We thought of interviewing someone who was discovering the world of pottery to remember what it feels like to make your first pieces. Noelia, a good friend and a very sensitive person, took the time to answer our questions.
We are very happy to be able to publish the conversation we had with her, and we hope that all of you who want to make ceramics, but for some reason don't dare, Noelia's words will convince you to sign up for a ceramics workshop.
Why did you decide to sign up for ceramics classes?
It was when I saw the relationship you had with ceramics that sparked my interest. You looked happy when you were in contact with this world, and you give me your curiosity for ceramics.
I was also encouraged by the fact that I was looking for a creative activity. Outside my job, I didn't do anything. I wanted to do something where I had to use my hands, as I had never done anything like that before.
Where do you study ceramics?
At the School of Art and Design in Terrassa, which is public. I go one day a week for 3 hours. I started this year.
What do you get out of being in class with other people?
All the students are working with the same technique at the same time, because the school requires it. This helps a lot, because when a classmate has a problem with a piece, you can see how she solves it, and it helps you to work on your pieces. We accompany each other a lot, we help each other. We are all beginners and we need help from each other.
What did you feel the first time you touched clay?
For me it was a very pleasant sensation because of the contact with such a natural, mouldable material. The movement depended on my hands, it was very sensorial. The smell, noticing the little stones that the clay can have, etc. For me it has been a very sensory experience. As I had only touched clay when I was very young, now I realise that it is not a uniform material, but that it has different textures, different smells...
And what did you feel the first time you saw a piece come out of the kiln?
The first reaction was excitement. The teacher also explained to us situations in which if we don't do a part of the process well, the piece may not come out whole, and that day I was wondering whether the piece would still be whole. I wondered: Did I blow up the school kiln? (laughs). When you see that you have your piece, whether it is more beautiful or uglier, you experience a very gratifying sensation.
What would you say to people who want to make ceramics, but don't dare because they think they won't get a well-made piece?
I don't have much experience, but I would tell them that the relationship with clay, beyond the fact that you can create a piece that you like, is what you experience while you are working with the material, it's like starting to read clay. All these sensations make it a magnificent experience, despite the fact that you may like the result more or less.
I would also say that with the first techniques you learn, you can already obtain very gratifying results. You feel a reward.
As a beginner, what do you think is the most difficult thing to learn in the whole process of making a piece, and what does the teacher have to take into account when guiding you?
For me, the most complicated thing is to understand all the procedures that a piece of clay needs until it comes out of the kiln. Understanding all the steps, all the elements involved, how to cover the piece, how the chemistry intervenes... For a beginner, from the start, you think you need a lot of knowledge to make a very simple piece. Yes, at the beginning it can be overwhelming, but in the end, through practice, you learn it.
I think it's important that the teacher comes to understand that for the student it can be a lot of information all at once. The materials used in ceramics are usually unknown to you. Then there is, on the one hand, the knowledge about clay and, on the other hand, the knowledge you have to study about glazes... It's a lot of information, and it can be too much at the beginning.
But don't give up, because you will learn as you go along.
Do you think there is much difference between an object made by you and a bought object?
Aesthetically, there is already a very clear difference. When you buy or make a piece, you see the work of the person behind it. Even if it is a utilitarian piece, such as a plate, you see that there is a process done by hand. For me, this is a value that is incomparable compared to an object that is generated in a chain.
Economically, obviously, this manual work and this intention has to be valued.
How do you feel while working with clay?
As I live it as an enjoyable activity, I have never felt anxious or frustrated. If it doesn't go well, nothing happens. I am usually focused and relaxed. Ceramics requires concentration, as you have to establish a dialogue with the clay, you have to learn to read how this material behaves, and it requires you to be focused on what you are doing. It is a relaxing activity, but you have to be connected.
Do you think you have to be skilled with your hands to enjoy ceramics and make an object that you like?
I don't think ceramics requires a starting level of skill. Obviously, there are different techniques that involve different degrees of difficulty, but you can make many types of pieces with little skill and have a lot of fun. Moreover, just for the sensory pleasure of doing this activity, you learn what movements the clay asks of you. In the end, the movements you need to make are very natural, somehow you have already learned them.