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Pottery, shaping form out of clay, starts with the simplest of pinch pots creating a small rounded vessel with the thumb pressed into a ball of clay. More complex pots emerge from the ancient craft of spiraling and joining coils of clay to form classic bowls or gourds to hold water or food evidenced in archaeological shards as being formed at the dawn of human history and still today as functional pots in Africa and elsewhere. The technique of throwing, shaping with the hands a mound of clay on a moving wheel powered by foot or electricity, to create sophisticated pots both functional and for beauty’s sake, is the discipline at the heart of Studio Pottery London.
Whilst we encourage hand-building as another facet of ceramic art, the learning and practice of throwing holds a special place in our community of makers. Grounded in sound teaching and technique, our pupils and members explore the repertoire of pots made on the wheel. From a shapeless lump of clay rise cylinders and curvaceous bowls or vases with flared rims, mugs and jugs, plates and vessels just to delight. The associated arts of turning, attaching elements such as handles, creating lids and spouts, lead to the kiln and the magical transformations wrought through heat on clay. Porous frangible pieces become hard and through the surface fusion of liquid glass in the form of glazes, ceramic vessels and objects emerge able to contain liquids, to function in the home, or adorn an environment as a self-sufficient artwork.
The pleasure for the amateur of making the humblest mug to drink from is shared with the professional repeat thrower producing multiples of the same pots for sale. A pot is always rooted in function and contains its own beauty according to the skill and intention of the maker. As a three-dimensional object, a pot has presence and personality.
The beauty of a beginner working in clay is the assurance that something will result given patience, practice, and love for the art and craft of pottery.
Are you in London? Check out our open pottery classes.
More than ever since the pandemic has forced us all to reevaluate what is important in our daily lives as humans, pottery stands out for its groundedness, its tradition and history, its perennial invitation to the individual to reconnect with the gift of our hands. Making pots with our hands revives hidden or even lost talents and renews contact with wells of interior creativity.
The enforced isolation of lockdown, with the mental and physical stresses which has accompanied it, and the often imposed work from home online, gives the outlet of working in clay an added attraction.
How better to escape the demands of online technology than to switch off one part of the brain and turn towards another creative side of our being?
Physical stress as well as mental tensions are soothed and rechannelled in the practice of pottery: to make a pot one has to set aside all stresses and lose oneself in the almost contemplative act of making in the present moment.
As we emerge battered from the pandemic, pottery can be a means of recovery, of escape, of reconfiguration, of alchemy transforming negativity into the quiet beauty of a well-crafted and realized ceramic vessel. Therapy and practical creativity combined.
The very art of pottery requires a mental reset as it were, a shift of gear, a step away from stress and tension into a practice which in itself invites and teaches an almost contemplative communion between matter, the clay, and the mind, heart, spirit of the maker. A beginner is taught by a good teacher to release tensions within their body as they learn sound techniques at the wheel and beyond. Attention to matter is paramount: learning to feel the clay, wedge it to prepare it for use, to coax shape and form out of clay using the tools of hand and wheel, or other shaping devices. The apprentice potter learns to love the medium and respect the pace of pottery: to learn to become a potter requires patience, good humour, and practice. No quick fix. Everything is slowed down, every step has to be gradually mastered; there are no short cuts.
The focus of the maker working on the wheel allows for an escape into a different mindset. One forgets one’s woes and starts to enjoy the challenge of working with the healing medium of clay. Everyone who has experienced an inspiring pottery class or session of making can attest to the accompanying sense of well-being and satisfaction. The joy of finally achieving one’s first finished pot is in itself a therapeutic experience. The process of making in clay requires negative thoughts and emotions to be left behind or put aside; in fact the very act of making in clay also facilitates this therapeutic effect of shaping positives out negatives. From a shapeless piece of earth emerges through the alchemy of pottery in the physical engagement of the potter’s hands, a pot, a form with meaning and character. The pots become almost like children for the maker; they speak of attentive creative work attaining the satisfaction of the finished piece. People with depression referred to try their hand at pottery experience the healing aspects of this craft.
Those who are sad or in mourning can, with the help of an inspired teacher, regain inner peace through the practice of making in clay. Given the almost universal trauma caused by the pandemic, the healing therapeutic dimensions to pottery seem all the more precious and of value in these troubled times as a means to find inner equilibrium and meaning.
Things are weird. Times are changing. It seems like just when we’re starting to get a grip, there’s another surprise. When it comes to beauty, we've had to adapt on our own due to salon closures, keep an eye on preparations and protocol changes during those closures, try to know what we’re doing before booking an appointment once they reopened, and maybe even brave the journey back to the salon. Whether you live in a place where salons are open, you’ve experienced a second shutdown, or you straight up haven’t had a haircut since March, we can all probably agree that we’re expecting some differences in the salon and spa world thanks to COVID.
We wanted to gauge how everyone is thinking and feeling about all this, so we put out a poll on our Instagram, asking you all what you expect from beauty salons right now.
Here’s what you had to say...
53% of you have returned to the hair salon by now, while 47% of you have not. This makes sense, because every area of the country is different when it comes to cases, closures, and mandates, and every person is different when it comes to risk and safety.
While many hair salons have begun operating outdoors due to government regulations, 58% of you said you’re fine with getting your haircut indoors, while the other 42% are more comfortable keeping it outside.
58% of you said you’d rather go to your hair salon than have your stylist come to you. I get it, home is a safe space, probably shouldn’t let any outsiders in.
69% of you said you’re “totally!” going to tip more for services once you start receiving them again. During this time without our stylists and aestheticians, I think we all realized how much we need them and appreciate them, and many of us are willing to show them a little extra gratitude to make up for the time we spent apart.
But, most of you aren’t. 56% of you said you have not cut or colored your own or a friend’s hair, because it was too risky, while the other 44% just “had to!”
Only 29% of you have returned to nail salons, while the rest are sticking to at-home manicures. Maybe we’re all just getting really good at it? But probably, it’s because a lot of them are still closed down, or because it’s a little more difficult to get a pedicure outdoors (we need our massage chairs!).
Our last poll question asked about what differences you’ve all noticed when heading back to the salon, and you all had a lot to say...
It’s a beautiful thing to see how the salon and spa community has come together, taken precautions, and adjustments, all so they can continue to help us look and feel our best. If you haven’t spoken to your stylist lately (or even if you have), don’t forget to shoot them a thank you and let them know you appreciate them.