Saturday, April 5, 2014

E is for Electric Kiln Ceramics


Note to self: Never, ever lose Electric Kiln Ceramics, a Potter’s Guide to Clays and Glazes by Richard Zakin.

This former library book is stamped on the inside back cover with the damning instructions: DISCARD, DISCARD, probably due to the fact it is quite literally falling apart at the seams. All the more reason for me to cherish it these last fifteen years and do my best to give it a good home.

My husband found the book for me when we were at the Carrollton Library’s annual Friends of the Library sale back in Georgia. I had just started working in clay, and I was eager to gather all the information I could on the subject, especially for the grand price of a dollar!

Unlike writing, pottery is something I fell into by accident. I was taking drawing lessons that turned into watercolor experiments that somehow turned into pottery class. My first effort on that first day was a frog that fell apart and never made it into the kiln. C’est la vie. The advice I received that same day was much more valuable than any knick-knack: 1) Pretend you’re making a tortilla. 2) Never make your clay tortilla thicker than ¼ inch. 3) It’s just mud.

That was my teacher talking, but here’s some more great advice, this time from the opening lines of Electric Kiln Ceramics, Chapter Two:

“Clay is a special material with unique properties. It is in itself formless, but can be shaped into many forms. Although it is soft and pliable, it can be hardened by heat into one of the hardest materials known. To understand the nature of ceramics, the potter must understand the nature of clay.”

Kind of sums up the whole of life and creativity, don’t you think?

Electric Kiln Ceramics has remained next to my clay table year and after year, inspiring me with both its words and photographs. More important, though, it is a constant reminder of a little town in Georgia where I learned to make mud pies and how to let go of frogs. Not bad for a dollar.

4 comments:

Li said...

I have picked up some GREAT books at the library sale. My fondest wish is to one day turn the spare room into a proper library. (Right now, I have stacks of books here there and everywhere. I even carry at least 1 in the car in case I have to wait somewhere.

Lexa Cain said...

Wow. I was only half paying attention 'coz I thought it was going to be directions on making pottery - but that last quote is vey deep. We are all pliable in the beginning. Time and environment harden us into a final shape. Cool. :)
(New follower)
Lexa Cain’s Blog

(Sorry about the double post. Oops.)

Valerie Storey said...

Yes, the library is the happiest place on earth, thanks Li! I hope you get your own one day.

Valerie Storey said...

Thanks for visiting, Lexa--so glad you got the clay-creativity-life connection. It's a fascinating way to approach each new experience.