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Bowled Over: A Blogger Tries Pottery

Have you watched the Ice Cream Bowl Throwdown video we posted yesterday? They make it look easy, don’t they?

Don’t make me laugh.

My name is George. I do the blogging here at The Art League. Blogging, while requiring a certain amount of creative output, isn’t really a “fine art.”

So we thought it would be fun for me to leave my comfy spot behind this keyboard and try my hands at the potter’s wheel. I have returned to share what I learned. Full disclosure: I don’t know what I’m talking about. But I can recommend the ceramics jumpstart class this fall if you want more reliable information.

My teacher was Tiffany Scott (bronze medalist in the throwdown) who works in The Art League School and teaches ceramics to summer art campers — her patience with young pupils would prove useful during my lesson.

Day 1: We wedged the clay to prepare it for the potter’s wheel. It vaguely reminded me of kneading bread. Then we skillfully plopped our raw material on the wheel and I learned how to center it, open it up, and shape the sides — but not for long. Suddenly, somehow, my developing bowl became an unwieldy, floppy mass. The clay could be recycled, though.

My first lesson.

Bowl Two was a similar story. It fell apart at the sides.

Bowl Three went wrong, too, but with lots of help from Tiffany, we salvaged it into a mini-bowl. A success, in my book.

Not too shabby.

Read on for the rest of the story!

Day 2: I went back to trim the bowl. Jack Heimerman and Tiffany showed me how to secure the bowl to the wheel and use a tool to trim the bowl’s sides and foot and make them pretty. I signed it, too.

The trimmed bowl.

Day 3: After a trip to the kiln, Ice Cream Bowl Jr. took a bath in glaze. I selected avocado flavor — I think it turned out nicely.

Tiffany demonstrates the glazing process.

Day 4: Here’s the finished bowl after the second firing!

Mmm, avocado.

What did I learn from this experience? Don’t be fooled by YouTube videos. This is really hard to do. Like, really hard. But also fun. I won’t say to leave it to the professionals, but I don’t want to think about how many hours of practice, and lessons from teachers like Tiffany, it must take to get to the level of skill you saw in that other video.

So when you take your first bite of ice cream next weekend, don’t forget that more than clay and ice cream went into that bowl — they’re also filled with the blood, sweat, and tears of some seriously talented artists. Figuratively, of course.

And don’t worry, my bowl won’t be for sale.

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