We’ve been calling it musical wheels, but that’s not a particularly accurate title for the game. It involved five potters at varying skill levels spending no more than two minutes at a wheel before moving to a piece someone else had just been working on for two minutes. It was a sort of frantic game full of laughter (and some cursing, but always laughingly). Sue, generously keeping time for us, would calling out “Thirty seconds left!” and a chorus of slightly panicked artists would answer back variations on “But I’m not ready!”
When we planned to have a fundraiser item production party (which still needs a better name) John jokingly said we should play Musical Wheels. That was enough to get my imagination conjuring up ideas about swapping wheels suddenly and unexpectedly, leaving a half finished piece behind for some one else to work on. Sitting down that morning, we worked out the rules of the game and waited for enough potters to show up.
There are some good ways to throw a pot on the potters wheel. And there are some ways that don’t work. But there is no One Right way. Everyone throws a little differently. For the potters merry-go-round, there in-lies the fun. In our studio, we can all tell who made a piece by picking it up or even just looking at it. John’s pieces are very thin and elegant. Autumns are a little wonky, full of movement and spontaneity. Sitting down to work on a piece Autumn began is very different from one John has had his hands on. By the time the pieces came off the wheels (when beginning wheel thrower Lou got to them and didn’t dare continue lest they crash), each one was true collaborative art, touched, marked and changed by the hands of several different potters.
Less experienced potters got the chance to experience what a master potters piece feels like when it is still on the wheel. Touching the clay, we picked up all sorts of information that can’t be communicated any other way. As an intermediate potter, I enjoyed learning how different potters move the clay, especially the second round we did with very large pieces. Turns out I throw with much less water than I could. I didn’t know you could throw something that big and that wet! Now I know and I have a new tool to try.
This is how studio traditions are born. The game fits perfectly into the heart of what Urban Art Co-op is all about. We didn’t know it would be such a great learning experience, while also producing so many beautiful piece. What better way to share techniques than to actually swap pots in process! We will be doing this again; regularly.