September 16, 2013

Soundless Clay for a Day

My September month for finishing acrylic paintings has changed into pottery vessel month. I was working steadily on the paintings when my chance find of a wild clay pit evoked all my experimental spirits and I started making vessels with it. But I didn’t stop there. Since the clay was untested I decided to add stoneware vessels to the mix. Day by day my bucket of reconstituted stoneware diminished as ceramic ocarinas and lidded vessels came into being. With just the proverbial drop in the bucket of clay left I decided to break out my plaster casts of small shapes and make miniature ocarinas and clay whistle.

But as I started pushing the clay into the plaster casts I wondered to myself. Must everything ceramic that I make be a musical instrument? Had I carried this so far that I’m nearly unable to make a shape without holes for sounds? So I decided to see if I had the capacity to resist the noise makers for a change and started making miniature bottles out of the forms I used for clay whistles. It felt strange at first adding a neck and a lid where every instinct in my being knew that a mouthpiece is to go there. But I resisted. What if I could no longer make anything but musical instruments out of clay? Would I be considered obsessed? Compulsive? Even an addict?

Perhaps I would be sent to Ceramic Musical Makers Rehabilitation Camp for the cure. But what would such a camp look like and how would the patients be rehabilitated? My imagination ran into a flight of irreverent fancy. The camp counselors would have patients confront the clay in non-musical ways. I imagined rows of ceramic vessels being created by patients under the watchful eye of the counselors. Only pots, vases or small solid sculptures would be allowed. The really hard core cases however, would resist this treatment. They would cast furtive glances around, sneaking pellets that they had secretly dried in their pockets into vases so they would rattle around. Others would hide sound holes on the bottom of the vase, sneaking in a window late at night, their faces smeared with mud, to add a mouth piece to their day time creation. These recalcitrant resisters would have to have their camp stay extended and certain privileges rescinded. Extra counseling sessions and no visitors for a week.

At night there would be a bonding campfire for campers. Everyone would pitch in. The campers each would ritually throw in a ceramic musical instrument not quite having reached the greenware stage so that it would pop. This would be considered a cleansing ritual. Then the counselors would all have the campers join hands around the campfire and sing the ceramic music makers recovery song. They would be accompanied by a clean shaven short haired fresh faced young man strumming chords on a guitar with religious zeal. Then everyone would sing:

“We pinch and coil clay with poise

It doesn’t have to make a noise

We apply to clay a scraper and paddle

It needn’t have to shake and rattle

We made vases! Oh what beauts!

Even though they make no toots

We make pots as we are bidden

Carefully keeping a whistle hidden

Solid statues, wholesome bowls

And bottles no longer punched with holes

We sing our song of soundless clay

That doesn’t always have to play”

Yes. That’s how it would be in Ceramic Music Makers Rehabilitation camp, I imagined as I looked closely at one of my miniature vases. Rather like a snuff bottle this miniature vase. I looked at it closer, then even closer. I put it against my mouth and blew across the top empty coca cola bottle style. OOOOOOOOOO what a nice sound. Then I made a ten hole ocarina.

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