Centering: Then and Now

The following is a blog that I wrote 3.5 years ago when I took my first pottery class. Even 4 weeks into touching clay I knew that it was something special and possibly life-changing. The decision to take this class not only changed the way that I view art, but changed my entire future by introducing me to my husband.

At the time my life was a big question mark and I was always searching for answers. It is only now that I am starting to understand that the answers only create new questions. So as we start this new leg of our lives as full-time potters, this blog still resonates with my soul. Enjoy.


When you begin to learn to throw pots on a ceramics wheel the very first skill that you have to build is called centering. If the name did not give it away already, this is where you center the ball of clay that you want to turn into a gorgeous pot, or cup, or bowl, or shot glass if you are Kim Plymale. If any of you have ever thrown on a wheel before you know that this is one of the most difficult things that one will have to learn, so it is a cruel joke that it is the very first thing to cross off the list. If your clay is not centered, neither will your creation be. Hmm, there’s some beauty to that concept if you ask me. Hold on to that thought.

Ceramics is all about slow, controlled movements, so it was not a surprise to me on my first attempt that I completely sucked at it. Since middle school I have always rushed things. From my meals to my walking speed, I move fast. It has never gotten in the way of my art up until this class. But boy did it ever hinder me now. I could not even get my clay to center before I would rip it off of the wheel, let alone make a cylinder.

After about a week, I was not only frustrated but completely embarrassed that I had not mastered the art of throwing yet. Then I thought to myself “Hm, Ashley. You can not get your clay to work and you can not get you life in order. Perhaps one solution might inform the other”. Basically I started mentally thinking “Center the clay, center your life.” And like that, I had my new mantra. It was not instant, but with my iPod playing and my schedule cleared for the night I taught myself how to center clay. Pull up on the clay “Center the clay”, push down to center, “Center your life”. A nice bonus to the halfway decent cylinders that I have been cranking out is the relaxing thinking that I have been able to pull off while throwing. My thoughts are usually jammed with deadlines, to do lists and ideas, but while on the wheel I manage to have clearing moments.

Is it the start to centering my life? Guess we’ll have to see. Almost makes me want to take up Ceramics. But just almost.

Ashley Norman

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