My hands are warming the clay, kneading it,
turning it clockwise, forcing air pockets out.
The heel of the left palm comes down at
twelve o'clock, gets all the molecules
moving in the same direction.
I make eight balls, each one the size of
a grapefruit and begin to see how
each one can be something like a soup bowl.
Throw the first ball down. Lean
over the wheel. Move the right foot
toe to heel. Press elbows into body.
Lock wrists and draw the deep breath.
Cup hands and set them to work against
each other, getting the clay to center.
Again. The center eludes you.
Again. The hands too stiff.
Just now I leave the center a little off,
its own problem.
And start to open. Press straight down
with two thumbs toward the bottom. I'm still
asking the clay to find its own bowl.
A big mistake, but I see the soup. That's all
I'm thinking of today, just soup.
As you move from the bottom up even these
modest ideas are risks. It has to rise
at least four inches up and out.
in an easy curve. Three bowls, not bad.
But now the clay begins to sink. I have to
stop, wipe the sweat out, set it on a board.
A day later I roll a snake coil, glue it on.
Only the eighth person ever knows
how crazy this is.
That eighth person is always me.
This next pot's so perfect, set against
the others, I can see why
I've come to have so little feeling for it.
There it is. So what?
All week they shrink to leathery shapes.
I turn them upside down and trim off
loops of clay to make a foot. Third too small,
sixth too heavy, second so thick I can only
rub a bottom on. And add the glaze. Talc white.
Soft lustrous feel of high magnesia, opaque
and buttery. Mostly feldspar, flint,
zinc oxide for the colorant. A glaze you can
live with, move your spoon across.
And this is a good firing, rising to temperature.
They come out grey, a mild light grey
with mottled iron spots. Sometimes
in the right place in the kiln,
one side turns a pure milky white.
MARGOT TREITEL, who has degrees in philosophy and American studies, spent two years teaching English as a second language in West Africa.
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