Pottery is something I’ve always wanted to try and it’s partly because of one of my favorite 90’s movies “Ghost” featuring Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore. That scene when Demi’s character is molding clay on a pottery wheel while the ghost of her deceased lover assists her?! Iconic.
I finally got the chance to see how pottery is done at Seize the Clay. It was a perfect one-on-one session with Memphis native and artist Felicia Wheeler, who made the whole demonstration look so effortless, but she has the bio to do so. Felicia is an alum of the University of Memphis where she earned her BFA in Studio Art with an emphasis in ceramics. She uses her hands to create much more than mugs and pots, and she often uses moments and memories of her family to inspire her work. (You can see some of her work on display at Orange Mound Gallery until April 16th). I got to be her student for a couple of hours.
Sitting on the wheel with a ball of clay and a bucket of water, she showed me how to throw down the clay, getting it perfectly centered on the silver wheel and spinning it electronically. Wetting it constantly, she uses her hands to mold a can-like shape and then creates a hole right in the middle and widens the clay. She then explains one of the hardest parts is to “lift” the clay to your desired height, followed by designing the clay. Now this all looks pretty simple but when trying my first time, it was really a struggle to get the clay to do what I wanted.
She said, “You cannot let the clay do what it wants. It’s up to you to mold and be assertive.” What a concept and I got so much from that! Creating pottery definitely has moments where you start to experience how rewarding it is to build something with your own hands, that only you control. During the 2.5 hour session, you can “throw down” clay as many times as you can fit into the session. I was able to create 5 pieces and I got to keep the demo that she made. It’s also cool to watch how you progress with each piece. The pieces get to harden in the Kiln during the session, and I get to come back and paint/glaze the pieces later.
This art space is literally crawling with all kinds of people, from professional creatives and makers who want to try a new medium to pottery/mosaic makers who want to teach or expand on their craft to everyday people who just want to unwind in a different way. This experience was everything and I was actually very happy with the results I got and look forward to going again.