My first pottery experience was during a summer school ceramics course during my high school years. I made a couple really awful coil pots. Purple and yellow glazes. A bowl and a vase. Both leaked. It was fun but I didn't really get it. I didn't have a conversation with the clay. It wasn't until a couple decades had passed that I was exposed to the possibilities of clay at Portland Community College where I got thoroughly hooked.
Sometimes the clay is cooperative, a partner in the vision. Sometimes it’s contrary. Working with it is always a collaboration. While the clay prefers to relax in elegant, organic shapes I challenge it to take the shape of something it doesn’t want to be. Rigidly straight. Machined. As though the piece was cobbled from spare parts found on a boilermaker's workbench. Held together with nuts and bolts. When the clay and I have reached agreement and we’re both content with the result, I find myself negotiating with the glaze. In the end, I’ve shaped the clay and applied the glaze but the final decisions are made in the kiln.
The outcome is, without a doubt, the result of a four-way partnership between the clay, the glaze, the kiln, and me. If all goes well, the collaboration has produced some interesting pieces and I've had a chance to exercise my creativity. If all goes well, my work will conjure a smile, incite a chuckle, or perhaps pour a cup of tea.