I should lose the habit of writing a blog post only when I have newly fired pots.
I should have written a week ago when I was in the throes of installing a clay trap for my studio. Sure, you can buy ready make ones but:
A. I’m cheap
B. I wasn’t going to let a lifetime of not being handy stand in my way.
A clay trap is a simple device. Water from the sink (heavy with silt and clay) drains into a big container. It then settles, and a pipe at the top of the container drains into the drain. You use a robust plastic storage bin for the big container, drill a hole in it and connect it to the drain. Except for the few small but nagging points.
The container is too big to fit under the sink so it must be at the side.
How, then, do you drain water from the sink into it.
How do you connect the drain through the hole so it doesn’t leak.
The answers were discovered by an excruciatingly slow method, which is as follows:
1. Think you know what you want to do
2. Go to Home Depot/Rona to check if they have the relevant pipe/fitting
3. Maybe they do, but maybe another part that they have is better
4. Go back to the studio to see
5. Go back to the hardware store
6. Find a sales person (sub routine: wait for about half an hour until you can trap one) and ask
7. Get a different answer that what you thought
8. Now rethink all the other parts/fittings that you were going to get.
Rinse, Repeat. Throw a pot every once in a while to steady your nerves.
After a week and a half of this, the clay trap was done. I used my sink to rinse my tools for the first time. I went home. I came back the next day to check if the water had settled, at which point my phone slipped out of my pocket and fell into the trap.
I rinsed the tools in the sink. The water in the trap rose, and didn’t drain. I waited, and it didn’t drain.
I went home and blew a fuse. Omer thought I the drain must be clogged. I didn’t buy it – why would it be clogged if it was fine without the trap? I went back to the studio with a plunger, and another phone to take pictures and send to my father to ask his advice. But as soon as I was at the studio I realized I knew what the problem was.
I put my hand into the gash in the drywall where the drain is, and followed it. And it went up instead of down.
There is a certain sense of satisfaction that comes with understanding a problem. Even when you haven’t solved it and you have to go back to the drawing board to do so. I decided to let the clay trap be and concentrate on making pieces.
So I did… 9 cereal bowls, 2 big bowls, 3 teapots, 3 pitchers. And two Thierry bowls.
For those who don’t know what Thierry bowls are:
The magic happens after about 3 minutes.
Thierry Fouquet is a potter and a gentleman, who runs the Atelier Chemins de Terre, a pottery school in Paris, where I had the fortune of renting studio space for the time that I was there. He is an extremely proficient thrower, as shown by the ease with which he throws a biggish piece of clay into a ‘pot de fleurs’ (plant pot) within three minutes. He then takes a semi flexible pipe and pushes the plant pot open with the pipe until it’s almost flat. Wider than the 14″ wheelhead and almost as wide as his splash pan.
When I said I made two of those I lied. I made six. The first two suffered from the disease, peculiar to me, of leaving the bottom of the pot too thin. So when time came to wire them and flip them on their rim, the bottom buckled because it wasn’t thick enough.
The other two didn’t work. They sort of did, but then developed a bump. If you can follow what Thierry is saying, towards the end, it is ‘je suis pas très content de la courbe’ – I’m not too happy with the curve. That’s because the bottom of the plant pot needs to accommodate the bent pipe, but the pipe will only bend so much before it breaks. So the plant pot needs to start out quite wide. Or it will be too wide for the bottom and will create a bump where it pushes the unsupported wall of the pot.
Well, I don’t do bumps in my bowls. So these two got rewedged.
But then the miracle happened, twice. And then the following day, at the Guild. But that’s the story of part 2.