Summer in our part of New Zealand doesn't seem to have arrived, or if it has it passes over at about 70 miles per hour! Yesterday there were cold blasts of wind from a sky that was full of bruise gray clouds and creamy slabs of sunlit cumulus that threatened thunder, and did, in Dunedin, unleash stinging showers of hail that burst on rooftops and gathered on the streets in an approximation of a skiff of snow. It is at times like this that Antarctica feels closer, a nearer neighbour than Australia that basks and chars under the sun. This summer we are cousins to a land of ice!
The season of goodwill gives way at times to the silly season, or maybe they are both the same thing. To be good and to be silly, that is the role of the jester or clown, and we need clowns. On National Radio in New Zealand (or Radio New Zealand National as they call it now), this is a brief time when the gloom of climate change, world trade, wars, famine, and human tragedy, take an apparent holiday. Politicians go for walks in the mountains, and tan on the beach under palm trees, or under a rug (if they stay closer to home!). On the radio we have radio hosts playing their favorite songs, and the skeleton crew of news readers cracking the odd joke or reminiscing about their adventures outside the confines of the newsroom. We discover that the news readers have legs and arms, stomachs to feed, and families. It is fun. It is refreshing, and it is probably what we all need before settling in for another year of work, paying bills, and coping or thriving. Of course, need, tragedy, war, and serious things haven't gone away, it is just that, those who can are taking a few needed days off!
I seem to recall that Henry Thoreau wrote something in Walden about the need to know about the news. I think that he proposed to get the newspaper once a year, and forgo it for the rest of the time. In this manner he would avoid the constant emotional upheaval of all the day to day ups and downs that often sorted themselves out anyway, and would learn of only the significant changes, the big things that had taken place and had made a change to society in some way. In this way he would save himself ulcers and be more balanced and productive.
I have enjoyed getting back into some semblance of work this week. Whilst I haven't avoided work as such over the Christmas/New Year period, we have had visitors all welcome, both expected, and unexpected, and we have had our studio open 4 afternoons a week, so it is sometimes difficult to have a good run at producing things. I have been throwing pots for the last four days, mostly simple forms that will be suitable for crystal glazes.
As an experiment, I have put together a video of me throwing a pot on my wheel. I apologise to those of you with dial up connections as I know video must be frustrating, but I thought that some of you would like a glimpse into my studio.
In the video I have tried to explain what I am up to as I work on the wheel, so I hope there will be something useful there for those of you who haven't seen pots made before. I also show how I center clay on the wheel by a very simple method, that works without much effort at all for me.
I use a kick wheel that only has a modest sized flywheel. When I graduated to this wheel from an electric one several years back, I initially found that my technique, such as it was, had relied too much on brute force. Brute force on my kick wheel simply causes it to stop, so I had to work out how to center clay and throw pots in a much kinder way. I think that the result is much better for my aging body, and probably makes nicer pots too.
Happy New Year (bonne année!) to all of you. Hope the video works OK!