Spinning wheel, got to go round

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, May 20, 2014 9:55 PM

I have now had three pottery classes. I go on Monday nights to the Clay Co-op, a small house that has been turned into a place where nutty old people like me can go and play in grown-up play dough. There’s a little porch with pillars and pots. Walk in the front door and there’s a small room with shelves, also containing finished pots, plates, wine goblets dripping with beautiful blue, purple, red glazes, all signed by the potters who are instructors at the Co-op.

In the main room there is what might be considered a dining room. In place of the dining table is a long table-like contraction. On either side are three electric pottery wheels with small metal stools. At the head of the table, another wheel. This is where the instructor sits and teaches.

There’s a small hallway with old built-in cabinets and drawers. A small bathroom. Three tiny bedrooms. In the back, there is what was probably once a kitchen but is now several large sinks, usually completely filled with cloudy-clay water. Out the back door is a covered patio where there are more pots, finished and not, kilns for firing the unfinished pots to make them finished. The place is dirty in a dusty clay kind of way. It smells like wet clay, too. Like the earth. It’s a fabulous smell.

On Mondays I leave the house around 5:30 or so and travel the roughly 10 minutes it takes to get to the Co-op. I pull my 25 pounds of clay down off of my shelf and then pick a wheel. I like the first wheel on the left. I take the little metal stool down off the wheel, plop the plastic bag of clay on the floor, take my tool kit out of my bag and place it on the table. I put my apron on, my blue denim shop apron I bought at the pottery and ceramics store, open my kit. A needle tool, a trim tool, a contour tool, a wooden mud tool and a red plastic mud tool, a wire cutter (which looks mostly like a garrote), sponges and a piece of chamois thumb-tacked to a cork. I have several rags, some plastic bags to cover my pots. My small and not very well shaped but well-intentioned pots.

The first class was just the instructor, a substitute since the official teacher had hurt her arm, and one other lady. It was great because I had no idea what I was doing. The other woman had only moderately more of a clue. We essentially had the teacher to ourselves. The second class had six of us, plus the instructor. It wasn’t quite as much fun because I still didn’t really know what I was doing but I understood. The Co-op offers classes. It doesn’t just offer classes to Lorin.

Last night, it was just three of us plus the instructor. The original two of us from class one as well as another lady who has tremendous experience with sculpting but, by her own admission, sucks at centering and throwing pots. We laughed and talked through the class, watched and listened as the instructor showed us new techniques and how to make lids for our pots. She showed us how to re-center a pot that had gotten off center and was wobbling on the wheel. We talked about our dogs – all of us have them. We showed pictures from our phones and oohed and awed.

Last night I watched my wheel spinning. Counter-clockwise. My hands wrapped around wet lumps of clay. I heard Blood, Sweat and Tears in my head. Spinning wheel got to go round. David Clayton-Thomas, the lead singer and writer, has said that it was written “in an age when psychedelic imagery was all over lyrics. It was my way of saying ‘Don’t get too caught up, because everything comes full circle.’”

I took pottery in high school. 34 years ago. Three decades later I’m sitting at a wheel again, up to my elbows in wet clay. Clay in my hair, clay running down my legs and into my sneakers. The spinning wheel comes full circle and I’m living it out loud.

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live out loud

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