Have I got a treat for you this week from Jingdezhen, China. Today’s sherd looks at what 500 kg can do when people work collaboratively: I watch this anytime 10 pounds of clay pushes me around too much. 

This is very relational work you are engaged in: how you touch, and how you leave the body of clay ought to be in your thinking, and eventually metabolized into choreography. 

Auguste Elder

A few things to look for while watching this:


1. Note how relatively little water these ceramists use in the making of this massive vat. This is a good practice to inculcate, especially as your forms begin to increase in size and complexity. Too little water, and you run the risk of torquing or deforming your works due to friction; too much water, and your vessels’ wall/shoulder strength weaken as the bonds between the microscopic shingles decay. Think on a microscopic level, where water molecules are really serving as miniature ball bearings. Listening to the clay as it transitions from dry to slippy, slippy to sticky; feeling out the temperature of your clay as it moves beneath your hands, from cool to warm/hot; responding to the plasticity of the walls as they thin out: these are all signals transmitted to the alert and practiced. 


2. Note that nearly every gesture and movement performed on the clay is assisted by more than one hand. Stability of the potter(s) allows the forms to emerge, however symmetrical or free-flowing the final piece. Think of your one hand providing emotional or moral support to the other as you center, pull, inflate, or collar. There are exceptions to every rule, of course. But

finding one’s center in relationship to the clay’s center allows the rest of the world to spin as it will. 

Auguste Elder


3. Intentionality of gesture. Introducing the hands/body to the clay, as well as releasing oneself from the clay is as important as shaping words or notes with the breath. This is very relational work you are engaged in: how you touch, and how you leave the body of clay ought to be in your thinking, and eventually metabolized into choreography.