I’m sitting in my very first ceramics class. It’s an orientation to using the shared workspace. We’re not even making a project yet. That will come later, in subsequent classes.
This is a small seminar about clay. The kilns on site. How projects are stored. That sort of thing.
Later I’ll be glad for the handout I’m given, as most of what’s said whizzes by my head faster than I’d like. I’m doing my best to pay attention, but there’s just so much to learn. And I’m sure it doesn’t help that I find myself mentally asking questions that I’m not sure how to even phrase. I jot the gist of it down for later. If my instructor doesn’t answer them in class, I’ll look up the answers myself. And if that fails, I’ll ask her the next time I see her in the pottery center.
She asks us about our experience levels. Several of my classmates have ceramics experience, just not in this workshop. Me, I’m one of the few newbies. She asks each of us beginners why we’re here. Everyone else has a good answer. They’ve thought for years it’d be fun to try pottery. Or they have some specific project in mind. Or they want to start an Etsy store.
When she gets to me, I’m not quite sure what to say. I tell her something true that I hope will sound like an answer: That I sculpted some back in high school and really enjoyed it. Never worked with anything that was going to be kiln fired though.
She smiles at me. Talks a little about some of the key challenges of sculpting for a kiln. The ever-present risk of explosion or crack formation.
I nod. Jot down some notes.
I’m relieved when she moves on, without my having to say what all the other beginners said: “It seems like it’d be fun.”
Because that’s my secret: I don’t know if it will be.
I’ve Learned to Be Agnostic About New Experiences
If there’s one thing that life has consistently taught me, it’s that I don’t know if I’ll actually like something until I’ve tried it. And that it’s better to go in with few, if any, expectations.
I’ve written on this extensively in the past, but I thought both polyamory and kink would be terrible fits for me before I tried them. And was stunned when I actually tried them and discovered they worked quite well for me. (Yes, really. How does that work? Well, I went into great detail about it in my book Poly Land that I wrote about the chaotic first 2 years I was polyamorous and everything I learned along the way.)
I’ve also managed to completely ruin vacations for myself by working them way up in my head, obsessing over the trip before I go. And having a miserable time in comparison by the time I get there. Because it’s nice and all but no competition for my imagination of how great it could have been.
I’ve found that I really don’t know how I’m going to feel about something until I try it. That I’m a bad judge of that before the fact. That I can err in either direction.
So I’ve learned to be agnostic about new experiences. To keep an open mind and manage my expectations. This time around it’s pottery.
I Never Know Until I Try It How I’m Going to Feel
When I finally go to my first project class, I’m not sure what to think. I’m nervous. I follow the teacher’s instructions closely so I don’t ruin my clay or the tools.
It works. As I touch my delicate clay piece gingerly with my hands, preparing to take the greenware to the shelf to be fired into bisque, I feel the clay reacting to me and the air in real time, drying into its first brush with leather hardness. And something within me shifts from uncertainty to joy.
It’s almost like the clay is alive. It speaks to something primitive within me. Something basic but powerful. Reward chemicals flood into my brain.
It’s at that moment — and not a second before — that I know that I like ceramics. No matter what happens in the kiln.