It is the most illogical of tales. Take someone who’s deep in the middle of struggling to write a dissertation while bringing up two children, with a husband, and an active social life and walk with her down to the lower level of the university student center where she becomes transfixed to discover a ceramics studio. Add to the mix a Texas-sized twenty-mile daily commute (worse was in her future). Inform her that as a teaching faculty member she can have instant privileges at the studio with only a small payment to buy clay. Let her discover a recent rage for herbal teas in restaurants where this concoction is served in odd, little, individual pots for each tea-bag.
Before she knows what she’s in for, she’s gripped with memories of playing with tiny tea sets made in potteries in Morbi, Saurashtra, India and she decides, she’s going to make teapots.
Not just a pot. Not a simple round cylinder that can be a tumbler. Not a simple round cylinder with a handle that can be a mug. Not a simple pitcher with a lip shaped to pour out liquid and a handle. Not a simple ewer with a handle and a small spout for pouring out freshly pressed olive oil. Not even a simple, functional casserole, a large round pot with straight sides and a basic lid to fit. No. A teapot. The most challenging form thrown on the wheel. It has to have a well-shaped body to hold the hot water and brew the tea. It has to have a lid that fits yet allows efficient delivery of the delicious liquid. It has to have a delivery mechanism, or a spout for this delicious liquid to be dispensed as needed. And it has to have a handle that must remain cool to the touch when lifting the vessel to pour out the steaming, fragrant beverage. Four, count them, four distinct unique shapes from lumps of clay that must fit together cleanly to function properly.
Ignorance being Bliss, she proceeds to make teapots. From bits of instruction offered in passing by fellow potters, she produces a dumpy object that actually functions. Not well. No, there are drips and dribbles when trying to pour from the spout. The shapes are clumsy. The lid sort of sits atop the round-ish pot. The handle curves awkwardly and feels skinny in the hand. And yet, the thing actually has holes in the pot where the spout meets the body so that one can actually brew tea leaves and strain them out when pouring the brew! The very next object, another teapot, looks pleasantly more complete and together, with a spherical shape, a fitting lid, and a pretty curved handle. Alas, its spout to body attachment holes are blocked by too much glaze and the thing is no better than a fancy door stop.
Thus the saga of the potter’s life begins and it takes many years for her to remember that one of the most interesting pieces she taught in an Introduction to Fiction course was a short story by Doris Lessing called “The Two Potters.” It was told by a poet who had a potter friend and who dreamed about another potter, an ancient craftsman in a prehistoric land. Her favorite to discuss.
Her better influences came decades later: Bob Smith and Robin Furuta, unique Colorado potters; Kathy Holt at the Arapahoe Community College Arts program, and many other workshop instructors. With many cycles of ceramics 101 in various aspects, the works you will see on her website reveal touches of these teachers in items that succeed. The limitations are all her own.