Today my teacher tells me that I have gotten worse at centering the clay on the wheel. I’m in a shitty mood, and the more I try to shove the clay into the middle, the worse it gets. I had gotten used to the slip of time in classes, 2 hours feeling like 20 minutes, the electric feeling of time dissolving into experience.
The clay has to be centered in order to “open” the piece, in order to make it a vessel capable of holding water. And the exercise of centering the clay, so far, is based in touch and guesswork. In moments I feel the exact center, and it’s like being on an airplane, rapid movement that feels like stillness. But I don’t know how to get to the center.
[Edit: When I told my father that I threw my first bowl, he is not impressed. He throws himself and is sure I will get too frustrated to follow through. The first thing he asks is, "Oh, so you threw your first piece. Did you center it by yourself?" and I have to admit, that in fact, Patricia had to give it a little nudge before I opened the piece. "So, you didn't really throw it yourself, then" he says, and I grit my teeth, even more determined than before to master centering.]
If I can center the clay, I think, I can shake off this mood, but instead, I watch the sweat dripping down onto my lump that absorbs the liquid and continues to spin awkwardly. I feel the ba-thump ba-thump of the clay running up against my hands, and curse the undulating form, trying to find center. I waste clay with my fingertips as they dig into the sides, rather than smoothing the grainy sides.
And then, my friend Janet appears for her first class, sits down at the wheel and proceeds to make a mad mess of the clay. On her first turn, her chaco goes flying off the wheel. She is laughing and wiggling and making sound effects, and nothing, nothing is centered, nothing, except for her, enjoying the chaos and beauty of the irregular forms.
I laugh with her, feel relieved, and leave centering for tomorrow.