End-of-Pottery-Class Report

You know what, actually I am not going to wait to write about the pottery class until I have photos for illustration. For one thing, photos basically FORCE you to praise the things I made, and though that would be enjoyable for me, it could be considerably more of a strain for you. For another thing, I now have just enough pottery experience to know that glaze is so pretty it makes every Very Poor pieces look deceptively great, especially in a photo. So I am just going to go ahead and tell you about the class.

To review, first I spontaneously signed up for a wheel-thrown pottery class, and I was surprised at and pleased with myself for having done so. Then I started the class, and after two sessions I didn’t really like it at all and was considering dropping out. Then, after talking to you about it, I changed my strategies and started doing things differently than my teacher wanted me to, and things were going much better, though I was still counting down how many classes were left, and taking Discouragement Breaks in the bathroom. I don’t think I’ve given any updates since.

After one glorious class where the teacher was out of the room and I was doing my own thing and having much happier results, the next session the teacher was back in the room and back to insisting (nicely, gently, quietly, but PERSISTENTLY) that I continue to try to make a straight-sided cylinder. I modified my strategy again: I chose to have some faith in her belief that learning to make a straight-sided cylinder would benefit me in the long run—but, considering the class was half over and there would be no Long Run, I would also work on things I wanted to have as souvenirs when the class was over. I did not want to end the class with nothing more to show for it than a collection of failed straight-sided cylinders. So each day I went in, I worked for awhile on cylinders, and as each one failed I tried to make something else out of it. I continued to feel happy that we were past the halfway point, and continued to think in terms of “Only four classes left!,” “Only three classes left!,” etc. I was unprompt in my arrivals and overprompt in my departures (“Oh, I just reached a breaking point so I cleaned up early”).

On the second-to-last day of class (“This class and then one more and then I’m DONE!”), I learned glazing, which is where you choose what colors to make things. And because I still had things to trim (i.e., partially-dry pieces that needed to be scraped to be thinner and more even), and could only glaze THOSE if they were done BEFORE the last class, I came in the next day for an Open Session: a time when students can come in and work on their projects without the teacher there. I’d never done that before, but I really needed to if I was going to finish everything, so I did.

I can’t quite explain what happened, but on the day I went in for extra work-time, I went home feeling HIGH. My theory is that what did it was learning the last step in the process: now I knew all the basics for taking a 25-pound bag of clay and turning it into glazed finished pieces; and because some of my main anxieties are New Things and Not Knowing How Things Work (like, which cart does this go on when I’m done? and what do I do next? and where are things located when they’ve been fired? and when do I put on the glaze? and then what cart do I put it on?), learning that last step removed a bunch of anxiety. Another part of my theory is that the Must! Finish! adrenaline got mistakenly interpreted by my brain as excitement and enthusiasm. There is also room to question the effects of glaze fumes.

Whatever it was, I started to have a mad, mad, mad idea: Maybe I should sign up for the next session! I recognized this for the crazy near-the-finish-line idea it was. It was relief, that was all: I was having such a surge of relief that the class was almost done, and satisfaction with getting things completed, and sentimental feelings about my nice classmates, and as previously theorized I was mistaking it for excitement and enthusiasm. Also, one of the huge benefits of the class was that it made me appreciate OTHER PEOPLE’S work, so that now perhaps I could take the cost of another session and instead use it to buy some pretty things made by SOMEONE WHO KNEW WHAT SHE WAS DOING. I could support an artist AND end up with a much nicer-looking item than I could make! Win-win!

But then I kept thinking happily all week about getting back to the studio and glazing the things I’d trimmed. I kept thinking of more ideas I wanted to try. I thought about how neat it would be to be thinking about the glaze options AS I WAS SHAPING THE CLAY, rather than standing stupidly in the glazing room with no idea of what I wanted to do. And how nice it would be, now that I knew all the steps, to stagger things: do some wheel-throwing and then do some trimming and then some glazing, and have things at every stage of the process. And maybe I could come in for more open sessions, now that I was not trying to MINIMIZE the number of hours I spent there. And I had seen a marked difference between my first batch of items and my second batch of items, and I wondered if there would be another jump between the second batch and the third. And I went to a pottery store with my mom and didn’t really want to buy anything because I kind of wanted to keep trying to make all those things myself.

In short, brain-error or no, I WAS IN FACT excited and enthusiastic, and counting days until the next class instead of feeling increasing dread. And then on the last day I glazed my last items and I didn’t want to leave early and I was wishing I could have tried painting on the clay before firing, and anyway long story short is that I signed up for the next session.

24 thoughts on “End-of-Pottery-Class Report

  1. heidi

    Oh yay! I can’t wait to hear more. And… I still want photos. I really appreciate others’ pottery and I would love to see yours.

  2. Suzanne

    Such a happy ending!!! I am so glad you ended up enjoying it. Also I am hoping that the next session perhaps has a different teacher…

    Loved this bit: “ There is also room to question the effects of glaze fumes.“

  3. Auntie G

    I love this update! I would have loved it equally, I promise, if it had ended with, “I tried this thing and hated it and stuck it out but lovingly gave myself permission to move on to the next thing!” but it was very sweet and moving that it turned out you wanted to keep going.

  4. Chris

    Yay! Love this update! It sounds VERY much like a more constructive way to structure the class would be to bring a simple pieces all the way from start to finish in the first couple of classes so that you could see FROM THE BEGINNING what you might like to, after having seen an end result. Gah. I’m excited to see your pieces!!

  5. el-e-e


    But I’m so happy for you, and feel sure you’ll share your photos (PLEASE) and write up Session II. (Season II? Like TV?!)

  6. Melissa H

    this is wonderful news. all of us are looking forward to photos (and someday in the future a blog giveaway of a swistle original????!!!!) Thanks for the update!

  7. Liz Miller

    YAY!!! I am so glad you tried this. Glad you stuck with it, and tried various ways of making it work for you. Glad you found your joy in it.

    And I too, would have been happy to hear, “I did this. It didn’t work for me. I’m done” because you did something new and scary and out of your comfort zone but low risk and major bragging rights no matter how it turned out.


  8. Gigi

    Definitely post photos. Because of your post about signing up, I have been repeatedly asking The Husband if he wants to take a class – so far the answer is no, but I’m wearing him down!

  9. Heidi J

    Yay! When I took a pottery class (years ago now) I though the glazing was the most fun part. And I don’t think they waited until the very end of the class to show us how to do that.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *