#KilnIt: 8 Life Lessons Pottery Teaches You

#KilnIt: 8 Life Lessons Pottery Teaches You

Working with clay teaches you how to work with yourself.

Chris Lewis Photography

Besides the days of working summer jobs, trying to swim as much as humanly possible, and having drinks with those friends from home that you miss the rest of the year, summertime is also the time to learn new things, expand your comfort zone and try out whatever you've been wanting to explore.

This summer, my artistic and generous mother let me tag along to her pottery classes, and apart from the task of actually learning how to coax clay into functional shapes, we've discovered that working clay comes with scoops of its own zen wisdom that can be applied to everyday life.

Sometimes it takes welcoming in a foreign experience and starting from the beginning to remind you that life is comprised of lessons no matter where you look.

Here are just a handful (wink nod) of lessons that pottery taught me this summer and I found useful enough to want to share with you.

1. Listen to your teachers. Like, really listen.

Beginning a new craft at 21, I was excited and wary of looking like an idiot. Sometimes, that tendency can make people (including me) try to do it our "own way" as if to say, "hey, I'm an adult and I got this!"

Uh-huh. Every time I tried to embellish on the technique my teacher showed me, the pot would wobble and get bent out of shape, almost to remind me that everyone starts as a beginner and toeing the line wasn't going to help anyone!

Stay humble and listen to those that know better than you. Working a potter's wheel and wet clay helps you notice when you're getting too big for your britches by immediately displaying your imbalances externally! No denying it.

2. Sometimes we all need a helping hand.

There are certain lessons in life, and in pottery, that you just cannot learn on your own. People like me like to think we can tackle the world on our own, and that our problems should be ours alone. Good luck if you think we will ever bother others with them, unless it's dire.

Working with clay is a highly personal art form, but when I couldn't get it right, my teacher just holds my hands under her own and helps me discover what she's talking about. Every learning style is different, but having a helping hand never hurts! You might find another perspective that works better.

3. Don't be afraid of mistakes.

Working with clay is both a delicate and forgiving medium because you can always scrap it and reuse the material, but it's so malleable that it's super easy to muck up in the creation process! One of the best aspects of pottery is the ease of starting over.

My teacher has her students that are too cautious of messing up intentionally wreck a piece on the wheel to feel the "worst case scenario" and get over it. She says that you can't learn what the line feels like until you drive straight past it. Being a perfectionist, this was a great lesson for me to learn.

4. Center yourself completely.

The first thing a potter will tell you is that an uncentered piece is a worthless and ugly one. In fact, the first thing you do on a wheel is make sure the clay is perfectly centered.

You can't hope for a centered piece unless you yourself are centered and peaceful. Centering means your hands and fingers are working in perfect balance on either side, your body is centered over the wheel and your mind is focused on the task at hand.

It's entirely tangible when the clay is slightly off, and a breath of fresh air when it's on.

5. Hold your calm in the storm.

Stand your ground. Let the clay work against your hands as the wheel turns the clay against the eroding rocks of your fingertips. If you let the clay take the wheel (pun intended), the piece will be ruined. Only by holding your power and taking up the space you are worthy of retaining just by your existence without apology.

Don't let the clay or anyone push you around. You are the defining rocks that alter other peoples' courses without you even noticing! The lessons you learn from others, others will learn from you too.

6. Balance is crucial.

The key to pottery is balance, particularly balance of pressure from your hands against the velocity of the wheel's spin speed and the consistency of the clay. Making sure the clay stays moist enough, your fingers are matching each other's pressure and going in the right direction at all times without uncentering the clay on the wheel gives the mind plenty to keep track of in real time!

It becomes the ultimate meditation of mind and body while the clay's earthy smell and feel grounds you completely. Plus, it's productive!

7. Find freedom within the rules.

Learning the technique is important and necessary to success in the making beautiful, useful pottery pieces. But, some of my favorite pieces I created over the course of this summer are the ones that went a little awry and became one-of-a-kind in the process. As with most anything you will attempt in your lifetime, working clay needs a basis of understanding for the chemistry that makes it tick, but the serious fun comes with playing and bending the rules a little bit.

8. Don't sweat the small stuff.

"Happy accidents" find their way into everything on the planet, and clay is no exception. I have learned through pottery that little smudges or a slightly unbalanced pot is not the end of the world. Though I want to indulge my OCD tendencies of perfecting each piece for hours, my teacher would always encourage me, "You're done. Next!" She knew what I needed to hear to be productive and satisfied.

I have become happy to appreciate each piece's unique characteristics!

If you have a pottery studio nearby, or a friend that throws pots, jump in and explore the many lessons it has to offer, as well as the beautiful works of art that come of it!

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

15 Black-Owned Haircare Brands That Cater As Much To Inclusivity As They Do To Your Locks

Championing Black entrepreneurs who make some of our hair favorites.

The haircare industry is vast. With the rise of social media came hundreds of thousands of empowered, niche brands. Single entrepreneurs came out of the woodwork with hair brands that now, years later, have dedicated cult followings.

Of those multitudes of brands, few cater to all hair types, most made without regard for curly or coily hair. These brands, however, are different.

Keep Reading... Show less

Minorities are consistently under-represented in our day-to-day lives, notably in the world of fashion. It's likely you're looking for a way to support black artists. Whether that's the case or you're just a fashion-lover in general, these brands aren't just some of the best black-owned fashion brands — they're some of the most innovative brands of our time, period.

From luxury staples to fun accessories and loungewear, these brands aren't just stunning names you should definitely be following on Instagram, each honors the founder's roots in unique ways with the power of storytelling through artistic expression that manifests in pieces we can't wait to wear.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

10 Home Items You Need For Stress Relief, On The Days You 'Literally Cannot'

Fill your home with peaceful, calming coping mechanisms.

I'd like to think that 2020 is teaching us a lot. Or will teach us a lot. Or will be a story we tell at parties one day. Ultimately, this year has been — and is probably going to continue to be — a bit of a mess.

At the beginning of the year, Australia was on fire and we mourned the death of Kobe Bryant. Then, coronavirus (COVID-19) took our spring and shut us in our homes, inciting panic over public health and sparking political upheaval at every decision made by local and federal officials alike. Now, a week after George Floyd's death at the hands of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, a nationwide conversation is reignited with protests regarding racial injustice in the United States. There is an enormous amount of tension, hurt, and change that is upon the American people.

Keep Reading... Show less

No matter who you are (an introvert, person of color, member of the LGBTQ+ community, Scorpio, TikToker, you name it), we want to hear what dating in America is like for you and the thoughts you have while working through the talking stage, first dates, navigating love, working through dating problems, etc.

Keep Reading... Show less

30 Black-Owned Skincare Brands Every Beauty-Lover Should Know About In 2020

They're not changing the game — they're making a new one.

Skin is something most beauty-lovers obsess over from our early teens, whether our aim is to be glowier, softer, dewier, or poreless, most of us are consistently tracking a new skincare goal. No matter how many products we try, we'll likely forage on with the goal of IRL Photoshopped skin, no matter how many dollars go to them.

The black-founded skincare brands below are the brainchildren of extreme dedication and resilience within the privileged world of beauty. Born out of resilient entrepreneurs overcoming circumstance in a world that does not favor business people of color, these brands have loyal cult followings, and with good reason.

Keep Reading... Show less

A huge part of being in a relationship is communication and, well, part of communication is listening. So, why not have a little fun with your partner and see just how well they know you?

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

7 Ways You Can Safely Attend A Protest In The Middle Of A Pandemic

Wear a mask, but speak up.

It seems like coronavirus (COVID-19) has been around forever now. Life before masks and with public sporting events is a distant memory, hoping to make a comeback sometime this year. We've all had to make some sort of life changes to abide by this pandemic's rules. But that doesn't mean everything has stopped. On May 25, George Floyd died at the hands of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, sparking a cry for justice and racial equality across the nation.

For the last week, protests have taken place in major cities like New York City, LA, DC, Chicago, Phoenix, Portland, Dallas, and Floyd's hometown of Minneapolis. Many of the cities experiencing protests have begun phased reopening, while others (specifically New York City and LA) have yet to begin phase one of post-coronavirus reopening.

As COVID-19 is hardly in our rearview mirror, there are extra precautions protestors can take as they advocate for justice.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

5 Helpful, Effective Mental Health Resources Specifically For The Black Community

These organizations are qualified, caring, and acknowledging the mental trauma individuals are experiencing.

On May 25, George Floyd died after being pinned to the ground by a Minneapolis police officer. In the last week, protests have sprung up across the nation, demanding justice for Floyd and accountability for police brutality. Social media has also seen widespread conversation regarding Floyd's death, Black Lives Matter, and racism in the United States. Today is #BlackoutTuesday, where many are sharing a single black square to represent unity and support for Black voices.

In light of the heavy climate that our country is facing, it is a safe assumption that many individuals' mental health may be suffering. We wanted to highlight mental health resources and organizations that are Black-owned and prepared to assist in whatever you're going through.

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments