I have been after Ben for almost a year to pull the lathe out of the box so I can try my hand at wood turning. As a potter, I'm finding more and more ways to incorporate some of my other learnings into my process and have been obsessively watching turning videos and thinking about how I can merge the two disciplines to make some really cool pieces. The first obstacle is out of the way - the Lathe is out of the box and on a stand built specifically for it, thanks to the husp. The second thing is out of the way too, carbide tools. After reaching out to the woodworking community for some tips on what to start with and what not to waste my money on, I purchased a set of Easy Wood Tool Carbides, a Rougher and Finisher. (Thanks for the help Jamie Page!) I have a set of old 'spoons' that were my neighbor's growing up. He passed them along to my dad as he didn't have any children to pass them to. My dad passed them onto Ben and I. Not having a sharpening system yet, we went with the carbide tools to get started. Next challenge was that the jenky lathe tightening bolts were not locking the pieces in place. No one needs the tail stock moving on them while they are turning or the banjo sliding the tool rest out of place - DANGER! According to a text I received this morning at 1 AM, it's fixed now! (Look for first turnings on instagram this week hopefully) I'm ready to actually start putting edge to wood and I am so stoked. I've never been shy about trying new things by simply diving into them, I've greatly benefited from YouTube as a resource for when I'm stuck or reaching out to professionals when I am really stuck with technique. However that doesn't mean it's all smooth goings, I have to remind myself sometimes that it's ok if I ask a stupid newbie question or if something is not coming to me naturally. I have no idea what I am doing, is a comfort slogan when I'm frustrated with myself and helps me get over my pride to reach out to the people that do. Recently, a friend of mine posted about sharing her newbie journey via YouTube. She was getting some shade from an individual who thought she had no business showcasing her work on the platform. I wholeheartedly disagree. While documenting her projects and posting them for folks to learn from her/her mistakes, she's found great value in showing what it is like for a layman starting out with renovations. It's inspiring and helps to show other novices it's not that scary to actually make a mistake, you just problem solve through it. That YouTuber is The Carpenter's Daughter. If it weren't for folks like her I probably wouldn't have followed my curiosity into working with clay.
For 5 years I've been learning little by little. I didn't start off with all of the tools or a studio so I used what I had. No wheel meant I hand-built pieces and made pinch pots, when I progressed to the point that I wanted a wheel, I researched how to build one. My dad came down to help me pull the pieces that I would need off of the scroll saw and I mounted it to the frame of my wheel. I improvised things that worked for the time being. For the shaft I bought some rebar, for the rotation system I designed a pulley system, for the bat I used a wooden lazy susan that I JB Welded to a round metal faceplate I scavenged. I cut a plastic tub as my splash pan. I had a wheel worthy of turning small pieces. Any more clay than 1 lb and my motor couldn't take it. Centering was tricky but I was able to make it work.
After throwing with that I upgraded a few years later to a more stable and powerful machine, it's a clay boss pottery wheel and has served me well. From there, I had a goal of just enjoying the development of my pottery skills, I never thought that I would ever sell any work or be confident enough to give lessons. Come 2017 I was being asked by different folks if I could make them custom pieces and that blew me away. This year, I have my own studio space in the house, I have several folks that come over and use my space and I teach them what I have learned in private lessons, and I have sold several pieces from every kiln load this year. I really love where I am right now and am so happy I took the time to invest in the craft. It has spurred so many new avenues in my creative space, from 3D Printing to getting ready to turn wood on the lathe. This pottery journey has been one of the most confidence building endeavors that I have ever taken on. Looking back at all of the things I have tried and enjoyed just makes me so much more excited for what I'm going to do with the lathe, with 3D printing, with Metal Working and so many other things that my mind is racing over!
I just have to remember, none of us know what we are doing when we start out. We all invest time and energy into gaining the tools and knowledge necessary to learn our trades. Although, some parts of the process may come more naturally to others - we all start from a zero point. As much as I love operating from a place where I have no idea what I am doing, it has been nice to start to be the one that knows at least a little bit of what I'm doing with pottery.
Heidi Jacobs is the Co-Founder of Slap Stuff Together, a maker's studio. She is also a Project Manager by day and part time professional photographer. If you would like to learn more about SST's adventures as a new start up you can follow them on Instagram or on Facebook. If you would like to learn more about their startup you can drop them a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
Small Business owner and Artist, committed to growing as a maker as well as sharing her and her husband's experience with owning a small maker studio.
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