When I was eight years old, I asked my mom for a pottery wheel. After much begging and pleading, she bought the wheel and I set up shop in the small dusty room adjoining our garage. It was summer then and I had three school-free months to perfect my craft. I had visions of making priceless pieces of art that I could sell near my house on the corner of First Street and Park Way. Immediately, I went to work crafting my “fine art”.
Of course, the work wasn’t fine at all, it was awful. I remember one particularly ugly bud vase that resembled a small volcano. It was wide at its base with a narrow opening at the top. I thought it was too plain so I etched little flowers all over it and painted wide yellow, red and blue horizontal stripes onto its somewhat smooth surface. It was atrocious! I never sold any of my work, but I think my mom still has the volcano-like embarrassment tucked away in her closet, stuffed in the box labeled “sentimental.”
I remember other things about my pottery days: the smell of my shop — that old wood-paneled room my dad and grandfather built when they first moved to Cottonwood; sweat droplets running down my scalp drenching my bangs, causing my curls to stick to the concentration creases in my forehead; the big fruity taste of not one, but two sticks of Juicy Fruit bubble gum that provided hours of bubbly entertainment; the sound of the slow, smooth tempo of the pottery wheel spinning around and around and around; and the wet clay molding under the pressure of my pudgy little girl hands.
As I grew older and found other creative interests, I retired the pottery wheel and never thought about ceramics again. That’s until I was vacationing in Colorado back in July and realized The Creamery Arts Center in downtown Hotchkiss was offering classes. I signed up in hopes that by doing something artsy my creative writing juices would begin to flow with wild abandon. That didn’t happen, but I did have a blast and met three interesting people.
Peg and Gail had been taking David’s classes for some time. While David finished a piece he had been working on when I arrived, the two women showed me around the studio, pointing out the lovely pieces they had produced in earlier classes. Later, as David gave me the rundown on clay science and firing, the ladies chose their materials and began preparing for class.
David gave a demonstration and explained the steps of successful pottery throwing. First we needed to center the clay on the wheel. Next, the clay needed to be opened. Once it was open, the fun part began — the throwing or pulling. This is when the creative mind takes over and the clay begins to take shape. With the demo complete, Peg and Gail returned to their wheels and began working on their projects for the night: dinner plates.
I had my heart and mind set on using the wheel but I sensed that David wanted to save the advanced stuff for next time. I’m sure he figured it would be best if I stuck with finger molding and coiling for my first adult pottery experience. But I am stubborn and continued talking about how I really, really wanted to try the wheel. My persistence paid off and he set me up at a wheel.
With grandiose visions in my head, I centered my glob of grey clay and sat fantasizing about the priceless piece I would produce my first try. I am a creative person after all and like most creatives, I just knew I would be a prodigy — a typical hope of any budding artist, right?
Well, I made a bowl. A shallow, grey, simple bowl. It turned out okay, but gallery ready it wasn’t. Although the piece is basic, I am proud of my work. And, I thoroughly enjoyed crafting it. As the silky wet clay spun in my hands, I thought about nothing else. My hour at the wheel turned out to be a time of meditation and healing.
David invited me to come back the next day to finish my work as I would not be in town the following week for class number two. I went to The Creamery the next afternoon and he showed me how to trim the foot with special pottery carving tools. Once complete, David took my bowl and said he would fire it and put it in a safe place. When I returned next year, I could glaze it.
Before leaving The Creamery, I made my way into the gallery where I picked up a set of four bowls, made by David Strong of course. As David had explained, the bowls he and his students crafted would be sold at the Annual Peaches and Cream Fundraiser with proceeds from sales benefitting the community art program. And as a bonus, when you buy a bowl, it gets filled with ice cream and peaches. Give a little, get a little in return. Sweet transaction, don’t you think?
Already, I am looking forward to next summer when I will return to finish my bowl. Who knows, I may stick around long enough to make a dinner plate to go with it!