Friday, 12 August 2011

Making Pottery Bowls in Cluny

In Cluny at the moment there is a pottery exhibition running entitled “A chacun sa créativité” - “To each his own creativity”. The exhibition has been set up by 66 potters to celebrate the 90th birthday of one of their own - Frère Daniel of Taizé. Frère Daniel is a very accomplished potter and led the way for the creation of the Taizé range of pottery as well as branching out and making some quite stunning individual pieces of his own. He is very well respected in the potters’ community round here as well as throughout Europe. Many individuals and groups come from far and wide to follow courses led by him.

The exhibition centres around the thing that all potters will have made at sometime in their life, the bowl. This exhibition is unique in that it shows the work of all 66 potters and their creative approach to making bowls. More than 1000 bowls are on display and are available for sale with each one being a unique piece and each one showing the individual creativity of its maker.

To compliment this exhibition three discussions groups have been organised (one for each month of the exhibition) on the subjects of creativity and the development of personal creativity with both Frère Daniel and Jean Cottraux (a psychiatrist and behavioural psychologist who’s book inspired the title of the exhibition) being present. Over and above the discussion groups, there is the opportunity for anyone to make a bowl themselves, in one of the makeshift potters’ studios.

Well I couldn’t resist the opportunity to make my own bowl. When talking to a friend the other day, I discovered that she had done it the week before and she was very enthusiastic about it. You can’t just walk in to the bowl-making sessions, you have to sign up for them (even though they are free) and after a wait of a couple of weeks, our day came yesterday.

So at five o’clock on the dot, there we were ready to make our bowls. Fully expecting to be shown to a potter’s wheel to throw a lump of clay on it and make a mess, we were to be disappointed - no potter’s wheel in sight. Our first task was to squeeze a lump of damp clay in one hand and a dry sponge in the other and when we released both hands, the sponge returned to its normal shape but the clay was squashed. We were told that this demonstrated the special properties of clay that will be used to create our bowl. Clay can be manipulated into a shape. Now this might go down well with a group of pre-school children but I found it a tad patronising and I will not repeat what Cees said to me in Dutch at that moment !

Sadly I think this kind of event is very dependant on the person guiding you through the process and our potter-guide was tired, bored and not very inspiring, leaving us wondering why we had missed “Question pour un Champion” to do this.

In any case, I made two round bowls one by sticking my thumb in the middle of a lump of clay then squidging the sides to make them grow upwards and one by winding a sausage of clay round in circles until the sides grew. I also made a small square-ish bowl and a butterfly as I too was drifting off into the same bored dream-like state as our “leader” and had totally lost interest in the finer points of clay sausages. My masterpieces have by now been recycled for the next group, but I do have the photos to show for it, which is just as well as I won’t bother to try my hand at pottery again.

Summary - excellent exhibition, some nice bowls on display, the bowl making session could be a lot of fun with the right person in charge, sadly we did not have that person.

La Tuilerie Website

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