I wrote this a long time ago for reasons that I no longer remember. But I'm too lazy to think up something new to write so I'm just gonna throw something old up here. Blah.
It's a funny thing, clay. You can spend so much time on a piece of pottery, I mean just pour your entire soul into a piece of art that defines you. Hours of labor, trying to get a product of the earth to listen to your inner spirit, to get it just right. And when you finally reach a point where you feel the piece symbolizes your internal motivations, dreams and hopes, some jerk with a really crappy piece of pottery will end up just blowing your pottery up. I was that jerk. And this is my tale.
I love making really crappy pottery. Well, I don't think it's crappy, but it is. My pottery is on the same artistic level as a drawing made by a kindergartner who has chosen to work in the chocolate pudding medium. This isn’t to say that I’m against foodstuffs in the art world, quite the opposite, but that is a topic for a different day. It was 1999, and I was still standing on the beach looking at the vast ocean of school work that separated me from the glorious island of graduation. Not to be defeated, I decided to jump right in and get some of my hardest classes out of the way, so I signed up for bowling, weight training (which I later withdrew from) and hand-building ceramics. Hand-building ceramics! I was going to earn college credit by whipping out some pottery that was so bad it could make the Keebler Elves commit ritualistic suicide. What a world! I quickly purchased the required tools for the course. Everything came in a little pack that was labeled “The potter’s buddy!” My first semester up at college and I already had “The potter’s buddy!” It even had the “!” after the title, suggesting that when someone saw you with “The potter’s buddy!” They would say to themselves “OH MY GOSH! THAT GUY HAS THE POTTER’S BUDDY!” If life could get better, I didn’t see how. My enthusiasm dimmed somewhat when I opened up “The potter’s buddy!” to find that I had paid nearly $40 for what appeared to be a plastic fork with the prongs broken off, some toothpicks, and a little bit of sponge. I guess most of the money went towards the little plastic bag that these wondrous tools of earthen manipulation came in. Well, I could go one about “the potter’s buddy” for hours, but that’s not what this story is about. So let me take you all back to the first day of class.
It was a full class, maybe 30 folks in all. The room contained 5 tables, so naturally each table held 6 eager amateur potters. The table that I had chosen had quite a diverse crowd. There was a gothic lady, a hippie, an athlete, a guy that looked like an angry hobo, a punk chick, and me. After the teacher had made some introductions and had talked about the goal of the class (it was to make pottery), she asked everyone to get out they’re tools and get ready for some potting. I proudly pulled out “The potter’s buddy!” in all of its glory, complete with broken fork and sponge, and set it in front of me, awaiting the admiration of my fellow classmates. But then I saw what the hippie brought. You see, it turns out that the good folks who made “the potter’s buddy” also made “The potter’s buddy complete!” It was like the regular potter’s buddy, except it contained additional objects, such as a spoon with no dimple in the spoon part, a wooden stick about yea long, a fancy little booklet, and some pipe-cleaner and a wooden block that was later used to prop up a broken stool. Pretty impressive stuff. Anyway, the way the class worked was that the teacher would talk about some sort of clayey wisdom for a while, and then she would just plob a big hunk of clay in front of us and tell us to create art or art-like object. So we would each go on our way. Around week four, the teacher came around to see what we had made. The gothic lady at our table had made this huge vase, complete with all sorts of crazy gothic thingamabobs on it. The hippie had made a highly detailed pottery box, (which I assumed would be used to hide doobies). In fact, everyone at the table had really impressive projects. That is to say, everyone except for yours truly. So what had I made? I had made no fewer than 2 dozen mugs. Each mug was exactly the same size, shape and color. When asked what my work represented to me, I though for a minute, and answered that I liked mugs, and that I seemed to have the ability to make a lot of them quickly. Hearing this, the gothic lady snidely said “Those mugs aren’t very good. That one has a hole in the side.” It was true; one of the mugs had a hole near the bottom, making drinking from it a dangerous proposition. I turned to her and said “Well, it’s a darn good thing I made 24 of them then, isn’t it?” From that day on, I didn’t really like the gothic lady.
The class passed as described about for the rest of semester. Near the end, I had completed (with the assistance of the potter’s buddy!) nearly a zillion mugs. I tried to make other things, but everything just turned out as a mug. Big mugs, little mugs, mugs with crazy shapes carved in the side. The gothic lady was doing a little better. She was turning out pottery that might actually be considered art, and not just a bunch of poorly made mugs. With every victory over my mugs she got a little more smug (ha!), or whatever gothic people get when they are proud of themselves. Less depressed, I suppose. Anyway, for our final project we had to build one last piece using all the different pot-making techniques that we had learned. It could be whatever we wanted it to be, but it needed to be impressive. I instantly went about getting the clay I would need to create the world’s most impressive mug ever. EVER! I mean, this bad boy was going to be the Mona Lisa of the mug world. If there was a magazine that featured nothing but mugs and mug accessories, this mug would be on the cover for the next 10 years. Such was my dreams for this mug. Mostly, however, I wanted to beat this gothic just once. Beat her with the mugs that she had so often mocked. Now, the thing that made her projects such a success was all the detail she put into her work. Every part of her vases, figures or whatever had some sort of pattern imprinted on them. I knew that I couldn’t compete with her with respect to detail, (she had the potter’s buddy compete), so I decided that I would simply make the largest mug EVER. No detail would be needed, as the shear size of this mug would overshadow her pathetic hard work.
And so it went. I grabbed a block of clay and used it to forge the one mug, the mug of power. Nearly a foot and a half tall, and approaching 3 inches thick on the sides, I was exhausted when my masterpiece finally took shape. I looked over at my undead loving competitor and saw one of the most amazing pieces of pottery ever. Before me stood an intricate dragon figure perched on the edge of a vase which was covered in a scene depicting the dragons birth, life and death. The wings of the dragon had each been painstakingly detailed to show the skin patterns. The vase part had a little place where she said that she planned to put in a pump and have water pouring down the side. Now, that was all very fine and good, but could it possibly stack up with a foot and a half tall mug? Maybe, so I pulled out a secret weapon. Thinking fast, I grabbed more clay, and formed the starship enterprise and deftly attached it to the top edge of my mug. Man, that was now one sweet mug. Confident, I picked up my masterpiece and headed for the kilns, where the fires within would breath eternal life into my creation, which I lovingly entitled “Enterprise mug that is huge.” After a few minutes of trying to get my project into the kiln, I finally managed to squeeze the sucker in there. It was so awesome. Right behind me, gothic lady with her stupid incredible masterpiece gave me a glare when she saw that the only space left in the kiln was right next to my work of art. She didn’t seem to appreciate my hogging most of the space, but what did it matter? I had the enterprise mug, and all she had was talent. Useless talent.
Now, I need to step aside here and just mention a funny thing that clay does when it is put in the kiln. There is a basic rule of thumb to keep in mind when working with clay in a kiln. You don’t want to have any piece of clay thicker than about half an inch in that sucker, or steam in the clay builds up pressure, and tends to result in a hilarious exploding side effect. I knew of this rule, but it had left my mind when I had the vision of the “enterprise mug that is huge.” Such was the grandeur of the mug I had created. Anyway, I left that day with a song in my heart and the knowledge that I had finally defeated my skilled foe.
I had to wait a week before we could finally open up the kilns and get our projects. I nearly went mad. I couldn’t wait to drink a gallon of milk out of my mug and then be greeted by the friendly crew of the enterprise between sips. Finally the day came. I went up to school early for the occasion, and eagerly awaited until the kiln room was unlocked. I raced in and whipped open the door…… It was amazing. I instantly gained a new respect for the power of steam. I remember seeing a picture once of the city of Berlin at the end of WWII. There was very little left standing, and the streets were filled with rubble that had once been a magnificent city. The sight that greeted me that morning was indeed very similar. Nothing remained of my “Enterprise mug that is huge”. Well, I guess it all still remained, but not in the form that it was in when I had placed it into the kiln. The same could be said for pretty much everything else that had been in the kiln at the time. Then I saw something that caught my eye. Lying beneath what had once been the bridge section of the enterprise lay an intricately detailed dragon wing. “OHCRAPOHCRAPOHCRAPOHCRAP!” I thought as I realized that while the destruction of my masterpiece was regrettable, albeit entertaining in nature, I had destroyed what was quite legitimately a masterpiece of pottery. My mind raced. What should I do? There was no question about whose piece was the cause of the pottery nuke. There was practically a crater around where my mug used to be. So I did what any honorable gentleman would do. I closed the kiln doors, spun around on my heel and made warp 10 out of the building. I never returned to that building, meaning that I left behind nearly a dozen of my mugs. But I considered that to be a fair trade for my awesome rampage of steamy clay destruction. I got a B- in the class.
That's all true, by the way. If anyone wants a mug, just tell me and I'll send you one.