Sunday, September 30, 2007

Feet of clay - a boast of liars

My children distract me because they are American and collectively, they only know one collective noun between them.
"Give me that bunch of cards!" Deck or pack.
"Ok. but you give dah bunch of Pokemon." Deviancy or covey?
"I wanna bunch of Goldfish for snack." School or maybe cracker?

I escape my children and my brain. I nip out to the garage leaving spouse in charge of all his many and various children. A barrel of monkeys. I am actually asleep because I have only managed 55 minutes of sleep at intermittent intervals during the night. I think ‘om’ thoughts and lie to myself. I am creative, I am artistic, I have flair and the skill to create a bowl in 20 minutes flat.

I wire off 3 lbs of clay and slap it on the head on the pottery wheel. I feel better already. I spend 17 and a half minutes attempting to rejuvenate a skill that I once had several life times ago.



Several life times ago, my spouse bought me a pottery wheel for our wedding anniversary. This was not the romantic gesture that all my pals believed, as they ‘oooed and ‘ahhed’ at my good fortune. The fortune was spent via credit card, to acquiring the contraption, a decade after he had attended a pottery class himself. I am uncertain whether he was enamoured with the mechanics of the wheel itself or the erstwhile charms of the instructor, but when you are seven months pregnant, ignorance is bliss.

I had never touched a piece of clay in my life, so I took myself off for lessons, once a week for 8 weeks. With luck, I planned to master the art of molding clay slightly prior to movements of labour.

We were given instructions on how to place our hands and bodies. My body was several sizes larger than anyone else’s in the room. I sat on a wooden three legged stool that groaned in protest. I protested about my inability to bend my body over the wheel, as I had a large stone in my tummy, rock hard and unyielding. The instructor yielded to my foreign hormonal complaints and kept a safe distance in case I accidentally burst my womb as I squeezed the baby between my knees and shoulders.




When that third child was born, the pottery wheel was relegated to the garage and it’s been downhill ever since.

Each child visits me during my 17 and a half minute sojourn in the peace of the garage.
“What you are do?” I glare at him. Isn’t it obvious! I am creating art you little philistine.
“You are make dah fun mess?” Mess! Don’t you mess with me sonny Jim, you are witnessing at artist at work, hard labour.
“Ooo what is it supposed to be?” Give me strength! Or failing that silence, or failing that a quiet padded cell. I want to shout at each one of them ‘where is your jailor?’ or rather father.

Personally I blame the Irish, or I would do if the freckles didn’t give me away. As usual I’ve had to do everything myself. ‘ Ask and you shall receive’ they say. So I did, ask, that is to say. ‘What can I find as a suitable gift for my brother and his soon to be wife as a Wedding present – bear in mine they have nothing, want nothing and have no materialistic genetic material in their soon to be combined bodies.’ Does anyone help me with my quest? Well of course not. I receive one, and only one, suggestion. The helpful suggestion comes from my Irish pal, or one of them. Irish pal suggests that I give them a bowl of my own making because she has forgotten that I have no life but remembered that I have a pottery wheel gathering dust in the garage. Typical! ‘What better gift than something made with your own loving hands?’ said the fool.


Now, the other fool, foolishly believed that this might be possible. An idiocy of fools, a joke of jesters.

My time line is wonky. The wedding is at Christmas which means I have nearly three months to make 36 bowls. This won't be a 'service of China,' nor even a set. 6 will die in the garage from some unfortunate misfortune. 6 will give up the ghost during their transportation to the studio and the kiln. On their first firing several will explode or warp or crack. Then I will attempt to glaze them with a similar fall out percentage. Eventually, many weeks from now, I may be able to take them home again. They will suffer the same casualty rate during the transportation process, to say nothing of the inherent dangers of existence in my kitchen. There they will be, three or four wonky mis-shapen bowls from which I will choose one, the best, or the least worst, as my gift.




Their father arrives in the garage just in time to rescue the children from the fire breathing dragon at the pottery wheel, sitting on three legged stool with a wibbly wobbly leg, the stool, not the potter. An ingratitude of children. “Come along you lot, leave your mother in peace for five minutes.” For some unaccountable reason they all obey his masters voice and shuffle off back into the house like little lambkins. A consternation of mothers.

“So then. How’s it going?” he asks in too jocular a tone. I uncurl myself from my foetal position and stretch out the xylophone of my vertebrae to reveal my creation.
“Ah. Not like riding a bike after all then,” he adds peering far too closely at the clay, before continuing, “ooo, that’s very clever. I like that bit. How did you do that?”
“What?”
“Make that little decoration at the bottom, the one that looks like a delicate insect wing. Maybe you could move it to the middle, a bit more central perhaps?” Oh how I love positive criticism. A cloud of gnats. I glare at him. “What?” he says innocently. “Was it very difficult? It’s very realistic. I love the red smear, very arty farty.”


“That’s because it’s real, the Mosquito that is and so it the blood!” I need to remind myself that although my nose is numb, it is still in the centre of my face and can easily be pierced. “Ooo! Nosebleed he queries,” crinkling his nostrils.
“No, just this!” I flash him the pin tool to demonstrate my flair, swash and buckle.
“Ah.” He takes the warning that I am armed and extremely dangerous and the cheese wire is only inches from my flighty fingers. I can suddenly visualize a whole myriad of alternative purposes for a Chamois leather.


“Well, this is only your first attempt!” he beams. “You’ve got another three months to shove one out.” I pout. It’s easier to give birth than make a round bowl.
“I know, why don’t you just buy someone else’s at the studio. Pass it off as your own. No-one would ever know. I won’t tell.” I am horrified at the temptingness of such a suggestion. “Did you know you’ve got clay on your nose? Oh, and on your hair? And….actually you seem to have an awful lot of clay all over you. Lummy, you splatted the car too?” I may not be in control of the clay but I am beginning to gain control over my composure. I remind myself that it really is the thought that counts and I’m damned if I’m going to give them a bowl full of loathing. He grins at me.

“What?”
“Just looking to the future. See how you’ll be when you’re old and grey haired.” I don’t point out that I am already old and grey haired but saved by the wonders of ‘L’Oreal.’
"Ooo is that my chisel?" he asks possessively as he leans across my precariously unstable creation. He changes his mind in the nick of time as he sees me raise the scalpel. He resists the lecture about tools and their proper purposes, consumer misuse and wifely misdeeds. An impatience of wives. We both know that although we are both adults we are far too tired to conduct a civilized conversation. We are a persistence of parents.

“Praps you could bake em a cake instead, a wedding cake? You used to make a cracking good cake, back in the day!” I used to do a lot of things once upon a time, but I think a cake would be even more difficult to transport back to England than a pot.

“I think perhaps I’d better leave this for another day, a quieter day, any other day than this day, today.”
“Bad karma?”
“Weak kismet.”
“Get a good night's kip and you’ll be raring to go tomorrow!” he says with more enthusiasm than I can muster.
“Five hours?”
“Oh I’m sure we can manage that. Perhaps we should just drug them?”
“No, it will be self correcting. Collectively as a family we’ve managed six and a half hours fitful slumber during the last 24 hours. Everyone will sleep like a log tonight.”
“A collection of kindling.”
"Bonfire!"
"Think campfire embers, dying down, no chance of some bright spark rekindling it. Perfect peace and tranquility." We look at each other to try and work out which one of us is the bigger liar? I try and think of the correct collective noun for 'thieves' as I can't remember the right one for liars? I think my brain has finally died from lack of oxygen and sleep. We slink back into the house, but I don't think two people constitute of 'A skulk of thieves.'

3 months. It sounds like an awfully long time. A quarter of a year. So much can happen in 12 weeks or 84 days. I should probably eliminate a few days, like Halloween, a few for Thanksgiving, two additional days for birthdays, the flight and the travel. It’s a long time, ages, I’m sure it will be fine. A month of Sundays.

There again, bearing in mind our current trajectory, it is also a very long run way. I suspect that before we are air born on our flight home, the bowl will be seized by customs officials as alien contraband, not a gift but a flying saucer.

A flood of foreigners.

An Alarm of aliens.

An attic of artists.

A crock of potters.

An Asylum of amateurs.

A Bog of bloggers.

I guarantee that this will ruin your next 24 hours.

Cheers dears


A Blast from the past - Demi Moor in Ghost in 2000 which of course is 17 years ago!

15 comments:

flutter said...

Wow are you ever brilliant. Seriously. Also 17 years? Oy.

Zoning Out Again said...

I definitely want to take up pottery! Looks like a lot of fun and your work is beautiful. You crack me up!!!!!

dgibbs said...

We were at an art fair over the weekend and honestly I saw a fair amount of wibbly wobbly pieces splattered with color being sold as fruit bowls for absorbant amounts.

mumkeepingsane said...

My hubby is annoying. He can make perfect clay anything! Maybe it's petty of me but I just can't be second best at something every.single.time.

Your work is beautiful btw.

deb said...

Wonderful, funny post and the youtube clip made me want to take up pottery, or maybe just Patrick Swayze. I'm not sure.

Joker The Lurcher said...

i love pottering - i used to make slab pots, never got the hang of the wheel...

Anne said...

Pre kids I took pottery classes at the community college, loved it. I still want a wheel of my own when "I grow up."

Skewedview said...

Clay. I love clay. Not pottery clay, but figurine clay. Molding creatures from nothingness. I can truly relate to your tale of woe and the sheer numbers that have to be produced due to unseen forces. I once molded a fine Scottish terrier, which drew ooos and ahhs from the class. After firing, I was the proud owner of a headless, misshapen glump of doggie body parts. Relying on my creative side, I painted it brilliant purple with sunny yellow highlights, complete with a name placard, "It". It drew ooos and ahhs from the class.
Yep, I love clay.
Great post. Funny stuff.

tut-tut said...

I like the recurring collective nouns in there . . . It is so so difficult to concentrate--on anything, really--after the children arrive, isn't it?

Karen said...

I think this is one of your best posts ever. The collective nouns (don't you love those?) and the attempts at anything 'fun' and/or solitary while fending off kids--

Love this one!

Oh, and the movie clip--Patrick Swayze is yummy. I remember liking this movie.

The Anti-Wife said...

I used to cross-stitch gifts for people (my only talent), but finally just decided a nice card with a gift certificate works fine.

Another great post!

Hammer said...

I would hire an armored truck service to carry those bowls to the kiln.

Very nice!

Elizabeth said...

Karen sent me over, hello!

These pots look pretty darn good to me, especially after such a long break. I never could master the potters wheel - well rather the clay whizzing around on it - let alone with children annoying me!

Which bit of England will be graced by their presence? (I'm in Devon).

riseoutofme said...

WHAT a command of the English language!

Absolutely loved this.

Memphis Steve said...

I was repainting my car once, back in college, when I noticed a gigantic flying insect that had managed to flatten itself onto my front fender, like a snow angel in green paint. I managed to peel the insect off, but the shape it left behind never came out.

If you managed to struggle through all of this pottery work without screaming any curse words at the top of your lungs then you're a better person than me. It's the Irish in me. It comes out when I'm frustrated in the form of creative language spoken at a high volume.