「擇日」的陶藝師昱晴 ： 「能夠做到自己喜歡的事，並順利地生活及維持，這算是嗎？」我們好不習慣稱讚自己呀！將想像化成實踐不就是成就嗎？「其實我覺得這三年，我們還能活著，已經值得大大力拍掌。」我說。
“How have you been these past three years? Can you tell me one thing that happened that made you feel proud of yourself? Just one thing.”
When was the last time you gave yourself praise? And since when did we last get together?
Pottery studio, Zerih, resides in Anping, Tainan. The dock-like studio runs like a co-op; with an experienced potter being the lead, inviting several other potters to stay in residence. Together they create, teach, and also sell their work in the studio. This mode of operation is not only helpful to individual artists, but in a way mutually beneficial to everyone involved.
Yu-Ching is a potter from Zerih. “Do you think I am actually doing something I like while at the same time being able to earn a living?” Yu-Ching seems uncomfortable taking credit for herself, though the fact that she is able to make her dream come true is already quite an achievement. “Actually I think we all deserve a big round of applause for simply surviving the past three years,” I said.
Working in a coffee shop, Yu-Ching spends her spare time biking from the city center to the studio by the canal where she works on her creations. Yet speaking of, it might not be totally accurate to say that she spends her “spare time” on pottery. She actually spends way more time in the studio making pottery than working in the cafe making coffee. Modern people often consider making a living a more important goal in life than following your passion. But the fact is, the time you spend on something is not directly proportional to the blessings, happiness, or even money you get in return. It’s all a matter of choice. Coincidentally, I like making choices, and everyone from Zerih proves to me that there are indeed many ways of living your life.
Though Yu-Ching has no clue how to explain her love for high footed pottery work, she can still affirm that it takes way more effort to create them than making simple, regular mugs. It’s difficult to get it right when it comes to using thin, narrow feet to support a comparatively larger main body with a flat bottom. In addition, the different moisture contents of the clay during kneading lead to varying drying results. Oftentimes there are pieces that come with a heavy body and light feet, and vice versa. Not to mention the two firings that the pottery needs to go through inside the kiln, with their water content potentially reducing even further afterward. With the impossibility to tell what the final products will be like after all the shrinking and drying, it becomes a pleasant surprise to occasionally see some crooked high-footed cups and plates.
There is another challenge in making high-footed cups and plates which is: fettling. Given the shape and positioning of the body and stem, Yu-Ching needs to constantly tilt her head to almost 90 degrees when fettling, and it can be extremely tiring after a long day of work. Being a pottery maker myself, I know the difficulty of creating high-footed cups and am curious why one would choose to take on such challenges. Yu-Ching couldn’t seem to find the right word to explain herself; so instead, she showed an honest and reliable smile and told me that such a question has never come to her mind. She just simply wants to do pottery.
Now that the world seems to be back to normal. People can once again travel freely, visit places on their wishlist, and learn new things. Life is easy; just like the good old days before the pandemic hit. But still, it’s always difficult to describe your passion in words; because passion lies within your heart. It is indeed a blessing to be able to do what you like; but while this blessing is not totally being able to do what you like, it does present opportunities to discover. To discover your interest, to discover that you can create a high-footed cup, and to discover that even if you can’t put into words what you truly love and that the final product is crooked and misshaped, you can still enjoy every bit of it.
Looking back over the past three years, Yu-Ching realized that she has come a long way. She told me that she recently started a series about creases; where she’d deliberately make creases on the cup. Even though the creases look different on each cup, “each and every crease is like a mark that signifies an event that we have experienced. Whether they be a happy event, a sad one, something profound, or something unremarkable, they are what make us unique.” That is me, after those discoveries.