By: Rebecca Taylor
**Previously published in 2009 by Perspectives Magazine**
Some say I live a mundane life, but I just laugh and tell them it is anything but that. I am a creator of many fine items like vases, which hold the flowers picked by tiny hands and given with great care to their mothers. Not only do I assist in inventing beautiful items and precious memories but I also create a living for Linai Prichard, the pottery teacher and a supplemental income for a few of her students. If you have not yet guessed, I am a pottery wheel. It is a very rewarding vocation, everyday my heart is touched by many different individuals. I find my life intriguing getting to be involved in the process of creating unique projects depending on the artist’s mood and personality. I love seeing a chunk of clay become a useful or decorative item. There are classes in my home at the studio for all ages and skill levels. Seeing the children, some as young as three work their magic on me is amazing. They are so unafraid of making a mistake in shaping their artwork, unlike some of the adults who take a more cautious approach. Children are fearless when it comes to making a mess; to them designing a piece of pottery is like making a different kind of mud pie.
The feeling of hands of any age turning the clay over my body creates an incredible sensation. I wonder if this is what it feels like for a dog to be brushed by its master or to play fetch, at peace doing what it loves. Sometimes when nobody is spinning my wheel, I sit and watch the students decorate their pottery; some are talented in drawing and create very realistic designs like waterfalls and horses. Other students use designs are more abstract; some even engrave or paint words on their pieces. As long as these students are happy with themselves and their creations, I can smile.
The most frightening part of the pottery experience is having the artwork be placed in the kiln. The hot air can be felt in the studio, it is like having all of the windows closed in a kitchen and turning the stove up to full blast on a sultry day. This makes sense to me because mostly a kiln is a giant oven heated to harden the clay and preserve the design of the artwork that is on it. Most of the time the pottery comes from the kiln unscathed, but there have been a few times when cracks have appeared and Linai assists her student in remodelling the piece with extra clay to give it the necessary thickness it needs so it does not fracture in the kiln. When I see beautifully completed pieces come out of the kiln safely, I always breathe a sign of relief. These pieces have a lot more courage than I do, I am afraid of the fire in the kiln.
In my eighteen years of being a pottery wheel, the most amazing experience that I recall is the story of Jennifer and Stephane Arbour. Jennifer had brought her boyfriend Stephane to a pottery class so he could see why this art form was important to her. Jennifer guided Stephane’s hands on me, the clay becoming caked to their hands as we sculpted the terracotta into a plate. Jennifer and Stephane left the studio after setting the plate aside to dry. Two days later, they came back and as Jennifer sat down to paint a teacup she had previously sculpted, Stephane sat down to design the plate. He experimented with some colour and eventually said, “Jennie, what do you think of this?”
Jennifer looked over at the plate and read the message that was surrounded by hearts and smiley faces. It read: Jennie, will you marry me?” Jennifer didn’t say anything for a minute, but her face held a surprised expression. “Yes, I’ll marry you.” she answered engulfing Stephane in a hug. Linai took of picture of them standing with their plate. This picture hangs in the studio reminding us all how pottery can touch lives in so many ways. Anyone, regardless of age or talent can give me a whirl, and if you’re having fun so will I, no matter what the outcome of the project. I’ve seen many improvements in the students’ works over the years as they learn with practice how to be a better potter. I hold their joy and perseverance close to my heart. I think I have the best job on earth. Living the life of a pottery wheel is never boring.