For over two years, since we have moved here, I have been looking for a place to do some pottery. Like my many other hobbies, such as papermaking or dollhouses, throwing is a late passion, or perhaps latent passion: I had always wanted to do it, but didn't know how to start. Once again, it was my wonderful daughter Julia who inspired me. Some years ago she simply found a studio near to where she lives, booked us into a week course, and there we were. As usual, she was brilliant, and I was worthless. It took me several courses to learn how to wedge and more before I could make something that looked even distantly like a pot. (Julia was by then making elaborate teapots and engobe mugs). I am just not good at it. But I like it. It makes me happy. (It makes me frustrated when a pot collapses, but it's a healthy frustration). As with papermaking and many other things, it cleans your mind. You cannot think about supervisions or deadlines when you are throwing.
Anyway, two long years I have been looking for a place to throw, and all the time it was within reach. I searched the web for vacation courses and weekend courses, and asked friends. I just couldn't believe that Cambridge wouldn't have a pottery place. And finally...! I was telling someone at a party, for umpteenth time, that I was looking for a pottery course, and this someone wondered whether I had asked a certain colleague at the Faculty. One underestimates colleagues. Or perhaps it's my lack of imagination. I think of colleagues as academics. But some of my colleagues are actually artists. So when I asked my artist colleague whether he knew of a place where I could do some throwing, he took me to the Faculty art studio, showed me a Very Lonely Wheel in a corner and said: "It's all yours".
Today I had my first go. I was apprehensive because it had been two years, and I was never good to begin with. But I thought that there was nobody there to judge me and I could sit there as long as I pleased without making anything worth saving and anyway I don't care. I brought a pair of very old jeans and a t-shirt. I changed in the corner by the wheel. There was no one there. Just the huge studio with large windows, and me and my wheel. Now, the only throwing I had ever done was on an electric wheel, and this one wasn't. It's an additional effort to coordinate the foot and the hands. I had thought it would be hopeless. In fact, it went quite fine. Ah, the feeling of clay on your hands! The memory stored in the hands and suddenly pouring out, and you know that something is wrong although not exactly how to make it right. The peace of the huge, empty studio, the humming of the wheel, the clay on hands. I didn't save the two pots I made, but it doesn't matter. It's the process, not the result. I could have stayed there for hours.
It took a long time to clean up the mess. Then I changed back into my professorial attire and left the studio without anyone seeing me. Or so I hope.