As Iâ€™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 elseâ€™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 beginnerâ€™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 beginnerâ€™s class, with the same teacher, for another 10 weeks. No luck, I still couldnâ€™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 didnâ€™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 Iâ€™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.