These past two weeks of pottery truly had its ups and downs. The “up” was that I was able to tackle two new skills while further polishing the teapot base that I learned the week before, and it definitely brought forth many new challenges. Last week my mentor taught me how to make the lid for my teapot. Out of all the skills my mentor had taught me so far, I found this to be the easiest because it had the smallest margin for error. Due to the fact that the lid is quite flat, I didn’t have to worry so much about balancing the clay and also because it wasn’t so unstable, I found it a lot easier to manipulate. I also learned that your lid doesn’t have to exactly match the shape of your pot, because my mentor hinted at another step that I’d have to learn in the near future called carving. Nevertheless, I “passed” this skill and by the next session I was on to making the water spout!
Now this where I faced my “down” of the week. As you can probably tell from some of the photos the mountain of failure was greater than the water spouts made. I think that for every one that I made, I destroyed another five. Usually my mentor only has to show me once or twice, but for this I think I made him demonstrate almost five times! I found that almost every time, I made the clay unstable right at the most fragile part and ruined all the work I put in before this point. Understandably, it was quite frustrating and unfortunately I left my session unable to successfully utilise this skill, but hopefully I can return with renewed energy next week!
Now to reflect on Ms. Mulder’s Posts and de Bono’s How to have a Beautiful Mind. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to record the conversation as I had clay on my hands and was also making pottery while this conversation was happening, but luckily as soon as I got home, I was able to take notes of the conversation! Please do bear with me if the conversation doesn’t seem to flow naturally. I am translating and transcribing my conversation from my first attempt at the water spout.
Mentor: Please look at what I’m about to show you. I’m going to show you how to make the water spout for the teapot.
Me: How much pressure are you using to shape the clay around the rounded part?
Mentor: Not very much. Only apply as much pressure until you feel the clay start to bulge. Now do you see what my thumbs are doing?
Me: Yes. They’re lined up together.
Mentor: This is really important in order to keep the clay steady. Now watch carefully, you need to use your middle finger and thumb to “drag” the clay up and make the spout.
Me: Shouldn’t the knuckle that’s leaning against the spout make it unsteady or bulge?
Mentor: No, not if you keep your hand completely straight and make sure you’re going at a decent speed. Going too slow will only make it shake.
Me: Okay. Also, should I use other fingers to shape the spout or is it necessary to use the middle finger?
Mentor: You’re not limited to the middle finger, but I feel it is the best because it is by far your longest finger. Now when you’ve rounded all the edges make sure you narrow the base with your thumb and index finger and then use the wire to separate it from your clay. Do you understand?
Me: Yes, I’ll give it a try!
*conversation was slightly edited due to length.
In this conversation I noticed three hats as mentioned in de Bono’s work. The first hat that appears in the conversation is the blue hat, because my mentor’s opening statement clearly defines the conversation to come. By making this statement, he makes the conversation’s direction clear to both him and myself, but this doesn’t fulfill the second function of the hat as much, to lay out the sequence of the hats to come. The next hat to present itself is the more common black hat. For example, when I asked, “Shouldn’t the knuckle that’s leaning against the spout make it unsteady or bulge? I used the black hat to point out a potential problem. My mentor also asks a question about the placement of my thumbs which would also fall as a cautionary question to prevent further problems under the black hat. The last hat that is used in the conversation is the green hat and an example of this is when I ask, “should I use other fingers to shape the spout or is it necessary to use the middle finger?” By asking this question I open up the discussion for alternatives and potentially some creative thought. Although this is not a broad statement, it still makes both my mentor and myself pursue a creative approach. Through the use of hats, I believe I am now able to understand more specific aspects of a conversation.
In my next session I hope to overcome the many difficulties I faced this week, so stayed tuned for more updates!