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I’m kind of in love with my pottery class. I did the wheel this week! The WHEEL! Like in Ghost! It was not as successful as that movie, sadly, in that I got really dirty but never actually got it to go. I went in again on Saturday, during open studio time. Mr. Pottery Dude was making his own wares and there was one other student there so I wedged my clay and nabbed a wheel, which happened to be on the other side of his wheel. And then I basically stayed there for four hours, hunched over the damned wheel, getting pruny fingers and knowing that I wasn’t centering the clay properly and knowing that I was missing some step somewhere, but not really able to figure it out. Finally, another potter came in to use the studio and told me that I was building my walls backwards and should be leading with the right hand, not the left, unless I’m using a wheel that spins the other way. Oh. That worked a little better, in that I actually made a small cup thingy, but then I couldn’t actually get anything else to go. Make it go! I felt like a four-year-old. Finally, when Pottery Dude took a break from making his DOZENS of pieces of art, I asked him to just watch me and tell me what I was doing wrong. Everything, it seems. He grabbed my misbehaving wad of clay, plunked it down and had it centered in less than five seconds. Then he told me to feel it, so that I could feel what it was supposed to be, and then he knocked it off center and told me to fix it. I didn’t, so then he put his hands around mine and showed me how to do it. It was… disturbing and weird and would have been disturbingly sexy if it had been, say, Ghost-era Patrick Swayze and not Pottery Dude, who is a cross between James Cromwell and Ned Flanders, which made me blush for thinking those thoughts when I should have been thinking about art and ceramics and certainly not about naughty bits.

It was a very fulfilling Saturday, however, even with the mental distraction. At the end of the day, I felt achy and good, the way I used to feel after playing volleyball, and what is even better is that I had spent a good six hours not thinking about losing my job or what I was going to do next. It really reinforces my need to have some kind of artistic outlet, or anyone’s need, really. It’s going to sound really egotistical, but it’s been a really long time that I’ve had to work to be good at something. Normally, I can pick things up in a snap, especially if it’s something that I want to be good at (I’m a horrible bowler, but I have no desire to be good at bowling), and while pottery is certainly creative, there’s a definite skill involved as well. The moment of discovering that skill, of learning to turn it on and off, that’s a beautiful thing.

At one point, I asked Pottery Dude how many times I needed to cone the clay before making the well and he went off on an elongated tangent, as is sometimes his way, that turned into his view on art and artists. He feels that the keys are in existing, persisting, and insisting. You need to figure out a way to keep your life going while you pursue your art, you have to keep at it even if you’re having little commercial success and you also have to have the backbone to stick with your vision, even if your patrons and critics are telling you to change something. Of course, he meant it from a potter’s perspective (and a successful one, as he’s made a very good life for himself as a full-time potter) but it really hit home for me about writing. I have persisting in the bag, and I’ve found a way to exist, more or less, but the insisting is something that I have a hard time doing. Even now, this very month, I essentially was looking for a literary hero’s stamp of approval before moving onward. I don’t trust myself enough, I think. And even if I don’t make another thing on that pottery wheel, that’s more value than anything I learned in graduate school.