Working clay is as much meditation as craft, but there is so much to learn, from ram’s head wedging to coiling and glazing. And the results sometimes leave a lot to be desired
It’s an awkward start to my pottery journey. I’ve arrived at the Kiln Rooms in Peckham, south-east London, dressed as Demi Moore, star of the movie Ghost, and the most famous pottery scene ever filmed. “Should I have worn a tank top?” asks my tutor David McGuire. Tank top? I realise with horror that he has never seen the film. “When you say you’re a potter, people always mention Ghost!” he winces, almost in physical pain. I have no idea why he thinks Patrick Swayze wears a tank top in it. Then again, when I check the film, I realise I am dressed nothing like Demi Moore either. Is McGuire choosing not to watch Ghost purely on a point of principle? Perhaps, he admits. You should watch it, I insist, it’s classic Whoopi Goldberg. “Shall we make a start?” he says.
The lesson begins with physical heft, pushing and turning the clay in an arduous technique known as ram’s head wedging. Wedging removes air pockets from the clay, lest they cause the finished product to bloat or explode in the oven. It’s like kneading dough, I remark, always thinking about pizza. It’s the opposite, says McGuire, apologetically, as kneading introduces air to dough. He has a lovely Donegal accent, which makes corrections easy to hear. Also, I’m thinking about putting a quattro formaggi in my oven tonight, which will certainly lead to bloating, possibly an explosion.