nearby.
“You’re supposed to throw it onto the wheel,” the young man rebuked.
So, my aim was off a little. Gingerly, and I do mean gingerly, I helped the guy scrape the clay from his lap.
A bowl of water sat alongside each wheel to keep the clay moist while we worked on it. I drew out a handful of water and dribbled it over the mound of clay. Then I set my wheel spinning But, to my eye-popping surprise, the wheel got stuck on high speed. Gobs of mud flew out in all directions.
I gasped while everyone within mud-slinging distance wiped off the splatters. Even the instructor got a face full of sopping, wet clay. Before he could get his hands around my throat, one of the SAPs led him away, muttering to himself.
Talk about embarrassing. Still I was determined.
After switching to a new wheel, I started in again. However, my next clay mound had a mind of its own. It slid sideways and fell to the floor with a plop and lay stuck like a plunger. But I refused to admit defeat. I forced the mound of clay up with an old nail file I found in my purse and threw it back onto the wheel.
Things got worse.
Our instructor showed us how to center the clay and form it into a tall cone, somewhat like a fat carrot standing on end. My first attempt looked, well, “suggestive” . . . you might say. I sneaked over to the reject bin and tossed the cone in, hoping no one had noticed. Then I hurried back to my wheel.
At last, my die-hard spirit paid off. In a surge of triumph, I slapped some new clay into shape like a pound of hamburger. Wicked! I felt like Napoleon. But then I met my Waterloo.
A couple of SAPs had wandered over to that reject bin. Giggling and joking, they were holding up my discarded clay cone for the whole class to enjoy. I sagged like a wet dishrag.
But then I perked up. There was another class forming across the hall: glass blowing! Now that didn’t sound too hard.
Besides, I figured anything was better than staying home with my creative vacuuming.