That’s what happened this weekend … at Tony Clennell’s workshop at the Visual Arts Centre. Not exactly what I expected. I did a workshop with Tony before at Pinecroft — “Throwing Big”, and to tell you the truth, I found it kind of stressful. Might have been my headspace at the time (or Tony’s) but it seemed to be hard work. I went through boxes of clay and produced monster pieces, but I was holding my breath for two days! If it wasn’t for the fact that Tony had great stories and a sense of humour that matched my own, I might have been intimidated enough to start making miniatures … (but you guys know me, I don’t stay intimidated for long).
Flash forward two years later … and I manage to convince Tony to come and teach out this way at the VAC. What happened this time? Well, the pressure was off. I didn’t think I’d be throwing anything anyway. My job was to keep him relatively happy for the weekend, make sure he was fed and watered, find him a billet, the sort of stuff a studio slave might do — so I didn’t think I’d be throwing at all. But, once Tony was settled in at the VAC he was pretty low maintenance. After about an hour of just watching I was getting pretty antsy and I was invited to join in. What a hoot. He covered soooooo much territory. And, it was fun!
Most potters, like myself, have things that we have to make because people expect them — things like mugs and bowls, functional stuff that’s very repetitive. When Tony said we were going to make mugs I might have groaned a little (maybe a lot) and he asked me if I liked making them. I answered that I didn’t mind making them, but they get somewhat boring after you’ve knocked off a hundred or so. His response to that was to stop making them and start playing with them. And, then we did. Now they’re not just functional, they’re fun!
Tony came out to the McDonald abode (my husband and I haven’t come up with a proper name for it yet) and stayed Saturday night and of course we chatted about pots and the lot of the potter trying to make a livelihood out of the craft. I was bemoaning the fact that I hadn’t settled on a style, or glaze, or a method of sales, and so on. And this man, who has been in the business forever, has a MFA, teaches all over the world, and has studied with some of the best studio potters in recent history (which makes him sound much older than he is) asked me how long I’d been potting. I told him about fifteen years — and he said “oh, well, another two to go”. So, I’m going to hold him to that. Two more years to go and I’ll know where I’m going as a potter? Hope that’s true. I’m not getting any younger!
I learned a great lesson this weekend. From now on if it’s not fun as well as functional, it just won’t be part of my repertoire. Will be interesting to see how that changes my work.
Hope you’re having a great day,