I’ve spent the last four days, driving back and forth to Baltimore Clayworks, to take their latest workshop featuring Jeff Oestreich. I can get to Clayworks in about 45 minutes, barring traffic, and so it was almost a ‘backyard workshop’ that I couldn’t pass up.
Beginning with a PowerPoint presentation outlining Jeff’s home and pottery roots (and routes), as well as where he draws his inspiration, it continued with three days of demonstration, discussion and some hands-on teapot making. Jeff showed his faceting techniques along with thrown and assembled teapots, and as I was discussing with a friend, I don’t think I learned as much by what he did, as what he said.
The thing that impressed me foremost about Jeff was that he was who he was. There was no pretense there, no image, no showmanship. He was so approachable and you felt like you could easily have been hanging out in his living room chatting (or watching Downton Abbey), having known each other for years. It was really inspiring having his insight and experiences to draw on, and after making pots by yourself in a studio day after day, new inspiration is always a welcome addition.
It’s funny what we take away from a workshop, and with me, it’s often not the obvious things, but the ‘asides’ that stay with me. Things mentioned in passing, or things that weren’t said will many times, make a bigger impression on me than seeing a thrown pot on the wheel.
Towards the end of the workshop, we discussed the teapots we made. I made two, one very traditional drop-lid functional teapot, and another, also functional teapot which was a bit looser in concept. The lid on the latter teapot bothered me. At least I think it was the lid that bothered me, although I didn’t know why, and I didn’t know what to change to make it ‘work’ in my mind. After showing this teapot to Jeff and issuing a minor ‘SOS’, he took a look at it and although suggesting perhaps to omit one of the steps in the lid, he really didn’t see anything wrong with it. His advice was to fire it, use it, and then decide what you like, or don’t like about it.
Interesting concept and very definitely foreign to this potter. My usual philosophy was that if I didn’t like the pot in the greenware stage, no amount of glaze was going to make me like it, and it would hit the recycle bucket (sometimes after I keep it on the shelf a while looking at it, or more often, glowering at it, trying to figure out what it needs).
And so, I’ll take that advice, glaze the pot, fire it, brew some tea, then see where it sits with me. Maybe it will help if I pour the tea into my new Jeff Oestreich faceted mug. Sure, that’s the ticket! Can’t hurt.