Clay in the life: Potters Place experience

Rebecca Woodrow

Every week, Perdeby sends their journalists to experience something different and exciting. This week Rebecca Woodrow attended a class at Potters Place to get her hands dirty (and make a bowl).

When my lovely editor gave me the logistics for this assignment and said the class would last three hours, I thought the class duration was excessive. Famous last words; I used every second of those three hours and left the class a sweaty mess.

Marilise was my instructor and decided I would be using a technique called curling to make a bowl. She gave me a slightly intimidating block of paper clay, which became more intimidating when she showed me that I would have to take individual pieces of it and roll them into long, finger-thick strands.

You make the strand by rolling about two golf-balls worth of clay into ball, then use a large, flat surface to roll it out into a cylinder using the back and forth rolling motion of your hand (then hands as the strand gets longer) from the tip of your fingers to a few centimetres below your wrist. It took me an hour to make all my strands. Marilise asked if I had previous experience with this while I was making them. I don’t know if she was complimenting me or trying to build my confidence for the task ahead but it was encouraging.  

The name curling makes more sense when the strands are taken and wound into a flat spiral to make the ‘curls’ that your piece is composed of. I collaged the mould of the bowl I was making with these spirals, then got rid of any remaining spaces with little rounded pieces of clay. Then, to make the inside of the bowl smooth, I was given tools to lightly dampen my still-malleable clay and then squash and smooth away the pattern that would remain on the outside. This took an hour and a half and my arm was stiff the next day.

The Potters Place smells heavily of clay but with enough open air to clear the mind. Previous works surround the workspace and tables on sturdy display shelves. It was fun, exhausting, and now exciting because I have something I made myself from start to finish.

The classes are multi-generational, and specialised pottery techniques are hosted in occasional sessions throughout the year. For more information, please contact Potters Place Studio at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 082 573 4645

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