Arts and Entertainment

A potter's hands-on lessons

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The room was so quiet it was hard to believe 24 high school students sat inside. They all were intently focused on pulling, prodding and pinching clay into pots.

One young man sighed as he gazed in delight at his pot, "Hey, I'm really good at this."

Jake Reichner's pottery students learned to throw pots from an expert in January. Sequim potter Rudy Bauer demonstrated techniques to three of Reichner's beginning pottery classes. He hopes some of them will join him and other area artists in making Senska birds to sell at the Dungeness River Audubon Center next summer.

A Senska bird is made from a vase that has its opening pinched shut and formed into a beak and crest for an imagined bird form. This is a form Montana ceramic artist and teacher Frances Senska uses to teach her students to work with clay.

Following Bauer's example, students first threw the clay onto the pottery wheel. This must be done forcefully to keep the clay in place while it is being worked.

Next the clay is pulled into a cone shape and pushed down repeatedly to align the particles in the clay and center it. Students add water to the clay to keep it soft and pliable, however, too much water weakens the pot.

As the wheel turns slowly, the clay is pulled up and pushed in to form the pot. The force of the turning wheel pushes the clay out so it forms a bowl. Making a pot requires pushing against that force to keep the opening narrow.

Bauer says, "It is not so much controlling the clay as taming it when it misbehaves."

As the pot sides grow taller, the students work inside and outside to make its walls a uniform thickness and they smooth the sides by hand or with small tools.

When the pot is finished, it is cut from the wheel with a wire and set aside to dry slowly.
The pot finally is glazed and fired.

Although there were six wheels for 24 students, those who were not working watched intently and offered help when needed.

The room stayed so quiet, you could have heard a pot drop.

Reach Dana Casey at dcasey@sequimgazette.com

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