Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Ceramics - Class One

Well, it seems my life didn't begin last night after all - if anything I thought it would end! I felt so nervous and uncomfortable, I just couldn't concentrate. I can't really pinpoint what the problem was, but I think there were a number of things:

  1. The tutor didn't seem as friendly as he was in his emails. He was very serious and quite negative. He said that when we start throwing pots we won't produce anything in the first lesson, and later when another student and I expressed an interest in using porcelain he said he wouldn't recommend it because it's very difficult to use. It wasn't really what he said, but how he said it.
  2. I think my expectations of myself were too high. I had an idea of what I wanted to make but nothing was going right, which only heightened my anxiety.
  3. A very lovely lady sitting at the same table kept talking to me. She was very nice, but I really can't be creative and talk at the same time.
  4. I was very aware of how little time we had and I felt rushed.
The tutor showed us how to make small hollow animals at the beginning of the class, by fitting two cup shapes together. The cups were made by sticking our thumb into the centre of a ball of clay and squeezing the sides between the thumb and fingers to make them thinner. Once the two cups were joined we could decorate them how we pleased. I sat and played with the clay for about an hour and a half before finally making something in the last half hour! And by then I didn't have time to make anything more elaborate than this little head!

The expression portrays how I was feeling!

I didn't feel very comfortable in last weeks drawing class either and I started wondering if these courses were really for me. I had to give myself a good talking to, along the lines of "C'mon Linda, you are Undaunted! You can do this!" Tonight I just blocked everything out with music and head phones, and I felt much more relaxed. I shall post tonight's drawing as soon as I have photographed it.


Kari Gibson said...

Don't worry, it is early days yet, you have to get a feel for the clay before you get throwing and modelling like a pro! The tutor obviously has a lesson plan that he has to work through, so trust in the process and just have fun (and sit away from the chatty lady next time).

painter girl said...

Hey Un D,
Don't worry! You are just having first night jitters. Every time I go to a workshop I feel the same way in the beginning. But then as everyone loosens up (even the teacher is nervous...I promise) you will feel more secure and therefore more creative. And by the way, I thought your head was really great especially for 30 mins.
Keep at it!!!!

JafaBrit's Art said...

oh you are out of your comfort zone and I KNOW how you feel, but you CAN do it. I really like the head :)

I think just going and going with the flow and learning to enjoy playing with the clay will help.
I agree about people chatting while trying to work/concentrate is annoying.

Undaunted said...

Thanks Kari, I know you're right. I think I felt that I could move on to more advanced stuff sooner because I have made various large clay objects in the past. The tutor is quite flexible as well - he has a lesson plan but allows people to work on their own projects if they prefer. I think I will now follow the plan for the first 10 weeks to build some confidence, and then when I re-enrol I could start on my own projects.

Hi Leanne. Ooh, I'm glad it's not just me! I had been looking forward to it for so long so I couldn't understand why I was so nervous! Maybe that's why I was nervous? There were others who were beginners and yet they were so relaxed and just took to it like a duck to water - which made me feel even worse!

I'm glad you liked the little head! Thank you!

Thank you for having confidence in me Jafabrit! I really thought this would be in my comfort zone! You've totally hit the nail on the head though - I need to learn to enjoy just playing with the clay. I don't have to produce a masterpiece at the end of every class, and that is what I need to remember.

Thank you all!

mona said...

I don't think I have anything new or helpful to say that hasn't already been said. Just take a deep breath and relax.

Also I know ALOT of art teachers and painter girl is so right, they can be just as nervous.

Keep at it and have FUN!

Undaunted said...

Thank you Mona :)

andrea said...

I love it! The eyes are great. Consider the tutor a tool, like, say, Google, for information, and you will be fine. Just focus on what you can get out of HIM, not vice versa.

Undaunted said...

Thanks Andrea, I will bear that in mind.

cynthia said...

Sorry your instructor isn't too warm and friendly...

Working with clay takes time - and I'd say your sculpture is a fantastic start! I began my clay journey using a heavily grogged brown stoneware clay body and didn't attempt throwing with a wheel until 1 month into it. Even then, I banged my head on the wheel every day I did. I struggled and fought the clay trying to make it do what I wanted it to do. I didn't attempt using porcelain well into my 2nd or 3rd year - but that doesn't mean that you can't buy some, bring it home and try working with it. It is said that porcelain is a bit like working with cream cheese.

There's sort of a Zen thing with clay - and once I let go, I had a much easier time of it. As with anything, if you're feeling anxious, things don't flow well.

Undaunted said...

That is so true Cynthia. Thank you for your wise words of experience. It's good to know that others have struggled before me!

The tutor said that the kilns they use wouldn't be hot enough for firing porcelain either. I think he said it would harden, but it wouldn't have that transparent quality. Have you fired porcelain at lower temperatures before?

Hmm... maybe I'll buy some cream cheese first for practice!

Anonymous said...

I was so incredibly excited my first clay class (I started with a night class as a diversion from my day job) that my heart was in my throat. ..so much anticipation. I was so disappointed that I couldn't get right on the wheel (never having been on one).

Some teachers are a lot more structured than others and often teach like they were taught. Your instructor's bedside manner might not have been great, but starting with handbuilding isn't necessarily a bad thing. It really helps students get the feel for clay, what its like to work with, and properties.

Once I finally got on the wheel (4 classes into the session), I spent my first few classes just trying to center the clay! Nothing came really easy but I plugged and plugged.

I started with a groggy buff clay that was good for handbuilding and throwing. Like Cynthia it was a while.. maybe a year or two.. before I tried porcelain (albeit cone 6 "porcelain"). I discovered that it really *was* that much harder to work with and it cracked that more easily.

Don't lose heart. Patience and persistence. You'll find your groove in class. :)

Carpe diem

Undaunted said...

Thank you Anne. It's good to hear other peoples experiences.

I didn't mind waiting a few weeks before trying the wheel as I had a few projects of my own that I wanted to work on anyway, but it didn't really go to plan that first night!

As others have said, the tutor must have been nervous too because the following week he was fine.

I am looking forward to trying porcelain, but again I don't mind waiting. Maybe I didn't explain myself properly to the tutor - I wasn't asking to use it the following week or anything! I was just sort of thinking some time in the future. Oh well. Maybe one day I will by some of my own, if I can find a supplier.

Thanks for your encouragement Anne.