Wednesday, September 12, 2012

100TWC - Day 47: Perfection

Jocelyn sat squarely on her stool. Balanced. Grounded. Literally grounded, with her feet planted flat on the cold tile floor of the basement, and figuratively grounded too. Calm in a way she only ever achieved when potting. She weighed the lump of clay, slowly passing it from hand to hand. Thinking of the millennia that had led to this moment, as the sheet granite weathered into boulders, then pebbles, then grains until finally it became clay. This piece held in her hand, in her basement, in her house, could be ten million years old. Twenty million. And its long years of history gave no hint of the future that was hidden behind its lumpen form. Infinite possibilities lay ahead, and potentially at least, more millennia once it became an artefact.

Archaeologists were still unearthing crocks from Egyptian times and before. Ming vases held a special place in the zeitgeist, so unshakeably anchored in the public consciousness that any vaguely Chinese-looking urn was always christened "Ming." An electric tingle ran the length of her spine at the thought that what she created here today might become a fabled 21st century collector's piece in two or three thousand years' time.

She flicked her wheel on and took several deep breaths as it span up to speed. With one final toss of the clay from her left hand to her right, she threw the balled nugget onto the wheel, hitting it dead centre. A perfect start. Jocelyn smiled, and dipped her hands into the tub of cool water beside her.

Her wet hands glistened as they caressed the smooth surface of the clay, moistening it and beginning to coax it into shape. She loved this part of her craft the best. The sensual slipperiness, the earthy smells, the cool solidity of the lump of something she was creating. Often at this stage of the process she had no idea what she was going to make, letting the clay almost decide for itself what shape it would take from her hands, rather than they imposing one on it. Not today. Inspired by her earlier thoughts of Ming, today she knew exactly what she would be making. A vase. A vessel so unique in shape, so perfect in craft, so breathtakingly beautiful in conception that it would deserve to last those millennia she had imagined.

She wet her hands once more. She pushed and cajoled. Scooped and pulled. And gradually, as an iridescent butterfly may emerge from an ugly misshapen chrysalis, her vase grew out of the grey mass, revealing itself moment by moment as her wheel hummed and her insistent fingers demanded. Like an image appearing on paper swimming in a bath of developing chemicals, like a firefighter stepping out of a smoke cloud, where once there was nothing remarkable, now before her intense concentration and beneath her carefully smoothing hands, the amphora asserted its existence. Still as yet unfinished -- the object she saw with her eyes not quite matching the vision she held in her mind -- but the possibilities were clearly becoming reality.

She paused, removing her hands from the work and allowing the wheel to slow so that she could examine the vase from all angles. It did not wobble or gyrate, precess or lean, but instead stood perfectly straight and true, still in the exact centre of the wheel, still absolutely symmetrical from every angle. And the shape. Oh, the shape! She had dreamed it unique and the waking did not disappoint. Another few minutes would see it reach the perfection she yearned for and, she was certain, guarantee her flask its place in history.

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