Family Abroad

Learning through Imperfection And Other Pottery Lessons

Attending a Private Pottery Class in Cyprus

Introduction
Making Our Pottery
Lessons Learned
Closing Thoughts

Introduction

Edith has had a pottery obsession for a few years. I first learned of her desire to learn the art of pottery when we visited San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, many years ago. San Miguel de Allende (SMDA) is well known as an artists’ town with sculptors, painters, weavers, pottery experts and other types of craftsmen. If it can be made by hand, you will find it in SMDA.

And even though this creative desire has been simmering below the surface for quite a while now, Edith had not taken any pottery classes. Well, that has changed! Here we are in Cyprus, which is known for making pottery, and I have this “brilliant” idea for our entire family to take a pottery class. It must have been a good idea because Edith had exactly the same idea! We looked over the internet and found Avgoustino’s Pottery in Paphos, Cyprus. He has been working with pottery and cermaics (self-taught) for over 40 years and has had his own art workshop for over 30 years.

Avgoustinos Pottery

We emailed Avgoustino to get a date and time to take a class and he suggested that we come in the very next day! We showed up at 11am as instructed. We entered into the front of the shop through an open door. No one seemed to be around, so we poked our head around the corner and saw shelves of ceramics that were for sale. All sorts of ceramics were represented…bowls and cups of all shapes and designs as well as many other unique items. As we perused the shop, we could hear voices from the next room.

We exited the shop and were greeted by a warm smile and a hearty hello from Avgoustino. A few other people were present as well as a couple of children. Some people were sitting at a table just enjoying Avgoustino’s famous coffee! The others were busy making their creations. We really enjoyed the conversations we had with the other people at the table as we all tried to take a chance at self-expression.

Nathan and His Cup!

Making Our Pottery

After putting on our aprons and settling in, Avgoustino handed each of us a piece of local clay. As he told us about the three main hand techniques, his hands began working on the clay. The next thing we knew, he had fashioned out a cup. And with that, he said we were ready to work on our own! 😄 After the initial shock, I began working my clay into the shape of a cup. I struggled to make the shape, to have the right thickness and to add handles. My mind was fully focused on creating the most perfectly, imperfect cup in the entire world. It was a great experience, using my hands and my imagination to create practical art. And, later, I understood the lessons that Avgoustino was teaching by allowing us the opportunity to create something with minimal help.

Nathan and Edith also made cups and they used the “coil” technique which basically is created when you roll a long, thin piece of clay to make it look something like a snake and then you lay it down in a circle, layer by layer, raising it up in the shape of the cup. Bethany found some molds of stars and hearts and she was probably the most creative in putting all of her molds together.

Avgoustino Teaching Bethany How to
Form the Cup Using Her Hands

While we were working with our hands, our pottery guru individually took us over to the wheel where we learned to “throw” clay. Everyone did great. Edith and Nathan made drinking cups, Bethany made a flower vase and I made a cup to hold “things”. I think Bethany, who usually hates getting her hands dirty, really enjoyed working with the wet clay. Avgoustino would take each of our hands, cup them around the wet clay as it swirled around the center of the wheel and guide us as we built up the clay – hopefully, in some sort of shape that resembled the item we meant to create.

It did not come naturally for me, and my initial thought was that I was just not cut-out for being creative. I smushed the clay repeatedly, moved the clay from the center of the wheel and I even crushed one of the clay cups that Avgoustino had just created. Nothing came easy. Once, when I had the shape of a cup actually rising up on the wheel, I ended up totally ruining its shape. I frustratingly told Avgoustino that “I couldn’t make the clay do anything”. Never missing a beat, Avgoustino assured me that the statement was untrue since, in fact, I had distorted the cup. At first, I just looked at him and then I had to laugh because what he said was absolutely true.

Edith’s Art!

Edith and I Recreating the Scene in the movie “Ghost”
(Unchained Melody Playing in the Background)

Lessons Learned – For Both Kids and Adults

1. Creating Allows Us To Be “Perfectly Imperfect”

For someone who is a bit of a perfectionist in his work, this is a difficult lesson.

I just had this conversation with Bethany last week. I was explaining to her that the best way to learn is by making mistakes…by failing forward. And that true learning and growing can only be had when operating outside of our comfort zone. When we can accept the fact that we are human, that we are going to make mistakes and that we cannot control every single factor, we give ourselves the freedom to experiment and to try something new. And as long as we learn from actions, we will excel at whatever activity we are trying to accomplish.

My creations were not pretty. My creations will never be bought by someone, and they will never be valuable to someone else. But to me, they are valuable. To me, they are perfectly imperfect. And, if I decide to continue my pottery learning path, I can take what I learned, apply it and improve my skills. And so it is in almost every single aspect of life.

2. Creating Requires Focus (living in the moment)

Four hours passed in the blink of an eye. Time lierally flew by. My kids never complained, but were busy making something with their imagination and withy their hands. They were not worried about school or playing with their friends online. And Edith and I were not thinking about work or what we needed to clean when we got home. No. We were only thinking about the clay in our hands.

I think we all need to find a creative outlet. For some, it may be crocheting or painting or even underwater basket weaving! It doesn’t matter. All that matters is that you can get lost in the creative process. I believe that this laser focus rests our mind and allows us to “reset”. It is something that we all need.

3. Creating and Self-Expression Boosts Self-Esteem and Confidence

Think about how a kid gets such joy out of coloring in his coloring book. He or she works hard to select just the right colors and to make sure the picture is as pretty as possible. Pottery is just like this (maybe even more like coloring on steroids). We work so hard at creating our unique work of art, studying the clay and applying just the right amount of pressure. Working and reworking the shape until we have something for which we can be proud. And even if it isn’t perfect, it is a piece of ourselves and we love it just the way it is and for the lessons it brings.

I remember taking some welding classes many years ago. I crafted something I thought was a real piece of art – an accomplishment. Using horseshoes, I fashioned a pumpkin with a candle holder in the middle. I could not wait to give them out to family and friends. Now, you have to keep in mind that Edith comes from an entire family of professional welders. So, you can just imagine what they thought of my creations, but to me – they were great. And to their credit, my welding family kept their true thoughts to themselves. 🤔

Don – Giving Shape to the Cup

Closing Thoughts

This pottery class reminded me that it is ok to be imperfect, that it is ok to make mistakes and that it is ok to start over. As I was creating my cup, I was reminded that it was a 3 dimensional because I had to move the cup around to see if I truly had the right shape. Such it is in life – that to truly see an issue or to solve a problem, we must be able to see the situation from all sides.

With the pandemic and with all the chaos and uncertainty, I can see why so many people are turning toward creative outlets. We all have a creative side. And perfection is not the goal. Nor is our creation going to be graded. So, we can be free in our own thoughts and in our own imagination. To truly be in the moment. That, my friends, is rare.

In summary, I highly recommend going to a pottery class in your area or to attend any other activity where you can create something using your hands. I promise that it will add value to your life!

Our final pottery creations!

We had a lot of fun painting these

Pottery is fun, for both adults and kids. Plus you end up with some pretty cool homeware!

Some of our final work, after glazing and painting

We ended up having dinner with the owners, Nino and Angel, and a few of their friends.
Really great people who make traveling great.

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