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Now that most of us spend more time at home, by necessity, it’s not uncommon to experience cabin fever, or the feeling of restlessness when confined at a certain place for a long period of time. Some resort to doom-scrolling (I’m guilty as charged 🙋🏻♂️), hoarding, este, taking care of plants, and binging on Netflix – anything to help us cope and keep ourselves sane.
Others, however, channeled anxieties into something more productive, like art, content creation (aka vlogging), and in the case of my talented friend Monica, pottery. A scribe by trade, her journey started shortly before the pandemic erupted.
“My interest in pottery grew from my yearning to slow down. So I took hand-building and wheel-throwing courses at Tahanan Pottery, and then a studio membership. After, my partner gifted me a starter pottery wheel where I spent months practicing the basics at home. These sessions evolved into little pockets of meditation. Every time I’m in front of the wheel, everything becomes background noise. I forget all of my worries except the clay, living and enjoying the moment.”
Though she never intended to sell pieces at first, the opportunity to earn while discovering new possibilities for self-expression emboldened Monica to start a venture, Muni Pottery.
“It came into fruition when I felt that, somehow, kaya ko na (I can do it) — I finally found my voice. Muni is an ode to my hometown, Palawan. Being a probinsiyana (from the province) living alone in the city, I was homesick and couldn’t go home because of the pandemic, so I wanted to share stories of Palawan and snippets of my childhood through pottery. Being a writer/editor by profession, I felt that pottery can also be a medium where I can weave stories, but instead of using words, I use clay.”
Aside from having the tools needed, Monica also had to allot “a dedicated space” and make adjustments on her budget “to make room for more pottery expenditures.” It’s not exactly a cheap hobby, but there’s no need to rush and do “a one-time overhaul” either.
Are you up for molding your own creations as well? After taking pottery classes (a needed first step), you’ll need to find a constant, trusted supplier of clay. She recommended local studios such as Central Ceramics in Cubao, Tahanan Pottery, Pottery Sessions, The Clay Tourist, plus underglazes from Bumi and Ashe.
Then come the tools. She dropped a few that can be bought online, and even provided what their specific uses are:
This set covers the primary tools you’ll need. There’s a wire cutter to cut large pieces of clay and to remove your thrown pieces from the wheel; metal and wooden ribs to smooth, compress, and shape clay; a wooden tool to shape and add texture; metal loop tools for trimming and carving; a needle tool to score the clay; and a sponge for smoothing.
A banding wheel is used to rotate your work without having to touch it. It’s particularly helpful when you’re hand building, painting with underglazes, or glazing your works using a brush.
The board is where you’ll wedge your clay. Wedging is a fundamental skill you need to remove air pockets in the clay, which may explode during firing. You’ll also place your pieces in these wooden boards to let them dry. Since the wood will be absorbing the moisture from your clay, I find that thick, marine plywood does the trick as they are less prone to warping.
While you’re at it, get a weighing scale too. It’s important to weigh clay when throwing or building similar pieces. It’s also a great practice to weigh a significant amount of clay (say, a pound) and see how much you can pull and maximize while creating even walls.
If you’re into sculpting or adding texture to your pieces, this set of sculpting tools will give you options after options. It’s helpful for experimentation and discovering your style.
These liner brushes are your best friends when painting detail work using underglazes. They’re cheap, they last long, and have a nice grip.
If throwing is your thing and you’ve completed your wheel course, you can try practicing with this wheel at home. It has a smaller wheel than standard ones, but it’s a great start for small pieces like mugs!
Cleaning after pottery is no joke. It’s a health hazard to leave dry clay on your floor or table as it turns to dust, so you’ll need a moist sponge to wipe everything after each pottery session. Also, do not throw your clay water directly onto your sink. It will clog up your drain and lead to plumbing problems in the future. You can build your own three-bucket filtration system or let the clay particles sink first before discarding the water you’ve used.
But before you get started
Monica emphasized the importance of mastering pottery basics – and watching a lot of pottery videos if needed. It’s also helpful to network and to get sound advice from experienced potters who can even share a few tricks whenever you hit a creative slump. Most importantly, as cliché as it sounded, just be yourself.
“Find your unique voice. We live in an age where aesthetics, trends, and visuals come first, but it’s vital that your pieces echo who you are or what you are fighting for while ensuring functionality,” she said.
At the same time, she advised that aspiring potters shouldn’t get too attached to their works – as with all things in life – since the cracks and fumbles you’ll inevitably encounter are important in testing your limits, patience, and your growing love of the craft. – Rappler.com