Friday, January 8, 2010

Real Potters

This morning, even though I knew it was silly, I was in the mood to make some New Year's Resolutions. OK, so maybe my first resolution should be to do things on time instead of a week late.... Anyway, there's just something about a quiet snowy morning, the start of a new year, a new decade even, that makes you want to pull up your socks, and I got thinking about what I should concentrate on in 2010. Right at about this time, a potter acquaintance phoned up to ask me a question. She didn't understand something about her kiln so she decided to 'ask a real potter about it'. That made me laugh as I've never felt like a 'real potter' myself!

Not that I'm too sure about 'real potters'. I really do wonder about them sometimes, things I'd love to know but could never ask.

For example, do real potters spend hours and hours scooping bumpy glaze out of giant pails and brushing it through a sieve to make it usable again? For one mug?

Do real potters ever spend many hours painting something on a set of plates, and then decide at the last minute to use an untested colour on the rims? Not the colour they've carefully checked will work with their glaze, kiln, and so on, but the one they just bought that is labelled 'Autumn Cinnamon'? It sounds perfect, you're tired, the order is due in two days..... and you can guess what 'Autumn Cinnamon' does in the kiln.

Do real potters ever reach for a damp towel to lift out a hot kiln shelf? More than once?

Do real potters ever dump a handful of cobalt oxide into half a bucket of some left-over glaze or another? And then get a fabulous blue...... with no idea of how to make more of it? Do real potters write the name of the glaze on the lids of the buckets, lids which fit other buckets just fine?

Do real potters get customers who come into the shop, gush extravagantly about how they just 'loooove' your work, and then say 'Can I get one just exactly like this.... only can you make it a bit larger, and don't put this stupid handle on - make a plain one, and, like, you know, this colour isn't quite right, it should be bluer and don't bother with a lid but I'd like a saucer underneath?' And do real potters then allow her to leave undamaged?

Do real potters spend hours tightly focussed over their drawing tables cutting complicated stencils of some design in several sizes and then use them on a set of pieces.... which promptly sell out and make you want to do more..... only you didn't label the various stencil pieces so now you have no idea which ones go together?

Do real potters sit at their wheels working with the studio door open for the wonderful spring air and their dogs bound in because your neighbour has come to visit and they are so-o-o happy.... and all those lovely fresh mug bodies are right at tail level?

Do real potters have their helpers mix up large batches of glaze, which they then use to glaze a whole kiln load of pots, at which point Invaluable Helper says, 'Oh, by the way, I think I may have forgotten to put in one of the glaze ingredients, but I don't know which one?'

Do real potters ever forget to glaze the inside of a teapot? Forget to make the strainer holes? And then put them out for sale?

Do real potters ever accept an order which needs an inscription on the bottom of each piece? The first ones, you carefully follow the script you wrote out, then your concentration begins to slip, and you leave out a word? On all the rest of them?

Do real potters play Pin Tool Ball? You know, you've been getting along with one pin tool for months, and it's all corroded and the handle is loose, and then you treat yourself to 6 new pin tools, all of which are gone within a week, leaving you with one, which is all corroded and has a loose handle....

The list goes on.... will I ever learn? Will I ever be a 'real' potter?