I have very soft hands. It’s something that people often point out to me and something I’ve become bizarrely self-conscious about to a point where I go out of my way to stop people touching my hands by making up lies about a pathological fear of germs that I 100% do not have. I mean, I’ve eaten things off the floor wayyyy past the 5 minute mark, forget the 5 second rule. Anyway, the point of this particular overshare is I discovered on one drizzly Mancunion evening that soft hands doth an overly sensitive potter make. That shit hurts when you have the silky paws of a newborn pupper. My second discovery was my lack of preparedness attire-wise, I had my hair down (which up until a week ago was past waist length), shoes that couldn’t get stained, and too tight jeans that I refuse to replace because I PAID A LOT OF MONEY FOR THEM GODDMANIT. So there I am, winded by my own waistband, shoeless, and with the world’s messiest bun that I had to rip a chunk of my hair out to construct. Ravishing and ready to pot/potter/be potted?
I was at the Clay Studio in Hulme, a gorgeous community studio with effortlessly cool staff and an amazing range of displays of the sort of amazing, artisanal things one can create there. I had, fortunately, gone in with zero pretentions about being able to do anything of the kind, so expectations were low and the potential for embarrassment was high. Sarah, my lovely instructor, was a beacon of infinite patience with my constant terrified quips about my ham hands and complete dearth of upper body strength and after a quick explanation we got down to it. Amid the chortles of my photographer and me yelping in discomfort at sanding my hands down (I have the same tolerance for pain as a petulant toddler), Sarah walked me through the hand motions necessary to construct a beautiful pot out of a hunk of wet dirt. And, shock of all shocks, I didn’t totally suck at it, I didn’t cry once and I made two whole pots with only minor intervention from my stoic supervisor (ok, she saved my wonky mistakes a few times). I am not a driver, nor have I ever been a cyclist or played much sport so my experience with muscle memory is close to none, making this a strange experience for me. I had to find stillness in the centre of multiple moving points, apply pressure from parts of my body that until that moment had been utterly superfluous and I find patience and perseverance on a level hitherto unknown for an entitled glutton such as myself. And I loved it.
It was getting your hands dirty in the most satisfying of ways and I am genuinely so proud of what I managed to create. There’s something primally gratifying about creating something useful out of dirt and water and since I’ve left the hospitality industry for an office job, I didn’t realise how much I craved working with my hands in such an immediate and fulfilling sense. The two hours I spent at the Clay Studio felt all too short when we pulled back to admire our handiwork (whilst diligently ignoring that of the girl two wheel’s over whose was significantly better). We picked our glazes, left our names and cleaned our wheels and trotted off into the night with a sense of achievement that I haven’t felt in a while and that I hope this series will continue to lead me to. Three weeks later, we returned to collect the final product, beautifully finished and glazed by the lovely team at the Studio. One of mine had cracked its bottom in the kiln, which only endeared me to it even more and I proudly touted them home, showing them to everyone I could, including a supermarket cashier who didn’t even try to feign interest. I can definitely see how people get really into pottery and I will definitely be back for more so I can start filling my house with handmade nick-nacks like the emotional hoarder I was born to me.
To check out the Clay Studio and try it out for yourself their website.