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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


Intimacy in the Union, Drop-in Clay Class

The more you handle it, the harder it gets.  So remember, keep it wet.  And most importantly, finish.

And as raunchy as this art form sounds, the free drop-in clay class offered at the Ceramic Studio in the University Craft Center was actually very tender.  The session was not a rough experience, even though my dry, cracked post-pot hands may tell a different story.

Creating this tangible art was an intimate experience.  And the lesson goes beyond just a craft workshop: I learned body parts have to work together to create something.

When I entered the studio for the class on Monday afternoon, I signed in and went to the wooden coat rack.  I browsed through the 50s-style aprons and decided on the white apron with paint splatters.  Partly because my hair was messy from my trek to the Union basement, and partly because of my worn-in smock, I felt like a true sculptor.

I grabbed my ball of clay and packed the wad like a snowball. I threw the clay into the middle of the wheel and pressed it against the metal circle. It worked.  My clay was centered and compacted. I was ready to begin.

I flicked the wheel’s switch to ‘on.’ Maybe the smock had something to do with it, but I felt comfortable in my potter’s stance.  I sat lurched forward, left elbow on my left hip, as my black nails started to turn brown from the pieces of clay sticking to my hands.  As the instructor had said, my left hand was in the core of the pot.  The right hand was on the outside of the pot.

But my hands weren’t working separately.  With my thumbs linked together, as closely as college students are to caffeine, I felt the clay move as I pushed my foot further down on the pedal.  At first, I didn’t see much of anything.

I dipped my sponge into the little water bucket in front of me to wet my clay. I started again. I could see the clay taking shape.  I was careful not to get too excited or else the clay could ripple – once the clay is messed up, well, there’s not much you can do to save it.

But with my hands linked and the wheel spinning, not even the ripples could throw me off.  When a segment of my first pot twisted, I sliced it off with a needle-like tool so I could finish it.

I made sure to keep adding water before the clay got too hard from all the handling.  I kept my wheel at a constant speed.  I kept my hands linked together.  I made a mess on the wheel and on my hands.  But I finished with a pot.

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