By Eliza Wyckoff, V Form
The Creativity of Throwing on the Wheel in Ceramics
I was always intrigued by the different mediums of art. I loved painting and tried my best at drawing, even though that was a real struggle. When looking over the art electives the summer before my first year at St. Mark’s, I thought Studio would be a fun class to take, but, after I saw Ceramics, I changed my mind. I have always loved to work with my hands, especially if I am able to create something unique and beautiful in its own way. I had no idea what I was really signing up for; the only experience I had with throwing on a wheel was an afterschool club when I was in 8th grade. After my first class with Ms. Belt, I was slightly intimidated, but more curious about the skills and techniques you needed to use in order to throw good pots and bowls. Being able to go down to the ceramics room and work became an escape from homework and the stress of classes for me. I learned about the whole process that goes into throwing: recycling clay, flipping it so it dries out evenly, wedging it to blend the clay and get rid of air bubbles, and finally getting it on a wheel.
When it comes to ideas of what I want to throw, I never really have a set plan; I go with the flow of the clay and, if I get inspired as I’m throwing, I may try to do it. The thing about throwing is that there are days when you might be able to crank out four or five pots in a single class period, and on other days the clay may just flop on you. You have to be ready for not being able to control everything that happens and that sometimes, as Ms. Belt says, “The clay does what it wants regardless of what you want it to do.” Being able to do ceramics for two years now has really opened my eyes to a different side of art: the side of not everything being perfect, how unplanned mistakes can create the most beautiful designs, and always praying that what you put in the kiln comes out looking like you wanted it to.
1)Watermelon Bowl. When I threw this piece, it was a basic bowl, nothing really too difficult to do. You learn how to make one quickly in Ceramics I. I decided to test out two of the new glazes Ms. Belt had bought. On the outside, I painted on Holy Green and on the inside, I poured in Textured Mulberry. I had no idea that it would come out of the kiln looking like a watermelon, but it was a definitely pleasant surprise!
2) Fox. Last year, we did a project where we had to recreate an animal. I decided on a fox and slowly got to work. It took about four-to-six weeks to fully finish this project; the majority of those weeks were dedicated to carving. I had multiple images of a red fox, and when it was ready to glaze, I was so excited. When I put it in the kiln, I was expecting a nice rustic red fox to come out, but was surprised by it transforming into a winter fox instead. While I had made a slight mistake in layering the glazes, a unique color was created and made the fox that much more interesting.
3) Bluish Purple Bowl. To make this bowl, I simply threw a cylinder, widened the rim, cinched the clay in slightly, and widened the bottom. When I glazed it, I decided to experiment with glazes again and layered purple with a textured bluish green glaze. The result ended in this: a deep purple with a smattering of aqua blue across it.
4) Converse Sneaker. Much like the fox, this project took a good amount of time and patience. I felt that a Converse sneaker was a challenge that I could take on, and Ms. Belt supported the decision. To make it, I made three large slabs of clay and connected them using the scoring and slipping technique. In a way, it felt as though I was the seamstress actually making the shoe out of fabric, except it was clay, a much less forgiving material. Ms. Belt and I had many conversations over the shoe laces, which I ended up making out of very thin strings of clay. Glazing was fun, considering I could have gone overboard with colors because, as a brand, Converse is all about self-expression. However, I stuck with the black to keep it simple and classic.
Eliza Wyckoff is a V Form boarding student from New York City, NY. She lives in Thieriot North as a prefect, plays tennis, and enjoys listening to music.