… so I made a little bucket. Sort of. It’s more of a funky bowl. But let me explain how it came to be.
I wrote last time about our travels to the highlands, and I referenced one of the coolest experiences I’ve had. The blog was getting long, and this deserved more space.
For many years I’ve talked about finding a new creative endeavor to enjoy in my retirement. (Did I actually just use THAT word?!?! Yikes!) Okay, it’s many years off, but my folks always said it was good to plan ahead. I discovered long ago that I like working with my hands and making beautiful and useful things, so I’ve considered working with wood or with clay.
When Captain Jackson, the DC in Kainantu, took us to the Cultural Center, he was able to arrange for a “back room” tour, since the owner of the center is a wantok (member of the same village/extended family). It was apparent that I was very keen on the pottery demonstration, so after we went to the bank to get cash for our purchases, the Captain asked if I would like for him to arrange a photo of me sitting at the pottery wheel. Of course my answer was yes!
The three men working in the shop were gracious and helpful, and decided it wasn’t enough just to get a picture of me sitting at the wheel, but that I should have a lump of clay in front of me as well. Captain Jackson took my camera and began shooting pictures as the men moved me to a wheel that was plugged in, placed a small mound of clay in my hands and then decided I needed to have a large rubber apron to cover my uniform.
What I thought would be a simple and quick photograph turned into my first pottery lesson.
Captain Jackson became incidental, as one of the men, Hawai (pronounced like the state, but without the last “ee” sound) began to give me instructions. The Captain was not only the photographer, but the interpreter as well, as Hawai showed me how to place the clay in the center of the revolving wheel, how to depress the pedal on the side to get the wheel to rotate, and then how to wet my hands and begin forming the clay.
Two things became quickly apparent to me: 1) centering the clay on the wheel was pretty important, and 2) it took much more pressure on that lump of clay than I was expecting.
Hawai placed his hands on mine and firmly guided me as we stretched the clay up like a column and then mashed it back down in order to make it easily pliable. He showed me how to begin to shape a pot by forming a crater in the center, then forming the sides, stretching the clay evenly to widen raise the pottery.
I eventually created my own simple and unique bowl that was not necessarily beautiful, but I felt accomplished. I figured they would simply mash it down and put the clay back in the barrel to be used again later. Instead, they showed me how to trim and smooth it, then using a piece of fishing line to “cut” it from the wheel and gently move it to the drying table. Captain Jackson arranged for them to emboss my name on the edge, along with the location in Kainantu, and to put the date and Hawai’s name on the bottom. Then they promised to fire it, glaze it and ship it to me in Boroko.
Of all the souvenirs I’ll bring back from PNG to the US, this simple piece of pottery will certainly be one of my most treasured.
Now I just need to start researching a potter’s wheel and a kiln for my retirement home. (Yikes! There’s that strange word again.)