I don’t know whether I was the first female in my high school to take shop class. But I was the only girl in the class when I took it. We learned to weld, use a wood lathe, and other things that scared and thrilled me. I also studied harder than anyone and pissed off my male classmates when I aced every test.
I wasn’t the best welder or wood cutter, but I definitely gave it everything I had. Mr. Jorgenson favoured me a bit, mostly because I needed extra help. I didn’t grow up doing any of this stuff like some of my classmates did.
In fact, he helped me too much. He insisted on holding the glued bottom pieces of my bowl together because, “Your hands are too small.” It never looked right and if it was going to be wonky, I wanted it to be because of my handiwork, not his. But I’m over it. Really!
The best thing I made was the bowl. I named it the sacred bowl and said that angels sang whenever it was moved!
I also constructed a table whose legs were made with tailpipe I bought at a Midas shop in Hamilton. The men there laughed at me when I told them my plans. But I bent and welded those legs and then left the project at school for the summer, to finish the following year. Someone threw it out.
The New Non-Sacred Bowl
I thought about the sacred bowl when my neighbour Carol and I took a half-day pottery class at Pinecroft in Aylmer. Tony Clennell is a well known potter and the nephew of Pinecroft’s founders. He is a terrific teacher and, in a class of eight, students practice all morning under his guidance and spend the afternoon creating two finished pieces to be fired.
Like anything you’ve never done, it’s a lot harder than it looks. There’s no Patrick Swayze swooning going on. The movie Ghost misled us in a big way.
At Pinecroft, the students’ wheels are pedal-powered. It’s not easy to keep the speed consistent while concentrating on the project. Tony let me use his electric wheel that moves at one speed, just to see the difference. Then I went back to my pedal wheel and made my creations.
I was a little proud of my bowl until, during clean-up time, I accidentally hit it with my wheel and made a dent. But it’s art. Art is flawed and still beautiful.
I won’t be pursuing pottery as a new career or even a hobby. It ruined my nails. They were never amazing to begin with but now they peel and break easily. And I honestly wasn’t a fan of having clay-packed hands for so many hours in a row. Plus, I didn’t have a feel for it. It didn’t bring me that joyful feeling you get when you do something creative that lights up your soul. However, I’m very glad I tried it. Now I have two sacred bowls and one – whatever that is. A cup? A small vase? I have no idea what I’ll use these items for.
Pinecroft was one of my Mom’s favourite places. They have a wonderful restaurant and seating outdoors within a forest. There’s a lovely gift shop where Tony’s works are for sale. But if you plan to go, make a reservation, especially for weekend brunch. Walk-ins are taking a wild chance. And if you have a few moments for a stroll, head down the path past the main building and peek into the pottery studio. Maybe you’ll want to give the wheel a spin one day, too.