The middle-grade novel I'm working on takes place in a summer camp and one of the scenes is set around these 10-12 year olds doing pottery. I've never touched a potter's wheel in my life and so decided it was time to engage in a bit of author research.
My friend Melody, who's very craftsy, hooked me up with a wonderful NC pottery artist named Susan O'Leary. Susan teaches a class for 10-13 year olds at the Cultural Arts Center and was kind enough to invite me to sit in on today's class.
I have pages of notes. Certainly I jotted down details about the space--how a white/orange haze seems to hang in the air and settle on tables and clothing. And how the recycled clay is produced in thick brown log shaped chunks. And--my absolute favorite--how the plates that go on the pottery wheel are called "bats" and so Susan calls the metal cart that holds all these plates "the Batmobile." Tell me that's not going to make it into the story!
But what I ended up scribbling down more than anything, was dialogue.
There were two boys in the class, age 10. ENERGY filled, they were. Not having cause to spend any time around boys of that age, I had no idea they jumped around so much. Just constantly in motion--hopping, swaying, balancing, leaping, running, ducking, diving...it didn't end.
And the dialogue was priceless. "Die, die, die!" exclaimed one, as he pounded a sculpting tool into a hunk of clay. Another one, while explaining a video game he played to me, said, "Yeah, I killed my dwarf at Level 10. It was cool."
There were also some 12-13 year old girls in the class. Much calmer. Torn jeans are apparently still big, as is writing on clothing - jeans and red tennis shoes were covered with colorful marker-made words and phrases. One girl came in and had 5 small red hearts drawn on her knee, which you could see through her torn jeans.
So I scribbled like a madwoman. This is gold, baby. Then about an hour into class, Susan asks if I would like to throw my own pot on the wheel. Never one to turn down clay and water, I agree. So what you see here is my first thrown pot. Susan helped, naturally, but I'm proud of it. She had me write my initials in the side of it and said she fire it for me. I'm quite pleased.
And exhausted. I thought teaching adults was tiring...ha! That's nothing compared to a roomful of kids, all doing different things at once. And yet, Susan floated around the room, making sure everyone was engaged and working. I took as many notes on her as the teacher as I did on the kids.
A very fun experience. Thanks, Melody, Susan and kids!