By Kenneth C. Hoffman
Ceramics has marked the progress of civilization for thousands of years, preserving the talents of countless artisans. With very little instruction, there exists the possibility that you, too, can be a part of history. My personal experience with ceramics was brief, but spiritual.
A local Catholic school in my area boasted a wonderful ceramist on staff so I signed up for a beginner's course. The Sister radiated a passion for excellence in ceramic making that insured a high level of interest in her pupils. It was a charming sight watching this holy person working madly amidst flying clay and water. The class was invited to travel to an area in New Jersey that contained a deposit of clay suitable for ceramics. I could not participate in this field trip, but I did get to use some of the clay that they gathered.
After a thorough grounding in the hand building of pots, we chose a design of our own for a project. I fashioned a hanging pot of my own design, hour-glass shaped with a free curve formed bottom and kidney-shaped windows stretching to the top. Every week I shaped and carved the leather-like property of the semi-dry clay until it satisfied my artistic senses. When completely dry, I fired it in a twenty-four inch electric kiln at a temperature of 2300 degrees. An application of a natural brown glaze containing yellow and black speckles required a second firing. The first sight of the true colors of the cooling pot was an unforgettable experience, not a straight line to be found from the inwardly curving bottom to the curves reaching to the top. The annealing took place over a period of several days and the addition of a coarse raffia rope allowed it to hang from the ceiling like an amoebae dividing itself.
The sheer variety of ceramic art objects and their long lasting properties are what make this hobby an exciting world to explore. Everyone should allow their creative selves free rein to fashion directly from mind to hand a piece of their own soul. With materials costing but pennies, every hand-made pot is unique and each one satisfies mankind's urge to create something beautiful and useful.
At retirement, I find time for a myriad of hobbies.
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