The longer I work with clay, the more I realize that I will never exhaust its possibilities. Maybe all art forms offer this ever-expanding universe of things to explore; I don’t know. I only know that every pottery skill learned and challenge met opens the door to more.
But some doors open just to slam shut again. Through trial and error, I have concluded that, while I will never get enough of some things, other aspects of pottery making are just not for me.
Take miniatures, for example. I know potters who create delightful little replicas of tea pots and animals, perfectly detailed caricatures that live in an adorable world of their own scale. Tiny perfect rose earrings can be gorgeous, too. Are my hands too clumsy, my fingers too big? Whatever the reason, I don’t like the results I get when I try to work in the miniature universe.
Similarly, fine effects and very thin pieces. Think bone china that you can see through, like your great-grandmother’s porcelain teacups. I love drinking from them, but making something like them is way outside my interests and inclinations.
I also differ from the many potters who decorate their pots by dip glazing. For this process, you lower your mug or bowl carefully down into a large bucket of glaze and then pull it out again. For special effects, you dip again into a second or even third colour of glaze, covering all or part of the piece to create layers and drips. I admire the results — I buy the results! — but I just don’t like finishing my pots that way.
Potters who dip glaze often mix or even formulate their own glazes, taking pottery into the realm of chemistry. Again, there are wonderful rewards for those who get into it, and there are highly desirable pots as a result. But glaze chemistry is not the kind of focus that is of interest to me. I find that commercial glazes are a reliable resource for my work.
However, as I said earlier, I’m always learning and changing, so none of these preferences are cast in stone. Case in point: during the many years that I focused entirely on handbuilding, I would have said that the potter’s wheel was just not for me. But here I am today with wheel work added to my repertoire, loving the challenges and the successes that it brings to my experience as a potter.