“You’re wondering who I am – machine or mannequin….” For those of us of a certain age, these lyrics bring an iconic tune right to mind. Also an iconic problem: man versus machine. I call it the pottery production conundrum.


Handmade vs. Machine Made

I get it. We are all used to standard sizes. We like dinner plates to have an 11-inch diameter, salad plates to be 3-4 inches smaller. We like our cups all exactly the same height and our bowls the same width. Machines are good at producing pieces in standard sizes. Humans…not so much.


Pottery Production Line

So how do I try to make my pottery pieces somewhat uniform? It’s all in the practice – the practice of measuring each ball of clay, the practice of placing it on the wheel exactly the same way, the practice of working it with the same energy, the practice of pulling it to the same height. Add in the ability to do this over and over again with consistency and you have a pottery production line. You are a machine.


I’m NOT a Machine

But since I’m not a machine, all that practice doesn’t always result in exactly matching sets of plates, bowls, cups…or whatever it is I’m making. When you add in the glaze factor, things can get really wacky. A different song on the radio means a slightly different energy to my pull – my first cup was 8 inches tall, the next only 6. The dog bounds in and stops my flow – this dinner plate only has a 9-inch diameter. Temperatures dip overnight and my glazes run cold – this bowl turns out a slightly different shade of blue than its “match.” All of this to say, I’m not so good at making exactly matching sets.


The Push for an Odd Bowl

But in my mind, that is what makes my handmade pottery so great – it doesn’t match.  Every piece has its own heft, hue and heart. Every piece is unique. Every piece is truly an odd bowl.  You can fall in love with its look or the way it fits in your hand. You can reach inside and feel the size and shape of the fingers that made it You can know that you are holding a truly one-of-a-kind creation.  What machine can do that?


Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto (and thanks to Styx too) – I am going to rock on, throw on, and create on, human style!

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