I just completed a new “vessel with feet of clay” titled, Strengthened. This is my second one to close up at the top and the engineering becomes so much more complicated. As I worked, I was continually struck with how much visualizing, projecting, and planning it takes to create. Yet, it’s the layers and layers of labor and assembling that give me much gratification! I think we lack that in schools. Maybe it just can’t be done in such a rigid environment with time, materials, and outcome constraints. But, as teachers, allowing for and designing creative problem solving as much as possible has so much potential for motivation, meaning-making and satisfaction.
Just for an example, here were my steps to create my Strengthened vessel (and this leaves out all the steps, time and dedication required for me to have piles of my own handwoven textiles to pick from!):
Decide the form I was wanting; make a paper pattern to get the basic shape to work from.
Decide a color palette and pull out all of my formerly woven textiles of those colors.
Cut, piece and arrange (and rearrange!) to get the balance and rhythm I want. Baste the fabric pieces on a backing fabric using an iron-on adhesive.
Sew every seam and edge with my sewing machine using a zig-zag stitch.
Hand sew beads and embroidery.
Sew some wire onto backside for added structural support
Cut, form, and hand-sew pieced shape into the basic open-cone form. Then apply fabric stiffener and let set. Cut base of felt and add stiffener to it.
Hand sew (previously made and fired) terracotta feet onto the felt base. Re-soften and stiffen the base so that the feet are positioned correctly.
Sew the base onto the open-cone form. Re-stiffen and shape the form as needed.
Design and cut the neck and upper rim using another paper pattern. Machine and hand sew as needed. Apply fabric stiffener. Hand embroidery.
Begin trying to form the closing of the vessel holding the neck and rim to visualize what alternations are needed.
Trim and hand sew the cone form to close in leaving the perfect opening for the neck.
Center and hand sew the neck and rim onto the main vessel form.
Re-stiffen a bit more to get everything even and level and centered as desired.
These many steps do not even begin to express how awkward and experimental it was figuring out where to cut and overlap and sew to close in the open form to fit the neck. And then how tedious (and frustrating!) to, then, sew the neck onto a larger, stiffen vessel form with clay feet (usually held between my knees)! I had to use a metal thimble to push the needle through and pliers to pull it out! Having no way to get my hands to the inside, the needle had to be pushed into the inside in a way that it would re-emerge on the outside so I could pull it through!
And the result is really a rather unassuming, classic form. I mean it doesn’t scream out with astonishing, creative brilliance!
But it does make me happy and pleased. Hopefully, my viewers will also be affected by its unique, quiet strength!