This perspectives piece by staff writer Matilda Sample is part review of a recent pottery class in St Andrews, part perspective on the medium of pottery more generally.
Pottery is sexy. The most iconic erotic scene linked to pottery is, of course, the scene from the film Ghost. Here, Demi Moore is sat at the potter’s wheel, clay all over her arms and thighs, making a vase of some description when her fiancée, Patrick Swayze, sits on a stool behind her to join in. Moore then instructs him to ‘get ‘em wet’ and ‘let the clay slide between your fingers’ as they both massage a very misshapen lump of clay. Within about ten seconds, Moore’s hands drift from the now very phallic piece of wet clay left on the no longer spinning potter’s wheel. Pottery must be sexy.
In more recent years there has been yet more evidence that pottery is sexy. The Great Pottery Throw Down on BBC 2 featured a gorgeous male model, Sylvain, who was called in to do a spot of torso modelling. Sylvain’s torso went beyond Michelangelo’s David, drawing heavy parallels between himself and Farnese Hercules which led presenter Sarah Cox to make the statement *Yorkshire dialect intended* ‘clearly works out dunt he.’ You can imagine my excitement, therefore, when I picked up a leaflet in the Old Union Café advertising ‘Slow Down, Relax, Create. Pottery Workshop.’ I made sure that I was there at 5:30 on the dot.
The first let down was the lack of contact with the potter’s wheel. This did not lower my hopes too much as, having watched The Great Pottery Throw Down, I know that the potter doesn’t always get to us the wheel. However, as I sat there staring at the stack of National Geographic magazines, I realised that no Sylvain would be entering the room today. What a bummer.
Our class of twelve was given the task of making animal heads in the style of the artist Susan Byrne. This brought into question my beliefs about the world of pottery – is pottery sexy? Maybe I should have started by thinking ‘if I were a sexy animal, which animal would I be?’ (no bestiality intended). I think it is generally acknowledged that the sexiest animals come from the feline family and, for me, it would be a black panther. This thought, however, crossed my mind after the pottery class and in that moment, I decided to go with a ram. By no means is a ram sexy. But what a ram does have is a feature which can specifically be linked to it. If all else failed I could just stick on some horns and bish-bash-bosh it’s a ram. If I chose a seal, for example, it would have probably ended up looking like anything from an earless fox to ET.
Our pottery instructor produced about six tangerines and we were briefly shown how to craft the basic head shape of whichever animal we desired using the tangerines. I couldn’t tell if this was a waste of a tangerine or not. Then we were given forty minutes to potter away at our chunk of clay. My initial struggle was getting the tangerine stuck in the clay but after the sticky start I was on a mission to create my not-so-sexy masterpiece. I somehow think the relaxation aspect of the pottery class was lost. I moulded, added on, took away and shaped my sheep using an array of implements and finally my sheep became a ram by adding on two curvaceous horns. He was magnificent.
Okay, maybe my re-enactment of Ghost may have to wait. Fine, I did not get to lay eyes on the Sylvain of St Andrews, but, I made the finest ram I could with what I had: my two hands. Maybe that is why pottery is so sexy – it is not necessarily Patrick Swayze but the hand to clay contact that can make anything you so desire. If that isn’t very exciting or appealing I don’t know what is.