Introduction to Pottery: Medical Venture Fund

Medical Venture Fund, ANU Medical Students, wellbeing

By Winifred Knight (2019 award recipient)

After nine weeks my classes have finished, and I couldn’t be more pleased with the experience.

The class was a fantastic introduction to the pottery wheel. In the first week, we were taught how to throw a “basic pot”, which is essentially a little pot with straight walls. As the term went on, each session would begin with our teacher going over techniques for other forms that built on this original “basic pot” form: some of these included bowels, plates, bottles, handles for pots to make cups and texturizing techniques. Despite having an idea in my head of I would like to make, each evening I would invariably end up producing something with a completely different form and having to rethink what its final product would become.

Aside from making the pot on the wheel, trimming and glazing are two other important parts of the process. Trimming is where you clean up the bottom of the pot (which was previously stuck to the wheel) and give it “feet”. You could only trim an item you’d made on the wheel a week later, as it needs time to dry out. After this the pot could be put in the kiln for its first fire (bisque fire), which usually took one-two weeks. After this the pots were ready to glaze, which is where you dip the pots in big tubs coloured water (the glaze) to give them their decoration. After this, they go in for their second fire in the kiln and you get your finished product a few weeks later. It’s a long process, but exciting each week to see how your things are developing. I am now the proud creator of a mug, gravy boat, plate, bottle, some cups and some trinket bowls!

I enjoyed going to the classes not only to get creative, but also because of the mental break it was. It was 3 hours out of my day where I was completely focused on something, I didn’t feel guilty for not studying and because my hands were so messy it was physically impossible to get distracted. It was a great reminder that taking proper time out from medicine is probably the best way to refresh your mind to be productive later. 

My Dad owns a pottery wheel, and despite not having the time to teach me himself, has said that now I know what I am doing I am free to use it. It will be good start practicing making things with intent and potentially even some duplicates.

Thank you to the Medical School and the Venture Fund for this opportunity, it’s been a blast!