Giving up the Ghost

by Lorin Michel Monday, May 5, 2014 10:30 PM

I start my pottery class tonight. I haven’t taken pottery since I was in high school. I remember it fondly, the art department in the back corner of Milford Area Senior High, MASH for short. There was a drawing studio, a photography area complete with dark room, and a pottery studio with a kick wheel. I spent many afternoons kicking that wheel, especially during the latter half of my senior year when I had painfully little to do since I’d already more than fulfilled my class requirements and all I wanted to do was get out of school.

There was no air conditioning in our high school and as the summer drew ever near, similar to what’s happening today, I’d be up to my elbows in wet clay and sweating profusely from the effort required to keep the wheel going fast enough to “throw a pot.”

Throwing a pot, for the un-pottery initiated, entails getting a good mound of wet clay in a nice fairly round ball, wetting the wheel and kicking to get the speed up, aiming and throwing the clay ball at the center of the wheel, hitting the center as close as possible, squeezing more water while forming a mound that is completely centered and then, eventually, pulled a pot up and out of the ball, all the while kicking, kicking, kicking, smoothing, pouring water to keep the clay wet and phew. I’m tired just thinking about it.

I’ve long missed the primal nature of working with clay. It’s messy. While there’s thought involved in creating and in focusing on the job in hand, literally, there’s something easy about it. It’s natural. Ancient civilizations have been using clay to make pots for thousands of year. With a kick wheel, rather than an electric wheel, it’s technologically simple. Simple these days is good. My life is filled with emails and text messages and phone calls and work and house and husband and kid and dog and family and friends. I’m not complaining but there are times when it all gets nearly overwhelming. The idea of sitting at a wheel and getting muddy sounds extremely appealing.

For the next eight weeks, the class meets on Mondays from 6 to 8. I have no idea what to expect. Perhaps it’s all instruction. I know the studio where I’m going also offers extensive studio hours where you can just go and play in clay.

I was talking to my brother about it over the weekend. He’s been a big supporter of me doing this ever since I told him I was thinking about it several weeks ago. We talked about the pottery studio at MASH. Scott was also very into art and took pottery classes. He was telling me about a place he visits sometimes in Vermont, a studio/gallery owned by a woman named Monica. For the life of me, I can’t remember her last name. We talked about the whole process of throwing a pot. He told me to make sure the wheel was a kick wheel because those you can control. Of course, I can’t control what kind of wheels there are at the studio.

Then he started to laugh and asked me if Kevin was looking forward to re-enacting the scene from Ghost. Without missing a beat I said that I doubted it would happen because the famous scene he was referring to, with Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze writhing in wet clay to the sound of Unchained Melody, took place in the middle of the night in the privacy of their own beautiful New York loft. I will be in a public studio in the middle of town with my fellow potters. Also, he’s no more Patrick Swayze than I’m Demi Moore. Though we do like Unchained Melody.

When I told Kevin I thought he was going to explode he laughed so hard. I’m not sure whether to be insulted that he agreed with me or relieved that it’s not what he’s expecting. Not that I mind writhing around in wet clay to the Righteous Brothers. I just always wondered about the cleanup.

The movies are always really good at presenting these incredible situations but they never show you the aftermath. How Demi and Patrick (whose character names I think were Molly and Sam) mopped up the floor and cleaned up the walls so that the house looked normal isn’t addressed; nor is the part about getting clay in all the wrong places.

Tonight I’m giving up that Ghost but I’m not giving up the ghost. To do so would mean I won’t succeed or worse. And I think this is going to be something worth celebrating. 

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