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How a Copyeditor Got Away With Errors – at a Pottery Class!

Pottery seemed perfect as it combined my need for a creative outlet as well as letting my inner child thrive.

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6 min read
<p>I did not have much hope when I started creating my first piece, but I was surprised when I managed to make some beautiful pieces out of clay.&nbsp;</p>
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I’ve always wanted to explore pottery, but never quite knew how to begin or where to begin from. Turns out, sweet November was to satiate my proclivity for playing with clay. It all began with a travel show from 10 years ago, where sarod player Ayaan Ali Khan indulged in pottery, making the whole thing look rather effortless. And in some little way, that stayed with me.

So, I used the magical tool called Google and found a class in my backyard (almost), which was not too expensive either.

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My First Class Jitters

I’m not sure what I was expecting or hoping to achieve when I signed up for the class. All I knew was that I wanted to learn something new – or maybe just break out of my rut. Playing with clay seemed to be the perfect new hobby as it combined my need for a creative outlet as well as letting my inner child thrive.

And my sweet-tempered instructor Pooja seemed to understand that perfectly.

We’re all very creative. All we need is a little push.

She did warn me though that it wasn’t a wheel-based pottery class and that many people are disappointed when their dreams of being assisted by a hunky Patrick Swayze are shattered.

There’s just a lump of clay, with tools as simple as a toothpick, a sponge and rolling pin, that are then moulded by hands in several ways and shaped into pieces of your choice.

I wasn’t too thrilled initially when I found out there were five other people in the class. I didn’t realise that a group activity involves...well...a group, and that made me nervous.

However, being an awkward and shy individual was inconsequential in this class because, as it turns out, I wasn’t trying hard to impress anyone (unlike all those Tinder dates), but only trying to acquire a new skill. By the end of it, in fact, I learnt a lot from them, as they each had their own unique inputs to offer – something I would have probably never thought of on my own.

Anger Management and Therapy – in Just Two Hours

Pottery making surprised me in ways I didn’t expect. I'm a borderline germaphobe who washes her hands around 20 times a day – but the moist clay in my bare hands did not disgust me at all! Sure, there was that not-too-pleasant problem of dried-up clay finding a permanent home under my nail bed. But it was also quite therapeutic to be able to poke and play around with it.

In fact, as dramatic as it might sound, wedging clay was one of my favourite activities as it helped me channel my inner anger, however briefly. Wedging is required to get rid of the air pockets in the clay to make it uniform and less prone to bursting while firing them. It is an act that requires you to make a mound of clay, slice it up, and then throw the slices quite forcefully on your workstation a couple of times in a row!

While I’m not an angry person by nature, there are times when I’m rattled by the everyday stress and anxiety (Delhi traffic might be a huge factor). And more often than not, I find myself giving in to the daily pressures of life that manifests itself in not so pleasant ways.

When I started making my first piece, I did not have much hopes; mostly because it was my first piece and I’m never too hard on myself. Therefore, I was surprised when I managed to carve out a beautiful maple leaf.

Of course, I had some assistance from Pooja, but I was proud of how I'd done. Whatever we chose to create was magnificent in its own way, even if it was imperfect.

The amount of hard work and labour we put into making something as simple as a leaf was something I would have never appreciated had I not joined the class.

In hindsight, I feel bad for all the times I’ve bargained with the craftsmen I encountered at different craft bazaars, feeling like I have undermined the efforts they put into their works.

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Some Damages Can be Repaired

Working as a copyeditor, who lives everyday with the knowledge that errors and typos are a strict no-no (and can sometimes even invite a lawsuit), it’s refreshing to know that there’s plenty of room for mistakes when it comes to clay.

Sure, there are certain methods that have to be followed, but there’s freedom to be found within that as well.

I made so many errors when it came to clay modelling. Sometimes, I wouldn’t follow the instructions properly (oops!) and sometimes, I would spend so much time trying to perfect it that the clay would dry up. There were times when I was absolutely sure that the clay had a mind of its own as it just wouldn’t take the shape that I desired. However, surprisingly, there were times when it would actually turn out to be something better than what I had hoped.

Of course, there has to be a basic understanding of the anatomy of clay, and you must always listen to your instructors. They’ve mastered the art (more than you have on your first day at least).

But even then, the fact that there are no hard consequences if you mess up and the fact that you can take your own sweet time to create your masterpiece was a power I enjoyed having! The damages here weren’t irreparable; anything could be fixed with wet clay.

In a world where there are times when I feel I’m not in control of my own life, this was one area where I was not overwhelmed by speed and competition that drives people. I wouldn’t say shaping clay came naturally to me. But the fact that I had complete freedom to make what I wanted, however I wanted, was quite therapeutic.

What I’m Taking With Me

Over the next few classes, I not only learnt the fine techniques of handbuilding pottery, but it was also a great way to disconnect.

For the two-three hours that I spent at the studio, all my concentration was on the tiny pieces I was trying to create. Which meant, that even though I got a number of app notifications, I wasn’t compelled to check them at all!

All the FOMO and the jealousy that came with random vacation pictures on my social media just seemed to disappear. For a change, I wasn’t among the metaphorical audience watching people live their lives, but quite the reverse.

There are many articles online as to why people should take up pottery as a hobby. They’ll tell you how it helps enhancing motor skills, gives people freedom of expression, helps them become better at solving problems, inculcates discipline and alleviates anxiety and makes them calm. Sure, these are the long-term benefits of taking up any constructive hobby. And taking up pottery classes did not change my life overnight.

But looking back on it? It helped me see situations and people in a new light. And if nothing else, then the finished pieces I took home at the end of the class were great reminders of the fact that I could actually achieve something if I put my mind to it – a classic cliche that’s almost always right.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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