art by Shothot Designs
by Brian Dolton
Begin with water.
Cup it in your hands. You can feel its utter lack of character. It has no texture; it has no resistance. It is substance, and yet it is emptiness. It possesses nothing of its own. It cannot give; it can only borrow.
But it is vital. You must always begin with water. Pour the water onto your working surface. Some will be absorbed, and become part of the earth. Some will evaporate, and become part of the air. But some will remain water.
Continue with earth.
Take the clay, and place it there in front of you. See how it rests, separated from your working surface by a thin film of water. The clay will be thirsty. Clay is always thirsty. Take some more water, and let it dribble carefully from your hands. The clay will drink some of it in. Now your work can truly begin. Dig your fingers into the clay. Press it, tease it, shape it. Control it. Where you need to, add more water; but only a few drops at a time. Feel the schism between slick and stiff. Too much water, and it overwhelms the clay. If this happens, you will need to discard what you have done, and start over again. But too little water, and the clay remains unyielding, unmalleable.
You want it malleable.