As I’ve written about before, learning how to Centre clay on a wheel can be challenging, some people get it right away while others have to work at it, and sometimes you just need to see it from someone else’s point of view. This is a story I tell my students if they ever feel discouraged when learning how to Centre:
The first pottery class I took was a 10-week beginner’s wheel throwing class. For the most part I enjoyed the class but I could not centre the clay no matter how hard I tried. After 10-weeks of practice I had a batch of weird, little, lop sided bowls that looked like they were going to jump off the table. I was a little disappointed with the results (and a bit frustrated) but I thought maybe another class might do the trick.
As soon as the next round of classes were announced I lined up for registration and re-took the beginner’s class, with the same teacher, for another 10 weeks. No luck, I still couldn’t centre. Well not consistently, and when I did finally centre something I almost always threw it off centre as soon as I opened the mound. My frustration grew and I was really disappointed. I had thought about, and looked forward to learning how to throw for so very long. But I felt like I had to face the truth, after 20 weeks of instructions perhaps wheel throwing was not for me. I decided to give up on it and think about taking up a different hobby; for some reason I didn’t tell Mark about my decision to not carry on with the classes.
It happened to be my birthday and I was surprised when Mark gave me my own set of pottery tools, such a thoughtful gift. I looked at the tools and told Mark I had been thinking of giving up pottery but maybe I should give it one more shot.
I figured I’d sign up for the advanced wheel throwing class since I already knew all the basics. I started the next 10 week course with a new instructor, Charmian, and at that first class Charmian demonstrated different techniques for centering and opening and I got it. I centred the clay, opened it and made a centred pot at that first class. I was elated. I remember walking home, almost running, anxious to tell Mark what had happened.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Every now and then though, I do wonder what would have happened if Mark had given me something else for my birthday that year.