Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Pottery in Mwadui

On many occasions, I've posted about my twice-weekly pottery lessons. Apart from being an art which I've learned since being in Mwadui, it's also a social gathering of expat ladies to beat all other social gatherings!

Two-and-a-half years ago,  I joined the only other two ladies on camp at the time;  Tilla, who is almost 67, me at 61 + and Amanda who is 53. Amanda, of course it the potter and under her tutorship (and plenty of trial and error), I have slowly come up through the ranks to a reasonably artistic potter. Under Tilla's tutorship, I have learned perfection as only Tilla can exact perfection. So I am a combination of artistic bent from Amanda and part-perfection (I don't aspire to perfectionism as that is painful! LOL!) from Tilla!

Then more women arrived on site: in February 2013, Louise joined her husband, Wessel here. They have a 12 year-old son, Wessie whom Louise home schools. Although Louise hasn't joined the pottery classes,  she permits Wessie to attend classes for an hour each of those days! 

Around that time, we met two young Americans living in Mwadui. Eric is a teacher at the Lutheran school and his wife,  Linda is a part-time student councilor and deaconess. So Linda was invited to join our pottery classes. 
In October, a new client general manager was appointed  and his wife, Marita accompanied him. So another pupil at the pottery studio! In March this year, Debbie joined her fiance, Phillip on camp; and you guessed it: she has joined the pottery classes! Because Phillip works in the recovery plant on the weekends, he has two days off during the week. Now Phillip has joined us Tuesdays as well! 

As I said in the first paragraph, this gathering is the social gathering of all time! Two weeks ago, while Marita's two sisters visited, they joined the class on Thursday. I was sitting at the painting table with my latest project (I hope to glaze and bake it today) and all I could hear was a babble of excited women's voices!  
 Several items which I made during this last stint on site 
 A mobile which I made for my friend to hang in her beach house in the Southern Cape

Today Amanda and I are alone in the studio. Tilla, Marita and Debbie have gone out on their holiday break to South Africa. If Linda doesn't have a school commitment, she will join us as well. It should be quite a quiet session although women always like to talk!

Over the past three months, I've made several items; mostly gifts for friends in SA. One project I decided on, though, took up a great deal of my time and in the end it didn't turn out a success. Last year I drew  and cut out a  map of Africa. Forgetting that when you bake a pottery item, it has a 15% shrinkage, it was a lot smaller than I intended. So when it came to painting the umpteen countries on it, it was a real challenge. (At one stage I had Kenya - or was it Tanzania - landlocked!) This time I cut out a much larger map of our continent. Once we'd bisqued it (first firing), I had great fun painting each country in different colors. I kept a wooden child's puzzle nearby to keep to the exact mapping! 

Then came adding the names; hoo-boy! When I got to West Africa and especially the Ivory Coast, I kept "losing" whole countries. I remember Amanda looking over my shoulder where I worked at the painting table and saying: "Where is Sierra Leone! " 

* Sigh*

After two weeks of two-hourly sessions twice during that fortnight, I had completed my Africa. I placed it on my shelf for the next glazing and firing day. As I walked out, I said to Amanda that I don't feel good about this paint job. And she muttered, "If aren't happy with something, rather re-do it. "  

This happened on a Thursday class. I had the whole weekend and Monday to think about my dissatisfaction with my artwork . By the time I arrived at the studio on Tuesday, my mind was made up! 

I picked up Africa, walked to the tap/faucet on the studio veranda and washed off all the paint! Tilla saw me doing this and almost had an apoplexy! She couldn't believe that after all the hours I'd invested in this piece, I was going to start over. When I explained to her that I didn't think it was good enough yet, she (being a perfectionist, remember) agreed! 

I only had to touch-up the country colors a little and then I got to adding the names. This time I used a special pencil instead of trying to paint the names on with a fine brush and black paint. Although I was thrilled to bits when I'd finished this time, and left my item on my shelf for glazing and baking later that week, unbeknown to us, the glaze caused this pencil to run and the result was... 


My two pottery items; the blue one I made last year: not good. The colorful one I spent many hours trying to get the perfect continent and it turned out...not at all what I envisioned! 

I've decided to leave the Africa map for now and when I return from my break in SA at the end of August I will make another one and give this project another go! 

I'm linking my post today to Our World Africa which you can visit by clicking here


  1. Lots of trial and error I see. It's a little bit like my knitting something other than dishcloths, lol. Have a wonderful week dear JO!

  2. your pottery classes sure sound like a lot of fun and comeraderie. I especially liked the plate with indigo scrolls over it and also the mobile shapes/fishes etc. It is best to start anew with something when not happy ...it will be worthwhile in the end

  3. You do make the most of your world, Jo, and this is a great post/photos!! Thank you so much for sharing with us! Have a happy week!

  4. How nice that you have increased the number of your pottery class ! The most important is to have fun even if the results are not so good ! Actually I prefer the blue map ! Pottery is like lottery, you never know what comes out ! I always had troubles with the colors, they never came out like I hoped ! Love the little fishes too !

  5. Jo, the pottery class sounds like fun. It is great that the women at the camp can meet for a social time like your pottery class..You have made some pretty pieces, I really like the windchime. Have a happy day!

  6. it is a neat creation anyway! and a great way to learn the continent!

  7. Hello Jo!
    Beautiful work and pottery!
    I never tryed to do anything like this before....The map of Africa is amazing!!!



  8. They say: "If once you don't succeed, then try-try again".... I love your Africa designs especially the 2nd one... It's easier to read and more colorful. BUT--if you do it again, I'm sure it will be EVEN better.

    Proud of you for your endeavor. I always envy the creative people who enjoy doing these kinds of things.. That is not my talent --for sure! ha


  9. To me, NO piece of work is perfection....even from the bigger artists/sculptures such as Van Gogh or DaVinci....each piece is perfect in the way and views of the artist.

    your creations are GREAT. Can't wait to see more.


Thank you for visiting my blog and taking the time to leave a comment. I appreciate your feedback. Jo