Throw, Spin, Glaze: Make Your Pottery Dreams (or any other hobby) Take Shape

Throw, Spin, Glaze: Make Your Pottery Dreams (or any other hobby) Take Shape

Is it just me, or does there seem to be a growing number of pottery classes popping up around the neighborhood? Has everyone on your Instagram feed of late posted their latest handmade creations from pinch bowls to egg cups to planters? I can’t tell if this is a new trend or one that just goes round and round through the years (pun completely intentional). I noticed this trend in pottery probably because I have always wanted to do it. But this post is less of an invitation to mold some clay as it is a nudge to try your hand at something (anything) that you have been keen to try but, for one reason or another, just never did.

There are numerous benefits to trying new things, from overcoming fears to expanding your creativity to making yourself more marketable (no shame in the end goal; we all need a source of motivation). There are cognitive benefits to learning new skills, especially in older adults, since our memory and processing speed can decline as we age. And, for so many of us who experience routine stress, learning new things can create feelings of competency, happiness, and rejuvenation, reducing our overall stress. Trying new things also helps us understand ourselves better, brings us closer to things we love, and opens doors to new opportunities.

My (very brief) pottery story:

I have always loved ceramics and have a drawer full of mismatched, vintage and chipped plates and cups to prove it. I just can’t part with a shape, color, or design I love. One beautiful Finish collection was given to my parents on their wedding day, while another was brought over from Germany by my grandmother in 1981. Some were once valuable while others are not in the slightest, like the notched, rainbow heart mug I discovered abandoned in a café basement where I once worked. Though it may be unglamorous, it is often the one holding my morning coffee.

So, it is no surprise that I have always wanted to try making my own ceramics. I always thought I would try it on some undefined date, so I put it off.

And I put it off.

And suddenly, I had two kids and even less time, and it looked like a project for retirement. This can happen with things we want to do – they are often cast aside for more “important” tasks, and before you know it, they become just an idea you once had.

So, finally, during my last mat leave, I decided to find a class (shoutout to my mum for babysitting the little one while I sought out some me time). The only problem was all the local ones were filled up! It seemed this inclination was a popular one.

After much searching, I settled on a class 30 minutes away where a young social worker turned ceramic artist opened her own studio to create and offer courses. I took a six week class where I got to try wheel throwing and even produce a few take-home items of my own. Were they perfect? No, but that wasn’t the end goal, and if anyone reading this has tried pottery, you’ll know that it looks way easier than it is in practice. But it’s also extremely satisfying. My six-year-old son even asked if he could sign up for a class. The beauty of taking a short course was how I could get my hands dirty (literally) from day one. It was intimidating, a little tricky, and frankly gratifying.

So take this as a sign you need to give that future hobby a go. In the meantime here are a few more benefits I noticed from my class that are widely applicable to trying any new hobby:

  • Focus: In my class, the teacher demonstrated how to create a shape and then all the students had to attempt their own versions for the remainder of the class. This was almost meditative in practice since we were all quietly centered on our own wheel but if you let your mind stray too much, well, you had a sloppy situation on your hands. Learning a new skill forces us to zero in on a task and can even help develop new neural pathways to learn more effectively.
  • Creativity: While working on the wheel, my teacher told me that the clay would take a shape of it’s own regardless of my intentions (perhaps she was placating me since my vase was turning into a very squat bowl). Whether this is true or not, there is something comforting about relinquishing control and letting something take shape in front of you. After all, creativity doesn’t really respond well to a rigid state of mind.
  • Making a (little) dream come true: Committing to a class and making it happen is a good feeling, whether it’s something you want to pursue long-term or not. A friend of mine in Toronto was also inspired to take a pottery class, and while she was incredibly good at it, she just didn’t love it. It wasn’t her thing, and that’s totally ok. Next time, she’ll try something different.

Taking a class or trying a new hobby is not synonymous with a lifetime commitment. Getting out of our comfort zones is so good for us and gives us a chance to meet new people, explore different methods of doing things, and develop an understanding of something that was once completely mysterious. Worse case, you might have a funny story to tell. So, I encourage you to pick one new activity this season: paddle boarding, learning a new language, dancing, or playing guitar; the possibilities are endless.

Ultimately, I loved my class and would like to take another one again soon, but the question is… do I have enough drawer space for all of my lopsided bowls?

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