Wax and Clay

When I was perhaps 18 I took a sculptural design class at PCC. I had hoped it would be fun, but mostly I found it to be miserable because if there’s any possibility of over-thinking an assignment I will do exactly that. This was fun, though:

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We ended up melting the wax down again so that it could be recycled for future classes; I got to keep the lizard, though, because the teacher thought it was neat, and it didn’t use so much wax. I wonder if I still have it.

Actually, that’s kind of funny. I had a couple of students complaining yesterday: “why do you keep telling them to re-do this stuff!?!? It’s never good enough for you!!!” Which is understandable enough… I remember taking ceramics for the first time, when we were leaning to throw pots on the wheel. Mr. Tashima asked us to make cylinders, and I made a dozen or so that were completely wretched; they’d break, or smash, or fly off and get clay all over me. Every time he walked by he would say “more slowly! Slowly and gently, like this,” and would show me how to do it right. Every time for hours and hours — maybe six or ten hours. Then I got one that was perhaps alright; it wasn’t too heavy by much, and it sat up like a good cylinder should. I was very proud of myself. I didn’t know what I would do with a cylindrical vessel, but perhaps it could be a pot or something.

Mr Tashima walked by: a”h, OK, that might be alright,” he said. I was very pleased. “May I borrow your wire?”

“Umm… sure…”

He cut my cylinder in half, right down the middle, and looked at the width of the walls. “try to get it a little thinner next time, and you see where it gets thicker and then thinner? Make it more uniform.” I was not a happy ceramicist. He did that three times, with my first three somewhat successful pots. Alas. Lesson: these things are not special and precious: they may get cut up; they may blow up in the kiln; the glaze may not work out; they may be really ugly, too heavy, dry too long before trimming, and need to get thrown out. You may only get to keep one thing out of about a dozen attempts for your first semester or year. Get over it.

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