The weather cooperated for an action packed final part for this Spring session! There’s always a little more excitement knowing we can spread out in the fresh air and do cool stuff, like getting a barrel firing in (but the action didn’t stop there).
The Raku firing in the barrel requires a variety of material including firewood, sawdust, leaves, needles, cow manure, and further in, additives like iron oxide.
While the barrel got heated up, it was obviously time for a head to head round on the mini wheels! But as a twist, contestants threw tiny pieces an active tic tack toe board. A near turducken of competition!
Eventually it was time to pull pieces from the barrel and experiment with applying horsehair and feathers, which have to be applied within a particular temperature range to leave its effects. The pieces were cool and interesting straight out of the barrel.
It was a marvelous day of fun and experimentation!
After the resounding success of our blindfolded throwing competition, we thought: ‘how else can we screw up a thrower’s capability?’.
Each pair of competitors had only one hand to use each to throw the tallest vessel in 6 minutes! Some pieces were remarkably well formed. Others, not so much! But in the end it was all for the prestige of the title, not the art.
A late addition to the rules was to demand competitors fill their free hand with their drink! Why did it take so long to figure that one out? Better late than never.
All of this restricted pottery training should produce some Kung Fu level throwing skills!
This idea emerged from other final party contests, like head-to-head speed throwing and throwing the tallest pottery inside of several minutes. It was time to make things really interesting!
This time a student at a pottery wheel was blindfolded (even before their clay was centered) but had the benefit of a coach. The first potential side benefit might’ve been to allow students to better focus on what they were feeling through their hands. However it quickly became clear how important the coach/thrower relationship was, and it was fascinating to watch the teamwork play out.
It was immediately apparent how the quality of the coaching became key to adjusting to the nuances of getting a cylinder thrown and gaining some height to ‘win’. In addition to providing a squirt of water here and there, the coach had to learn how to communicate to the thrower in a whole new way, since nobody was familiar with strictly verbalizing specific throwing movements or corrections. So both coach and thrower had to work together to overcome their respective handicap!
It was suspenseful throughout! By the end of each session it was genuinely impressive how well the students could throw blindfolded, and just about everyone was surprised and fascinated by the ‘social experiment’ aspects too!
The personalities are as diverse as the work! They converge from all over Seattle. The smell of popcorn and familiar faces. Inspiration and perhaps also some friendly competition from fellow classmates.
It’s a pleasure to see them take experimentation to new places, some of which is evident here. Lots of happy accidents, others…not so much! Most students bring along their own unique style and others find it along the way. It never gets old.
I often marvel at how so many good people come to my Seattle studio as students. They continually inspire me as an artist and teacher, and while experimenting and exploring the medium, they typically motivate and inspire their classmates.
Most of my students are adults, but when anybody is in learning mode, especially clay learning mode, the kid in them comes out. They are curious, hungry, and sometimes transparent about feeling impatient or thrilled while they work and create. I love watching it all happen.
Because of students, I seek out new techniques to share with them, and this rejuvenates my own work. Years ago I bought a slab machine so I could teach students more hand building and it turned me into a sculptor. Before that I only had eyes for the pottery wheel. Currently I’m working on a new image transfer technique, again, to share with them, and it’s already finding its way into my work.
I may never figure out what it is that brings such good, fun, curious, friendly people to class. But there’s no time anyway, I’ve got to get the studio prepped for another fun Spring session, which begins tomorrow!