Liesl Jobson

Make a pinch pot every day. It’s the simplest thing, the hardest thing. Don’t wait for passion or vision. Or bouquets of inspiration. Expect monotony. You will be bored, like you were as a kid, when you practised limping scales on that reluctant piano. You always curled your thumbs too late, displacing the rhythm.

You are a beginner again, learning the limits. Motivation won’t appear until you do. It might not appear anyway, but start with the clay—one glob fitting well in your hand. Roll it in a ball. Dip your thumb in the middle to form the centre. You might want to put it on your nose, like a clown, hoping for a diversion to alleviate the nothingness you feel. But don’t. It will spoil the shape.

Rotate the ball, pinching as you go, to even out the emptiness. Keep an even thickness in the walls. Do it daily because your life depends on it. It’s not a hollow gesture. Reach for that perfect form in this simple task. Do not curl your thumb too soon. Take time. Gently pat the bottom on a flat surface. For stability.

Once your daily pot is done, then be ambitious: mould a stallion rearing from a pedestal or coil a giant urn for a corporate client, rolling long cool snakes, scratching each surface with a red plastic fork. Moisten the cross hatches, blend and stroke.

Or try a nude: form a short thick snake for a flaccid penis, devote your good eye to the glans. Laugh when you realise your tongue is hanging out as you fondle his balls, cupping them like a lover.

Next day roll another lump, make another pinch pot. Don’t skip this step. How else will you press your emptiness into substance? Do it every day, this pulling of something from nothing. Don’t rush. Keep each pot on your windowsill. At month end select the most nearly perfect one for the kiln. Return the imperfections to the sludge where you will wedge them another day. At the end of the year, glaze the only one that did not keen or wilt or slope in the firing.

Every ten years, select the most nearly round pot, throwing the rest away lest they become holders of stale garlic, paper clips, old mints. When your days are almost done, lodge the best pot at the crematorium. You will be familiar with the inside of the furnace. You will not be afraid. And when you’ve been fired, your gritty remains of bone and ash will fill that hollow you perfected once with your thumbs.

First appeared in Green Dragon

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