Last time we talked on these topics, things were a little discouraging. But now they are so much better!
First, the tooth. You remember I’d gone in for what I thought was an appointment to get my flipper, but it was only an appointment to take molds for it, which left me having a little weep in the parking lot. But something I didn’t mention, because I hadn’t yet noticed the improvement to my life, is that while I was there the dentist made a few adjustments to the tooth tray, and those adjustments made it much more tolerable to wear: he filled in the little gaps and shaved off a little piece that was pressing uncomfortably against another tooth. It looked better, it felt better, it fit better, and it no longer whistled.
So that was already better. In fact, I worried that paying multiple hundreds of dollars for the flipper would turn out to be a dumb idea. But then I got the flipper itself, and it is MUCH BETTER. It is like a retainer, in that there is a piece of smooth plastic on part of the roof of my mouth. The dental assistant said some people hate that, but to me it feels like the comforting presence of a half-dissolved, perfectly smooth Werther’s Original Hard Candy. What I hated about the tooth tray was that it fit over ALL my top teeth; the flipper still feels intrusive, but it’s a kind of intrusive I prefer. I had a retainer for years, so maybe that contributes to the preference.
The tooth tray was visible when I talked or smiled, and my upper lip would get caught on it; the flipper is completely invisible from the front and looks just like a real tooth, and there is nothing to catch my lip on. I still have to learn to enunciate around the part that goes on the roof of my mouth, but I don’t have to think about appearance at all; I can talk and smile normally. The only thing I still hate is that I have to take it out when I eat. I hate that so much. Each time I have to eat with new people, I feel freshly self-conscious and upset about it. I was going to invite a new maybe-friend out for breakfast, and then realized I would have to take the tooth out to eat, and I decided not to. But this is going to be for the next, like, six to nine months, so really I have to get over it or else suggest a walk instead.
I also have an update about pottery class. Last time I mentioned it, I’d gone to two sessions and I was discouraged and wasn’t enjoying it. Now I’ve gone to four sessions. I nearly didn’t go to the fourth session (not quitting, but just taking a sick day because I really didn’t want to go), but I was already dressed in my clay-spattered clothes and I needed to run an errand in the area, so I just WENT. And this time things were better.
Part of what made it better was having your comments, which cumulatively informed me that not all pottery teachers/classes/philosophies are the same. Liz said:
It’s been a long time since I took ceramics in high school, but my memory is that you need to start small. Small amount of clay, little bits of water, small movements. Play with the clay without thinking about making anything with it. How flat can you make it? How tall? What happens if you have just your fingers on it? What about just your palms? Just play with no expectations.
Lauren, too, mentioned that SMALL was the key.
And I laughed with delight at all the comments that were basically “I HATED pottery but didn’t want to say so earlier.” And Jill, who commented “Well hell.” It made me feel so much better.
Anyway, I went in and the teacher was down the hall helping with glazing, so instead of trying once again to make the 1.75-pound straight-sided cylinder that I COULD NOT DO, I took a pound of clay and just messed around with it as Liz advised. And I kept in mind what Artemisia said about how clay-centering feels: “It is like the clay just disappears. You almost can’t feel it.” I aimed for that feeling, and although I didn’t entirely achieve it, I could tell I got a lot closer.
Instead of going with my teacher’s philosophy that you should know before you even cut off a piece of clay EXACTLY what you are going to make with it, I went with the philosophy that made more sense to me, especially for a beginner, which was Liz’s: just see what happens. And instead of going with my teacher’s philosophy that you should only keep what you LOVE or else you’ll be overrun with pottery and have nowhere to put it (and that makes a LOT of sense for someone at her ability level), I went with my own philosophy, which is that if I follow her philosophy I will end up with literally nothing, and that I really don’t want to attempt the next stages of the process with something that is precious: if I’m going to accidentally trim a hole into the bottom of something, or drop it on the way to the glazing room, or do it wrong so it cracks in the kiln, I want it to be something I don’t really care about.
I was nervous when my teacher came into the room and saw my tray of three little things, none of which were a tall straight-sided cylinder, but she gave a very positive reaction, as if she’d said that thing about the straight-sided cylinder but didn’t remember/mean it. I said my line about wanting to make some things I could practice trimming on without caring if I messed it up, and she said that was a good idea. So! I made something like a cup, and something like a little flower pot, and a flattish bowl, and a tiny little bowl like for dipping sauce. (The tiny bowl happened because more than half the clay broke off when I was trying to center, but I went with Liz’s “play, with no expectations” concept and just kept going with what was left.)
Oh! Also! While the teacher was out of the room, other students in the class kept coming over to help me, and they were saying things along the lines of, “[Our teacher] suggests doing it this way, and that’s a really good way! But [other teacher] suggests this other method, which is ALSO good and which I found easier.” Which really bolstered the “People do it different ways and you don’t have to do it exactly like this teacher says to” idea. And I started asking other students if I can watch them do things, which I wasn’t sure I should ask, but they seem to really LIKE showing me. And it’s a nice class for praise: there is a definite culture there of everyone asking people what they’re working on and commenting positively on it.
Anyway, I was SO MUCH HAPPIER not trying to make A Particular Thing! I am, as it turns out, a “let’s see what this piece of clay Wants To Be” type of person, not a “4-inch-by-6-inch straight-sided cylinder” type of person. I see huge merit in being able to make a set of four matched mugs, but I am not interested in doing that! at all! and I don’t have to! because I am an adult taking a non-required, non-graded class!
And one more thing that made me happier: thinking of this as a Pottery Appreciation Class—like Music Appreciation or Art Appreciation, where the benefit is in ending up better able to appreciate what OTHER PEOPLE do. I am already planning to lay down some cash for SOMEONE ELSE’S gorgeous ceramics, now that I know how difficult and time-consuming it is to learn how to do it beautifully.