Pottery in a Pandemic: Lessons Learned

This fall, I decided to try something new. I wanted to find a safe and socially distanced hobby during the pandemic. I noticed my local art gallery was offering pottery classes, and I jumped at the chance. Because who wouldn’t want to try making their own personalized mugs?

I think we can all agree that 2020 has been a year full of uncertainty. In particular, learning how to navigate online learning has been no easy feat.

Taking up a new hobby gave me an outlet to use my creativity and focus on something productive and fun. Here is my reflection on the pottery class and a few lessons that really stuck with me.

1. It’s ok to make mistakes.

I thought using a pottery wheel would be easy. All you have to do is slap some clay on the wheel and shape it, right?

I was totally wrong. In fact, it took me weeks until I could actually get my clay centred properly on the wheel, let alone make a mug! Throughout this process, I made a ton of mistakes.

I would use too little water on the clay, and my piece would collapse. My piece would come off centre and I would have to restart.

It took me quite a few tries, a lot of help from the instructor, and many hours spent at the wheel to get it right.

In this class I learned not to be afraid of failure. Sure, there is a lot of fear going into any new experience because you don’t know what to expect. But if you can lean into the uncertainty and embrace your mistakes, you might come out of the experience having learned a few new skills (and in my case, some neat looking mugs!)

2. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Working with clay was a real learning curve. There are many steps and techniques to remember, even just figuring out how the pottery wheel works took some practice!

I often had to stop and ask the instructor how to proceed – whether it was figuring out ways to fix a piece that had gone wonky, attaching a handle to a mug, or applying glaze to a nearly finished product. It took me a lot of courage to ask, but in the end, I learned so much from just asking for help.

3. Celebrate the small stuff.

Clay can be finicky. You might be trimming the edges of a piece you worked on for days and all of a sudden it will collapse on you.

I learned to take advantage of the small wins. Even if the only thing I accomplished that day was centering the clay correctly, I considered it as something worth celebrating. Because in the end, you’re making progress – and that’s what really matters.

This year hasn’t been easy. But, in the words of Chris Hadfield, “It’s a chance to do something different.”

We have an opportunity to make the most of it.

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3 Responses

  1. Clemm Larsen says:

    Well written, Emma!

  2. Gabg says:

    Great post! Which ceramics studio was this?