How to Make a Pot, part 1.
A vessel is also something human.
Find some clay. It can be wild or from a bag. Just make sure it's plasticity is enough for you. Think about what you want to make. Or don't. That's fine too. Everything is welcome here. You could of course draw out your idea or you can just let your hands and the clay do whatever they both want. Will you like what you make in that case? Who knows. Maybe liking it isn't at all a part of the point. Once you have an idea, whether you chose to write it down or only remember it in some sacred part of you, make your base. Use a wire or rope or knife or your hands or whatever technology you have available to you to pull a piece of clay away from its whole and flatten it out into the shape your idea needs it to be. It would be great if it was smooth and evenly thick the whole way around. This isn't to say your shape has to be round, just to say that you want an even thickness to the slab you're making here. Then pull another piece of clay away from its home, its family. Promise it that you'll reunite them all soon. Roll it in your hands or on a table or on the floor into a coil and then flatten it with your fist so it looks like a coil you stepped on. Then you have to angle it so that one side of the coil is say forty-five degrees higher than the other. You need the part you attach to the base you just made to be thick. Put it on top of the base, thick side first and then use your fingers to smooth the walls down on the inside and outside. Rub the clay together. This is a reunion. Once they've been sufficiently reunited, take another piece of clay and roll it into a round coil. This is to go on the inside of your pot. Connect it with the base and the wall you've just built. It should be smooth. So smooth you wouldn't even know it was there if you hadn't put it there yourself. Then take another of your stepped-on coils, thick side first, and put it on top of the wall you built before you got distracted with this inner coil business. Use your fingers to merge this clay with that clay. Smooth it together. You don't want to be able to feel the join. You want it to be thick all around. Equal parts thick. If you have a thin spot, pay attention. You'll have to address that later. I say address because maybe you don't want to correct it. It all depends on your idea. As you do this you have to decide if you want your pot to be round or straight, angled in or bellied out. It's up to you. And to the clay. It has a mind of its own you know. Memory too. You need to be careful. You can only go so far, so high, so fast. The clay has to firm up or else it will collapse. Collapse into itself. Collapse onto you. And then your idea will get stuck. That dream will die. So take a break. Put the pot out into the sun or under a heat gun. Let it dry out a bit. Get harder. Become more sure of itself. It will tell you when it’s ready. You will know because it will still feel a bit gummy and flexible, but it won't be loose. It will understand itself better. Understand what the two of you together are trying to do. Once you're both clear on that you can keep building. Take some water and a brush or a leaf, or a small broom you made from reeds and wet the rim line of the uppermost coil. The one you were just letting dry out. You want to be able to see the agitation. Don't be afraid to leave a mark. Repeat the same process. Piece of clay. Coil you stepped on. Angle. Attach the thick side first. Smooth together. If you want to round your pot out, use your hand or a rib to gently push from the inside. Gently is key. Make sure you support the outside while you're doing this. They are two sides of the same intention. Treat them both with care. Ah, time for a break again. Time to build again. If you want to bring your vessel in, put your coil on, always thick side first. But this time, angle it. You get to decide how sharp. Attach it slowly at the angle you're hoping for. You should have some coil left over. Pull this off. You'll use it later. You know the drill by now. Smooth it out. Merge this clay with that clay. Let it breathe. Take a break. Are you happy with the height and shape now? If not, keep going. If yes, good. Walk away. Leave it alone. Let it rest. Your final vessel won't look like the shape in front of you now. Don't get too attached.
Earlier this year, I was accepted to a 2-month ceramics residency at the John Bauer Gallery in Cape Town, South Africa. I’d love community support in actualizing this opportunity. Learn more + give to help me get to the residency below.