Thursday, December 2, 2010

Where to Begin

one of my first pots, thrown on the wheel, (ca. 1988)

When I first began making pots a little over twenty years ago, it was because I couldn't get a date. Really. I had asked quite a few of the girls in my class if they would come with me to a concert. Not one of them agreed. I was pretty bummed.

Head in hand, I sat in the Art room, waiting for the day to be over so I could head home. I asked if I could be excused early. The best the art teacher could do was to dismiss me from class and allow me to go to the library instead. I figured anything less embarrassing than sitting in class, with everyone around me knowing that I was going to see Pink Floyd alone.... well, it had to be better in the library.

Having read prolifically most of my life, there was precious little in our school library that I hadn't read. Strangely enough, the art teacher had suggested I look up ceramics as that was going to be the focus of our next unit. A quick perusal of the card catalog and I was on may way to finding the clay section of the shelves. Sitting on the floor, I found book after dusty book... titles that now line my bookshelves: Rhodes, Hamer, Parmelee,... and so, I found Ceramics Monthly. Hard bound; a year's worth of magazines... I was in heaven. I sat down at a table with a couple years of Ceramics Monthly and the world around me went silent.

By the time the bell rang I was too far gone to care. I stayed late. The art teacher somehow knew I was still there, so he came over to see what I was up to. Finding me up to my ears in books he told me that the following week there would be a raku firing happening at the local community college. I had no idea what this meant, but if it meant I could leave school early, I was game. So I quickly looked through more CM and found out what I could about raku.

Armed with a passing glimpse of Paul Soldner's work and Steve Kemeneffy's huge works... I drove over to the community college. I had never made anything in clay, but I loved the idea that we could make something week 1, and then fire it a week later. That rapid turn around was very enticing. The class I attended was filled with high school students from all over, but I was the only one from my school.

At the conclusion of our first day, as I walked back to my car, one of my new classmates asked me if I would walk with her. The community college was in a pretty rough part of town and it wasn't the safest place to walk by yourself after dark. I agreed and we talked as we carried our tools back to her car. An hour later and we were still talking and realizing that we had a lot in common. The following week was the raku firing. After pulling out two pots covered in a white crackle with a little copper flash decoration... I was hooked. Nothing beats handling RED hot pots! When the class finished, I realized I wouldn't see any of these students again, so we all quickly exchanged contact info.

A few weeks later, I found myself dating this young woman from class. As we had earlier in the parking lot, we found we got along well and shared many common interests, especially music. Tragically, it was not to last. Less than two months passed before she decided that she and I weren't really as alike as she would have preferred.

I found myself, post-breakup, driving around a pretty lousy neighborhood in Miami, with the car still redolent with her perfume... and me wondering all the usual breakup thoughts. It didnt take long for me to wander back to the clay studio at the high school. All of sudden clay made sense. To this day, clay has always filled a strange role. It became a teacher of myriad things; history, philosophy, art, science, all of it. I don't think I ever really felt lonely making pots. I am sure I was, I just don't remember feeling it.

So where was I going with this ramble tonight?

This pot is my first pot I ever threw on the potter's wheel. 1988. I traded in my fairly certain career in video production and direction for a chance to make pots. All because of this thing... this clay. The idea that I could form it, fire it and the awe that came from it.

I think, looking back, if I had known how incredibly bad this pot was, I probably never would have made my second one. Or the next one. I love this pot.


  1. Alex, this was amazing. There is so much wrapped in what I want to say so let this suffice: you are fantastic. We miss you.


  2. Thanks Justin. This was cut short by my needing sleep. I hate it when I start writing too late into the evening and just cant pull off what I had hoped to...
    Very frustrating.

  3. Alas, my 'first cylinder' was lost on the ware shelf while drying. Bugs me to this day that someone took it, intentionally or not.
    I've kept a few of the early attempts though, and a tiny coil piece I made when I was 6 or 7.