Back in kindergarten, my pudgy 4-year-old hands fashioned some pretty kickass Play-Doh dinosaurs, way before those other guys put them in 798. I thought myself ready for some proper training and so, with an air of juvenile confidence, I waltz right into Le Taotao Pottery Studio.
Tucked away in Tsinghua’s campus, the lush, peaceful space feels like a true artisan’s enclave, complete with a row of pottery wheels, three kilns and a kaleidoscope of colored clay. After bathing in the studio’s excellent feng shui, I slip on an apron and plunk myself in front of a wheel. My teacher Mr. Yang sets down a bowl of water and sticks a meaty slab of clay on the wheel before setting the machine a-whirring.
Masterfully, he demonstrates how to make a simple vase, stopping to let me try each step along the way. The lump of brown clay yields to his every whim, morphing from shape to shape.
“Easy,” I think to myself. “You just poke the stuff and it changes shape, no biggie.” He then molds the vase back into its original lump shape and tells me to give it a try.
The second I put my hand around it, mud goes flying. The runaway bits splatter all over Mr. Yang’s apron. Smiling at my apologies, he advises me to evenly distribute my grip and use my shoulders.
I try to heed his advice while I watch my lopsided bowl-shape spin mesmerizingly around, but all I can think about is the texture of the clay. It has a slimy smoothness I can only liken to the skin of a beluga whale I once patted at a zoo.
I dig my thumbs in and attempt to will the putty into submission. “It needs to lose weight, I think,” Mr. Yang laughs, and as I push harder to make it slim down, the top breaks off completely. Oops. It takes me three slabs of clay and countless tries to finally concoct a passable creation which bears little resemblance to the vase I had intended to make.
As I rub the clay out of the crevices of my hands and retire my apron, Mr. Yang offers some final pointers: “Don’t rush, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.” This guy transforms clay into anything he can conceive of and doles out life advice to boot? Sign me up for a few more lessons.
Give it a spin at Le Taotao Pottery Studio. To set up a class, call 6278 1917.
This blog is from thebeijinger.com.