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Handbuilt Pottery is a Problem-Solving Program

15 February 2022
Neve M, Hope ‘23; Photo by Chichi O, Allard '23
Tucked away in the quaint, ocean-side corner of the Arts Building lies a room filled to the brim with good times and lots of clay. Not to be confused with the larger room which holds ceramics, handbuilt pottery is held in an intimate space adjacent. Handbuilt pottery students can be seen milling around on Arts afternoon, plastered not only with clay, but smiles too.

Walking into handbuilt pottery is like strolling into brilliant rays of sunshine. Usually, joyous music is playing from the speaker while students happily go about their work. “No better way to spend an hour than building fun things out of clay. It doesn’t really feel like an art to me, more like a really fun hobby”, enthused Eliza P, Allard ‘24.

Though the enjoyment of handbuilt pottery is a primary principle of the program, there are some important lessons that can be derived from handbuilt pottery. The challenges of the program add weight to students’ learning. What are these challenges? Ms Luna, the wonderful teacher of HBP states that “The number one frustration in hand-built pottery is when a project cracks or breaks! Greenware, clay that hasn’t been fired, is a lot more fragile than it seems, so it’s easy for handles, or the sides of a pot or cup, to break apart when picking up the item. When clay dries out too quickly it can crack easily, as well, so students are sometimes, unpleasantly, surprised by handles falling off, or cracks forming where the clay is thin or under more tension”. To avoid these frustrations, students have to learn a calm and steady approach to problem-solving.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that problem-solving is an important part of living. Where you learn problem-solving skills is equally important. If problem-solving skills are developed in the wrong environment, it can be detrimental. Ms Luna provides a safe, comfortable environment to explore problem-solving on a secure scale.

When students are faced with pots crumbling and disfigured creations in handbuilt, the amicable nature of the program, along with Ms Luna’s help, allows us to solve problems on our own. Ms Luna will often tell her students that since “There are so many unpredictable elements, I always say that there is no such thing as a ‘perfect’ hand-built project, and that all of these challenges and irregularities only emphasize the inherent beauty and unique qualities of their work”.

Whether it is starting fresh or adapting to new designs, students learn to keep their cool. This problem-solving approach is highly effective and handbuilt pottery students can be seen applying these skills to all aspects of their life.

“Whenever a challenge arises in my daily life, the first thing I do is stay calm. It’s important to approach something with a clear and steady head. I apply this a lot in handbuilt pottery, seeing as we cannot really be mad at our pottery. It would just break!” explains Christine L, Mack ‘23.

As students run their hands over the soft clay, shaping curves and grooves, they are also shaping their lives, each groove as a life skill. While it is wonderful to see all the handbuilt pottery students creating such beautiful pieces, the frustration and patience put into these pieces are equally important.

With clay comes life lessons.

Neve M, Hope ‘23

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