Monday, April 29, 2019

Just So Much

“….it missed by this much”, he said. And to emphasize just how tiny and insignificant “this much” was, he thrust out his hand, holding his finger and thumb a scant quarter-inch apart.

Yeah, what of significance could possibly fit between fingers so closely spaced?

More than 100,000 pots. That's what.

Knowing the distance between two fingers – and how to set and hold them there, precisely at such a distance –is perhaps the central skill to being a potter. It’s not a “squeeze”. It’s a set-and-hold. And learning the feel of that distance and being capable of holding it -- whether thumbs may touch over a short wall for reference….or the fingers are completely separated and working on either side of a very tall wall that reaches to the elbow and beyond – that’s what a potter needs to learn to make a good, even-walled pot. It’s what a potter needs to know to make a pot light enough for function, but heavy enough for a lifetime of use and abuse.

When that skill became second nature to me, I found that my mind would venture off to a beyond well away from that starting point – well away from that focus on two fingers.

What starts with a slam of clay on wheelhead and a whirring motor, a few seconds worth of slip-slap-center …. fingers assuming their positions in that set-and-hold, soon (and inevitably) leads to my focus slipping right between those fingers right along with the clay…

…and wandering off.

Some of my most creative moments happen while I’m at my wheel with my fingers set on spinning clay. Since what is going on with my fingers has become automatic, my imagination is freed. Now not only do I create the pot presently on the wheel….I contemplate the next, and the next. I imagine new ideas, new pots. My imagination becomes as malleable as the clay I’m forming. I write essays and poetry (yes, at some point I have to wipe slip from my hands and type those thoughts out). I dream my best, most fruitful dreams with my fingers set “this much” apart.

Yeah, what of significance could possibly fit between fingers so closely spaced?

This potter’s life.

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