My journey into clay began the conventional way - with pots at an evening class. While I will never have the patience to develop into a professional volume thrower, I was immediately captivated by the wheel. The slow experience of learning to transform a lump of mud into a (more or less) delicate bowl was revolutionary for me. I have never yet encountered a task which needs such a combination of fine technical control and philosophical acceptance of repeated failure. The skill also needs constant tending; unlike riding a bike, the muscle memory soon fades.
What most excites me about clay is its versatility. With the intensity of a late convert, over the last few years I have pored over the incredible number of technical and creative possibilities it offers - paperclay, slipcasting, inlay, screenprinting, glaze chemistry, hand-building, extruding ... I can't imagine ever getting bored. The foundation course has been less about finding my medium - I had it already - but more about the whole business of becoming an artist: how to look, how to develop an idea, how to think about a concept, and how to see through a project.
My journey has been helped immeasurably by an extraordinary piece of luck. A few years ago I came upon an advert for an entire pottery studio's worth of equipment for the princely sum of £700 - tools, wheel, kiln, at least 100 kilos of glaze ingredients and oxides and much else. A potter named Parvin Wilder had passed away suddenly, and her generous husband wanted her things to be passed on to someone ... well, someone like me. In his words, 'she started where you started' - i.e. in the chaos of small children and a mid-life passion for clay. It's a huge privilege using somebody else's tools - being surrounded by the legacy of another artist's working life as I work gives me an almost metaphysical grounding.
I am gradually finding my creative voice in the technical demands of working with bone china, and in lots of arty thoughts about how to represent the idea of the handing down of artistic and cultural legacies. But at the end of my foundation course, I will also return to basics, and make the time to throw a full set of plates and bowls for us to eat our family meals off. I hope Parvin would have approved.
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