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  • Matthew Calder

From Wood To Clay

When I've spoken to friends about the transition from making wood forms to clay, a common comment is that it will be an easy conversion - making similar shapes, albeit with a direct hands on approach and relatively fewer tools. The truth is, the two disciplines are poles apart. Wood turning is a horizontal process - throwing clay is vertical. In itself, this change in perspective was enough to throw me off (excuse the pun) for some time. Wood has a soul, a character and meets the maker halfway during the making process. Clay is mostly inert, and gives the maker almost nothing. This feels like a wonderful opportunity and challenge in itself - all of the life and character of a piece is imbued by the maker. Another aspect that Im finding the novelty in during my formative learning curve is the ability to recycle almost every piece that doesn't work. If a pot collapses, a bowl folds in on itself, or a teacup looks grumpy and unbalanced, it goes into the recycle bucket to ultimately be used again.

When turning or sculpting wood, 80% of the log would end up as shavings on the floor - great for garden mulch, but not much else!


Another aspect that I am finding oddly nurturing is repeat / production making - throwing a run of 20 general purpose breakfast bowls for instance, to the same diameter and height is wonderfully meditative. For over 30 years the majority of my wood pieces were one offs - inspired in large part by the unique wood grains and figuring in each piece of wood.


Zoning in (or out?) and producing a run of - mostly - identical pieces is quite revelatory.


And finally, the sound. Working wood with machinery is noisy. Lathes rumble, tools chatter, angle grinders and drills are shrill and piercing.


A kick wheel is almost silent.


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