Bad arithmetic, but that's the truth...
What on earth does 2 - 1 = 2 pots mean??? Pottery after stroke? Was that possible? - the world is full of potters but they use both hands to throw a pot, surely. Pottery with one hand isn't that common, but it isn't that unthinkable. Was it an achievable feat, doing pottery with one hand? It never occurred to me to ask, something that has to be seen to be believed, probably - surely someone knew of a one handed potter?
The context is, you used to be able to do things with two hands, but because of a brain haemorrhage/stroke, only one is operational but you still have to do the same things as before so the output is still the same, hence 2-1=2. You have to be inventive, leverage shortcuts and tools, and get a little bit of assistance. Sometimes forwardness and cheek can be handy attributes too. Yes, I can do this. I think.
In my case, pottery – when will I be able to do pottery again? … that was a question I had in my mind, some years after the stroke. I had had evening classes in London, making pottery before my stroke - would it possible now, with one usable hand, the other (right side) non-functional, at the moment?
My left side was weaker, not being the dominant side. And it had to hold my body upright, every day, to do the job of the right as much as possible. My left hand couldn't even to be used write some years back, as I was a right-hander. I had to re-learn everything again from scratch for me to use my left side.
Upon returning to NZ many years later, a friend suggested that I should join her group to visit a pottery studio every week. Margaret Bray's studio. There were morning cakes and other delectable creations accompanied by tea/coffee and chit-chat. It was more a catch-up session. The pottery came as a by-product of us girls having a pleasant morning/afternoon - the learning the finer points about pottery, again, was fun. To think about how the piece of pottery would have to be made, and to make it - gradually switched on the creative parts of the brain.
Later on that year, a group of us were at a demonstration given by the brilliant potter, Barry Brickell, at Auckland Studio Potters' premises. He threw pots with such dexterity – it started off as a lump of clay on the throwing wheel; next minute it was a beautiful vase. It prompted me to ask a question, which had been on my mind for some time – ''… is it possible to throw with only one usable hand?'' It surprised Barry, as nobody had asked him a similar question before.
Before he could say a word, another potter piped up, from his seat at the back of the large studio: '… I'm sure you can; I'll give you a demonstration in twenty minutes...'. This came from none other than Peter Lange, a renowned potter and ceramic artist who works with clay, bricks, fire - he has exhibited extensively in NZ and internationally. True to his word, twenty minutes later, he was at the potter's wheel, giving me a demonstration. He used only his right hand to shape a pot, and voila! It was done in next to no time. Wow that looked easy. I was a left-hander now; it shouldn't be that much more difficult to do?... I was given the chance to have a one to one tuition with him, learning one-handed throwing of pots using a potter's wheel at the studio for a term – yes, please.
I'm very, very slow at making pots. Clay had to have been kneaded and de-aired or wedged. This presented a real challenge to me, I don't have a lot of strength in my left arm as the right (paralysed) was my dominant hand. I've seen how a friend of mine threw on the potting wheel 5, 10, 15 objects-in-the-making, even more. Subluxation of my right shoulder (partial or incomplete dislocation that usually stems from changes in the mechanical integrity of the joint) - is something I deal with every day. I have challenges with wheel-throwing and posture, but, I do it anyway, whatever I can do before it gets too uncomfortable, and I have to try and loosen my shoulder - to go slowly, when I used to be so impatient for something to happen before my stroke.
There was a handy-guy who had made it his task to think of ways to try to extend my fingers when potting on the wheel. Why? Most people use two hands when potting, they 'pull' to raise the height of the pot they intend to make.
Because I'm one-handed, the idea was to make it possible for me to extend my reach with my left fingers. Then attempt to make it draw higher. We laughed at the novel ways he tried, but didn't quite succeed. I'm more comfortable with hand-building and with ceramic sculptures
This year's event of Fire&Clay 2015, Auckland Studio Potters 51st Annual Exhibition was held at the prestigious Pah Homestead, [a.k.a. the TSB Bank Wallace Arts Centre] here in the Auckland suburb of Hillsborough, kicked off with a bang. The opening of the Exhibition and Awards Night on a Tuesday evening, attracted a large following despite being mid-week. The show-designer and the selector were to be congratulated - the creative works were bold, clean, sassy, and pretty classy, occupying the whole of the Long Gallery for three weeks. I'm excited and pleased as my hand built stoneware was also selected to be displayed in the show. I'm always learning, to improve and push out boundaries for my one-handedness. I've exhibited pottery + sculpture in NZ, silk painting and mosaic'g.