Pottery class, part 1

I’ve thought off and on about getting one of these…

yarn bowl

I admire those yarn bowls, but most bowls made will only fit average size skeins of yarn & I haven’t been able to find a yarn bowl large enough to fit a skein with a lot of yardage. Then one day I’m browsing groupon and spot a deal for pottery class and suddenly I had dreams of creating my own yarn bowl from scratch.

So thanks to one of those groupon deals, I signed up for my first pottery class. It was only an introductory course but the thought of coming home with an original piece I made of my own I couldn’t resist.

Not knowing there were several types of pottery classes available, at first, I signed up for a hand thrown pottery class, then had trouble with scheduling because all the classes had been booked. While waiting for more classes to be scheduled, I then found another deal also on groupon for a wheel thrown pottery class at the same studio. I thought it was a good chance to compare the two methods & see which one I would prefer.

So on a warm late saturday afternoon I head downtown to La Mano Pottery in the Chelsea section of Manhattan, just around the corner from the world famous Fashion Institute of Technology. I arrived about 10 minutes early for the scheduled 6 PM class, and the guy at the reception counter instructed me to return at 6:00.

After a bit of window shopping, I come back and get set up for class. The environment is an open studio, with separate areas for individual students and artists to work on their crafts, as well as separate teaching areas for wheel throwing and hand throwing pottery. The studio offers introductory as well as multiple week courses for adults & children.

Classes are small with about 12-15 students, each sitting in front of individual potter’s wheels. I think clay artisans in the ancient days must have been mostly short in height because you’re sitting on a small folding stool that is relatively low to the ground. Someone who is tall may experience a little back pain after a while from the constant having to bend over the wheel.

But this is how you start. Each student is given a few balls of clay,a couple of tools to help shape the object you’re constructing, a bucket of water & a sponge.

starting with the potter's wheel

starting with the potter’s wheel

The instructor went through beginner techniques. How to shape the clay, center it on the wheel, spinning the wheel and manipulating the clay while on the wheel. There were a few mishaps during class. I and another student had to move to new wheels because the instructor found they were spinning in the wrong direction. The clay wouldn’t stay centered on the wheel. I couldn’t figure out the optimal speed for the wheel; either it was spinning too fast or too slow. One woman expressed she found it therapeutic just playing in the clay. Another student looked as if she had taken classes before, although claiming to the instructor it was her first time. She created one sculpture after another, while I struggled just to get basic techniques down.

IMG_0503

IMG_0499

After several mishaps, I began to get a feel for the technique. I got the clay to open up as if to begin making a bowl or cylinder:

IMG_0501

Then it turned into this:

IMG_0502

And after a good deal of time had passed, I finally was able to create my first “masterpiece”. A miniature bowl. Too bad none of the pieces created during wheel throwing class could be saved. This would’ve made a fine ashtray, or maybe a shallow candy dish.

IMG_0505

After 2 hours, it was time to clean up the mess. A fun time was had by all. But unless I get a lot more practice, I think my dream of making my own yarn bowl might be deferred at this point. I have a second class in hand thrown pottery at the same studio the following week. Maybe I’ll have an easier time there.
Meanwhile I’ll leave you a video for one of the experts to show you how it’s supposed to be done.

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Spinster
    Apr 15, 2014 @ 21:43:01

    Took a ceramics class at Hunter College a long time ago, maybe in 2005. This just refreshed my memory a bit. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply

  2. Nicky
    Apr 18, 2014 @ 19:37:49

    Lovely, but I still don’t get why you couldn’t keep your piece. Except the picture, you don’t have anything tangible to show for your hard work. I think you did a great job for your first time.

    Reply

  3. Trackback: Pottery class part 2 | Quaintrelle Noire

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