This is a guest post from my dear friend Leigh-Ann. I could say that the conversation which spawned it started when we were drinking tea in the park last week and discussing faith and connection, but that wouldn’t be quite true. It started a few months ago when we were in a bookstore. Leigh-Ann bought The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, even though it was in the self-help section!
I bought Whom Not To Marry, but that’s another story.
Leigh-Ann is a yogini, a creative goddess, and also, it turns out, a great writer. Read on…
When I lived in Cape Town, a friend invited me to go along to pottery at her aunt-in-law’s house in Woodstock. I’d been keen on pottery ever since my mom introduced me to the art as a young girl. I soon fell in love with this weekly activity. Sipping on wine while chatting away and exploring ways with clay on the wheel.
Now, anyone who’s tried pottery on the wheel will know that there are very definite techniques to producing something that’ll actually withstand the force of gravity. My bowls and cylinders were fine examples of ‘imperfect pottery’ – you know the Japanese Wabi Sabi / Hagi Yaki aesthetic – except, they looked that way not because I was aiming at that but because I didn’t know how to centre clay or build a proper foundation for a vessel.
I’ve recently taken up classes in throwing clay on the wheel. Within the first session I was centering, by the third I was making perfectly symmetrical bowls! Well, nearly perfect.
The key to creating a solid foundation is in how you position your body. If you’re not centered, neither will your pottery be. And you need to breathe while wedging the clay – making it malleable and bending it to your will. Breathe in – bring the clay up, breathe out – push it down into a neat mound. The form follows the body which follows the breath. Sound familiar?
Learning to centre clay has tweaked the way I do yoga. Yoga feels more like sculpting (a form with) my body now. And rather than rushing through the sequence, I want to do the poses slowly and thoughtfully. Gently and gracefully. The shape grows from the core and extends through the limbs, breathing all the way, to the ends of the fingertips, enveloped in a sense of wonder.
My favourite part of making a bowl is the moment when my fingertips leave the nascent rim of the clay. Delicate, like touching the edge of a lotus petal. This is where I feel inspired to be more gentle in life, with myself, with my loved ones, with my co-workers, with strangers. To be able to do that, my core needs to be strong. My foundation needs to be solid. I need to be in The Centre.