I haven’t been able to throw anything for 10 months, due to an elbow injury.
I injured my elbow throwing larger pieces with stiff clay, muscling the clay with my arms instead of putting my body into it, as a more efficient potter would do. The orthopedist calls it “potter’s elbow,” which is his term of endearment for tennis elbow. He gave me an injection of cortisone and a contraption I’m supposed to wear around my forearm all the time, except while sleeping. I keep re-injuring it because I am in denial, and it’s taking a long time to heal, which is very frustrating.
Hand building has been my work-around, so I can keep my hands in clay while my elbow heals. It has not been easy. Let’s just say I have newfound respect for the hand-builders of the world. I used to think they were plump little old ladies, dilettantes taking the easy way out, lacking in determination and drive. I considered them a different breed of ceramicist altogether.
Well I was half right. Hand building is deceptively difficult, and there are more ways to screw up than you can shake a throwing stick at. Pinch pots, coiling, slabs, extruding, carving, molding, sculpting– these are not for the feint of heart. The bad news is that the qualities desirable in a hand builder are, for me, in often in short supply. An easy-going, devil-may-care-attitude. The patience of a saint. The ability to multi-task.
The good news is that I have discovered sculpture, and this has opened up a door to another world. Here, I have the opportunity to explore my inner workings, and wander the nether regions of the subconscious. I am often surprised by what emerges because in the grand scheme of things, I have no idea what I’m doing. I don’t have a plan or a map. But maybe there’s an inner GPS that leads me where I need to go.